Church Planting and Weakness

Church Planting and Weakness.

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness... ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses...For when I am weak, then I am strong”  (2 Corinthians 11:30-12-10).

I don’t know about you, but boasting, let alone hearing of the weaknesses of a church planter/church planting team does not seem to be the most logical approach when trying to plant a church.  Having been around the church planting world for just a little time, it doesn’t seem that popular of a subject, or on the necessary church planting “to do list”. Quick advice is readily given for those that are in a state of weakness along with strategy, leadership, resolve, and development ideas.  However, personally having been led by Christ to help plant New Springs Church, I have found great comfort in Paul’s seemingly foolish weakness declaration found here in 2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:1, 16-17, 12:11). This foolish boasting on Paul’s part, describing his hardships and dangers, serve to highlight his internal and external weaknesses while preaching the gospel and planting churches(2 Cor. 11:23-28).

It was two years ago when my weaknesses would begin to be magnified in the context of church planting. The years preceding were marked by an increasing confidence in Christ, a sense of calling upon my life and family.   Confidence though would soon give way to uncertainty. Assurance led to the unknown, and my strength faded into great weakness; all of this while in the middle of a bi-vocational church planting residency.  For those unfamiliar, a bi-vocational pastoral residency acts as a formal pastoral internship for bi-vocational adults. My bi-vocations (places called by God to work) are as 1) firefighter/chaplain for Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue and 2) working as a church planter/pastor.  Little did I know what the Lord was actually laying out for my family and I when we left our longstanding church after 10 years to join this residency and begin the church planting process.

For some 14 years, I have pursued the Lord in life, vocation, and ministry.  As a man, Christ has given me my greatest treasure in my wife Lisa, and our three sons come in a strong second.  My newly adopted goldendoodle, yes goldendoodle, ranks third, which I think even speaks again to my weaknesses as a man.

As all of this unfolded over the last two years, I felt that every day I was being made weaker and weaker by my own “thorns in the flesh” and the Lord’s unfolding circumstances around me (2 Cor. 12:7).  My marriage and family began to struggle as the Lord disciplined me in my role as a man, husband, and father. My efforts to serve another local church plant began to waiver as I couldn’t find my place of service within their mission. My discipleship efforts were marked by fatigue and frailty, as brothers, sisters, and families I was praying for began to crumble. I felt the weight of their burdens personally. I began to be advised that I quite possibly was not hearing God properly, and was even left confused as to my faith and calling. What a tough two years it really has been.

I ended up withdrawing from the pastoral residency, headed back to my home church, and began working a second job in the landscaping industry.  My dream, vision, and call seemed to die right in front of me. However, Christ through it all, subtly sustained a deep personal hope, vision, and purpose within me.  My faith remained, even though I felt like Peter when Christ protected him from Satan sifting him like wheat (Luke 22:31-32).

The graces of God in Christ during this time of weakness were so necessary to my life as much in service to his church and kingdom.  Within the landscaping industry, I became surrounded by a large Guatemalan Christian community that surrounded me with love and encouragement. You will notice some of my brothers working for JW Landscape Designs below, and second to the right of the picture is my dear friend Israel: a fellow brother, soon to be pastor, and current student at Hobe Sound Bible College.   Many fellow firefighters became inseparable brothers in Christ, with a deepening transparency and love. And in my most uncertain and weak time in life, I saw Christ save and redeem a Colombian Pizza Shop owner through a conversation and friendship. Yes, a Colombian owned Pizza shop with the best chicken parm in the city. #vitospizza.  Notice my dear friend Camilo as well. I was given the blessing of attending his all Spanish wedding to wife Nicole, and now enjoy seeing their daughters and family worship side by side with me.

What began with a strong sense of calling and conviction as my local church sent me out, seemed to end with me coming back to my local church looking for healing and comfort.   What began with prayers and tears for the city that I grew up in, seemed to end with prayers and tears for myself, my family, and my brothers and sisters in the faith. What began as an endeavor into bi-vocational pastoral ministry, seemed to end with landscaping and a pickup truck.  And after having walked through it all, I have come to treasure the sweet grace of God amidst it all no matter the circumstance. The “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” has found its proper application in my time of lowliness (Philippians 4:13). All of it, and I mean all of my last two years in following Christ was used for his purposes and kingdom.   My weakness played as much part in his work for my own life and family as it did in seeing others edified in Christ. And now today, as a venturing bi-vocational church planter, side by side with a treasured best friend from over 15 years ago, in a city where we grew up, I couldn’t have imagined what the Lord would start 2 years ago along a set path of increasing weakness.

For all this I have learned to embrace weakness, although maybe not ready to boast of it all the time, and definitely cannot fathom the extent of Paul’s journeys, dangers, perils, and pressures.  I have found comfort in my current application of Paul’s foolish boasting still. For we need not be ashamed of our weaknesses, rather look and be sure of what we already know. Christ wills and intends our weaknesses to magnify his power and glory.  Believe it, don’t question it, and don’t entertain bad advice. This is Paul’s boast.

If you are in a state of weakness and a follower of Christ, rest assured He has not left you and will not.  Like Paul, He is using your weaknesses, dangers, unknowns, fears, persecutions, all of it, to revive and fortify a continual dependence upon him and his power. I now speak of weakness as it has been formed into my heart at the present time.  What had become a tabled item in my Christian walk, has now solidified its boasting position again. When I am weak, He is strong. His working in our weakness is real power. If you can embrace your weakness, if you can boast of it, you might just feel and experience what Paul foolishly writes about: Christ’s power in you. “For my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9)  If you cannot yet, I pray that you are made to as Christ did with me.  It will be painful at times, but you will marvel at the power of Christ in you to his praise and glory alone. You will boast in the Lord only because He alone has the power to save and use you.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).

Jimmy and Lisa Paugh, along with their three boys Jackson, Jase, and Jude are part of the New Springs Church planting team.

These Dudes and my Heavenly Father.

These dudes.
They are lucky they're cute, because wow, they have been testing this mama lately. There are moments of innocence and honesty and thankfulness, and then they flip a switch reaaaaaal quick. I am so quick to jump up and discipline my children, and cry to Jimmy saying, "Are we doing something wrong? Are our standards too high? Are we expecting too much of them? Should we let them be wild 2, 4, and 6 year olds?"

But then, I find myself being that same disobedient, testing, and just plain rude "child", and I am humbled super quickly.  My Heavenly Father sees me as that same child, and guess what? His standards and expectations are perfection and holiness.


My boys are little. They trust in us. They depend on us. They have a childlike faith in us, and yet we as adults and parents are imperfect and so broken by sin like them.  Jackson often asks if I know everything, because that is how he actually thinks of me. But we don't - we don't have all the wisdom or all the answers. Yet they trust us as their parents, and believe whatever we say.
Do we as adults, really trust and believe everything God has planned for us? Or do we disobey, and question, and doubt, and need DISCIPLINE?

Eventually, just as we learned as we got older, our kids will realize we aren't all they think us to be. We aren't fully trustworthy, we make tons of mistakes, we are as fragile as they are, and all we can do is pray that God fills in all the gaps we miss as their parents.

I was reminded today that I am no better than my disobedient children. That's why Jesus said that any disciple of his must "turn and become like children" if we are even to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).  I am the exact same person as my kids. I am in need of a Savior, in need of a Father’s grace and love. The good news of Jesus begins and ends with my childlike need for Him and his saving work on my behalf. Jimmy and I pray daily that God would grip their hearts at a young age, and that they will see that the only Perfect Father is our Heavenly Father.  The good news is that our Heavenly Father is a perfect father; perfectly holy and righteous, perfectly gracious and just. His forgiveness, His grace, His righteousness, His love, His discipline is just as much set apart for me as it is for these dudes.

David Maxson writes in a recent devotional, "The beauty of the kingdom of heaven is that it is ruled by an all-wise, all-powerful, faithful, merciful and loving heavenly Father who never makes mistakes. He always has our best interests at heart. He always keeps his promises. He will never let us down or disappoint us.”  

Read Romans 8 with Jimmy this week.

Some promises from God that comforted us:

“You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (8:16)

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us…” (8:26)

“The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (8:27-28)

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31)

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For a more humorous audio check out Matt Chandler’s thoughts Jimmy sent me.

Jimmy and Lisa Paugh, along with their three boys Jackson, Jase, and Jude are part of the New Springs Church planting team.

Back 2 Skool #2: Scripture (part 2)

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In the first post we explored the idea of successfully getting through the school year by letting Scripture be our guide. More than just pointing out moral rights and wrongs, the Bible actually gives us an entire perspective by which we can view the world. In a sense, rather than looking at circumstances from your own perspective, which may sometimes be misguided, the Bible helps you look at the world through God's eyes. However, we can all admit that the Bible can be difficult to understand at times. If you haven't spent much time studying it then it might even seem altogether to intimidating. With 66 books in the Bible and thousands of pages it can be hard to figure out where to even start!

Here are eight suggestions that you may find helpful:

1. Get a study Bible. These are incredibly helpful with notes at the bottom of the page helping you to understand what a verse or an entire passage is saying. The first one I ever used was a Life Application Study Bible from Wal-Mart for about $25. Other good ones include the Reformation Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, the Gospel Transformation Bible, or the MacArthur Study Bible.

2. Start with a gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). These are written in story form and generally have an easy-to-follow flow to them. After reading an entire gospel, a good place to go is "Acts." This is the book in the New Testament that comes right after John. It's the continuation of the story from the gospels and also has a pretty easy-to-follow presentation.

3. Use a Bible reading plan. You can find about a billion different ones online so select one that best suits your time schedule and capacity to read smaller or larger chunks. I am an extremely slow reader and I get distracted easy, so plans that require 5 or 6 chapters in a day don't work for me. Maybe that's no problem for you! The plan I like the most is the Redemptive-Historical Bible plan that organizes passage in the order that they play out over the course of biblical and human history. You can find that plan here.

4. Read things over and over again. Don't be afraid to continuously go back and read something you've already read. We do this with movies, TV shows, and novels all the time. I've seen the Bourne movies over 30 times easily and I can say the same about a lot of other movies, too. I can also honestly say that even in having taught the Bible for the last 12 years of my life I still learn new things from passages that I have seen many times. One of the best ways to get something to sink in is repetition. This is how we lift weights; this is how we learn in school. Repetition is a good thing and it will help you understand your Bible better. So keep reading!

5. Read with a friend. Proverbs 27:17 says, "Just as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." The same is true of your spiritual growth. Find a friend who is willing to sit down with you and go over the same passage. You can read together at a coffee shop, at each other's house, or read separately, take notes, and then talk over the phone about what you read. You might be surprised by the insight God gives to your friend that you weren't seeing when you read, and vice versa!

6. PRAY. Pray a lot. This is more of a rule than a suggestion. Bible reading won't work without it. Pray before reading and pray after. Pray that God would help you understand what you are reading. Pray that he would help you to focus. Pray that the Holy Spirit would commit what you read to your memory so that you can recall it in times when you need it the most. The Bible is a divine book which makes it unlike any other. It is impossible to grasp the spiritual things of the Bible without God's help (1 Corinthians 2:14-15), so lean on him in prayer to get the assistance you need.

7. DO. One of the most underrated aspects of Bible reading is DOING WHAT IT SAYS. Birds don't learn to fly by talking about flying and studying the physics of it. At some point Mama Bird has to push her babies out of the nest. We learn a lot by applying the principles we are attempting to grasp. If you read a passage about forgiving one another, then go and find that person you need to forgive and do it. You will experience a little of the goodness that God gives and you will remember what you read a whole lot better because you experienced it.

8. Forgive yourself. One of the hardest things for people to do in an age of such distraction is sit down and really commit to consistent Bible reading. Things will come up and you will miss days. You'll forget to read your Bible or you will do something sinful and feel too guilty to pick it up. Rest assured, God knows who you are and he knows what you've done. Hiding and avoiding quality time with him won't change that. But if you have a relationship with him, meaning you believe that Jesus Christ is your only way to be saved and forgiven, then the reality is that you ARE saved and forgiven. Therefore you can read your Bible with the freedom of God is for you and he loves you. If he already punished Jesus on the cross on your behalf, then he isn't holding the last 10 days, 10 weeks, or 10 years of Bible reading against you.

The best thing to do is start now!

Back 2 Skool #1: Scripture

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It's that time. 

School is back! Administrators' summer of madness in dealing with new hires and registrations is nearly over; teachers' long and much deserved vacation has come to an end; kids' extended period of laziness and leisure is done; and parents' calmness and serenity has just begun as they no longer have to find ways to entertain their kids and keep them out of trouble all summer. 

School is back and so are all of the challenges that come with it. There are difficulties for everyone involved from students to administrators to teachers and parents. Figuring out how to navigate each day and deciphering what God wants you to do is often easier said than done. For the next few weeks I want to address how it is we continue to follow God on a day-to-day basis as we get back into the groove of school. We'll look at 5 Guides that God has given us to help us get through each day, week, quarter, and the entire school year.

The first guide that God has given us is SCRIPTURE.

David writes in Psalm 119, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." The idea is clear enough. He sees God's Word as a light in the darkness. We have all been there before, fumbling in the dark trying to find something and wishing a flashlight or a light switch were nearby. David's point is that the Bible serves the same spiritual function in his life. But how? How, exactly, does God's Word function like a light in my life?

The biggest way is that Scripture can light your path is by giving you a proper lens through which you can view the world. Everyone views the world through some sort of lens. If we are honest, most of us look at the world through selfish lenses. We look at situations and think about how it contributes to our own personal happiness and well-being. We are only interested in conversations that will benefit us. If you don't think that is true, ask yourself how many times you pull a "one-up" in conversations! You know, someone tells you a story that immediately triggers a memory of your own so instead of engaging that person with further interest you wait for them to stop talking so you can share your story. I know I'm guilty of that.

We tend to approach each day with our own well-being in mind. Maybe it comes in the form making specific decisions to further your career, or maybe it comes in your analysis of how you can make the best use of your time to benefit yourself. And if we are being totally honest we often find ourselves frustrated with the results of our own pursuits. For teachers, maybe you spend more time than you should worrying about parent and administrator issues and how you can resolve them to improve your day. For students, maybe you spend most of your time worrying about how specific relationships benefit you or how teachers aren't doing things the way you want. And on and on it goes. We all do it.

If, however, we let Scripture be our guide we see things a little bit differently. Through Scripture you come to the understanding that Jesus calls us to "love one another" (John 13:34) and to "make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, if Scripture is the "light to my path" then I view people not as problems to be solved, but as people to be loved.

Teachers, ask yourselves each day how you can love your colleagues, students, parents, and bosses better. How can you view each of your interactions as opportunities to be loving, truthful, and sacrificial? What would it look like to "count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3)?

Students, how can you love your teachers, administrators, and parents better? There are opportunities to be more loving each and everyday. Jesus' call is for you to "look not only to [your] own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4). Before having a fit over your homework assignments, be considerate of your teacher's large workload and small paycheck!

We can all improve in the area of loving one another in the way that Christ loved us. We can't do it perfectly. But the reality of our failures in this area should drive us  to see Christ's success in this area more clearly. Jesus Christ's love is perfect. He loved difficult people (us) a lot better than we love anyone. I encourage you to let Scripture guide your thoughts everyday. Remind yourself that Jesus Christ loves sinners so much that he willingly died in your place to save you from the punishment that comes from being sinful. Experiencing that kind of love and reminding yourself of it daily will only help you be better at modeling the same kind of love.

And maybe, just maybe, God will use the love you show to demonstrate his love to someone else. Have a great first week of school! 

MLK 50

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I know I’m late with this post, but with a new little human in our house demanding lots of love and attention the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death snuck up on me. I plan on using my son as an excuse to get out of lots of things for the next 18 years. As for the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, remembering him and more importantly, his work, has caused me to reflect on quite a bit. I have a son now and life in this crazy world is going to come at him fast; he’s an interracial baby entering a world in which race relations seem to have gotten crazier. Dr. King had a dream that there would be a day in which all people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character – a goal that we have not yet reached.

We live in a day and age in which racial tension seems to have heightened rather than subsided. It seems as if every other day one of the top stories on the news involves race relations. There are about as many reasons for this as there are people in America. One of the biggest ones is that our media outlets are an unchecked power that tends to sensationalize everything without any thought of the consequences. We also live in a time in which our society is filled with social justice warriors who desire to fight for (or against) causes both real and imagined. We protest everything and define nothing. Sometimes I wonder what Dr. King would think if he lived today, hearing guys like the rapper Common who likened Dr. King’s “March on Washington” to the modern LGBTQ movement. Or if he would agree that former Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett and former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick were modern versions of himself, as the New Yorker inferred by putting a sketch of the three men together on the cover of their January 8, 2018 magazine. I especially wonder what Dr. King’s opinion of the church would be and how much impact she is having on racial tension in America.

Unfortunately the words of hip-hop artist Lecrae still ring true, “The most segregated time of day is Sunday service; now what’s that say about the God you worship?” He was echoing the words of Dr. King from so many years before when he said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours – if not the most segregated hour of Christian America.” And while social justice is definitely in vogue in 2018, I don’t think the vast majority of our nation thinks of churches as leading this charge. I strongly believe that for racial harmony to exist on a meaningful level, the church has to lead the way.

The idea of “justice” in any form is a biblical category. Dr. King clearly understood that; modern culture does not.  Modern culture often calls for justice without really defining what they mean, and any concept of a sovereign God is far from the heart of our day’s fervor. It is right to treat all races equally because God has set that as a moral standard, not because CNN and ESPN say so. Being racist in any form is wrong because God says so. Whether it be as overt as hurling slurs or as subtle as assuming all black people think and act the same, racism is a failure to live according to God’s standard. It is the Bible that tells us that God made all men in his image.

All human beings regardless of any external factor whatsoever are equally dignified, valued, and held accountable before God. No one race has the inside track on godliness although our American churches can often be guilty of communicating this. I strongly believe that if the fact that justice is God’s idea isn’t at the heart of any discussion about racial justice than we are effectively talking about nothing and going nowhere. Why “shouldn’t” biased police officers shoot unarmed black men? Black men were made in God’s image like everyone else. Why shouldn’t black people retaliate with violence against police? Not all officers are the same (most are good), and all are made in God’s image. Why “should” churches and all aspects of society be racially integrated? All people are made in God’s image and heaven will be full of people from “every tribe, tongue, and nation.” Again, if we don’t approach the modern issues from this basis we are talking about nothing.

This is one of the faults I see with popular media, instead of the church, leading the charge for racial harmony. I have had mixed emotions about the NFL protests from last year for example. On one hand the issue of police brutality toward minorities is, and has been an issue for a long time. Our current president making pretty consistently poor moral decisions and zero effort to show racial sensitivity is also a problem. On the other hand why, specifically, are guys kneeling? What’s the goal? What’s the specific desired outcome? If we are being honest, I don’t think any of the loudest proponents for social justice have clear definitions for any of that, and that’s a huge problem. Guys weren’t kneeling for the same thing and there was never a voice of reason or leadership to say, “Here is our goal.” Without definition there is no direction, and without direction there is little hope of arriving where we desire to be.

In addition to the biblical origins of the idea of justice, the reality of sin and how deeply it plagues us has been under-emphasized, and only the church can put this reality in proper perspective. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, heal the sick, free the captives, and raise the dead. Each of those metaphors defines all of us. Not only is all of humanity bound together by its dignity as God’s image-bearers, but we are also bound together by the fact that every person on this planet needs to be found, healed, freed, and raised to new life regardless of ethnicity. That hasn’t happened in its totality yet and, unfortunately, that means that in this current world racism is here to stay. Sin is at the root of every racial issue that has ever occurred, and there is only one cure for sin: Jesus Christ.

Because the universality of sin is true, it is also true that each sinner possesses a set of biases. We are only aware of these biases when we look at the mirror of Jesus Christ. His perfection reveals our imperfection. The Good Samaritan (Luke 10), for example, is such a profound parable for the very fact that it really is a difficult concept to envision the people most unlike you as your neighbor. The sinfulness of everybody puts into perspective what some of the core issues are in our nation today. In first century Israel I am sure that many Israelites were unaware of their biases toward Samaritans, just like you may be unaware of yours. Maybe some of them had that one Samaritan friend from grade school (they didn’t have grade school), or that because they thought Samaritan music was dope they didn’t have any racial biases. But to parallel to today, mere appreciation of aspects of a minority culture and working toward racial harmony are not the same thing. Therefore, when you add together a majority culture who are filled with sinners with subtle racial biases and the misconception that appreciation is equivalent to action, you get what we have today: the Sunday morning segregation hour.

Our nation is littered with evangelical congregations in the suburbs that black people won’t set foot in. They haven’t been intentional about racial harmony and have grown blind to how cultural biases have alienated people of color – overt political affiliation with one side being one of the gravest oversights. So, in order to remedy that, churches send members into poorer communities to do city projects or send a short-term missions team to Haiti to paint a fence and hold up a little black baby to show how much they care. Or the new normal is to make a couple of token hires in hopes that one day a black family will come in and say, “Hey, there’s one of us!” and they will keep coming and tell all of their black friends. Unfortunately it usually doesn’t work that way.

At this point, I can already hear the objection, “But why are there black churches; aren’t they just as guilty of segregation?” I’m sure many are. However, we need to remember that America is a predominantly white nation with the specific enslavement of black people from Africa firmly embedded in its history. Slavery simply morphed into Jim Crow laws and segregation, which led to a white government and even more troubling, white pastors, deciding that white and black churches needed to be separate.  While I can’t speak for all black people, which is often assumed, I can assure you, the vast majority of black people don’t want to be separate. We just want legitimately equal opportunities for seats at the main table. We want our voices to be considered genuinely important. We would like to feel more like we belong and are valued, not just feeling like the neighbor with the cool music who’s really athletic but you don’t necessarily want to have over for dinner.

Those facts of our nation’s history nuance the discussion of depravity and the image of God when we talk about racial justice in America, specifically. No other race of people has been enslaved on American soil, just blacks. So what does an injustice from the 18th and 19th centuries have to do with America in 2018? Separation, fear, and prejudice is embedded in our culture, and slavery and Jim Crow are at the root of it.

These roots are why the poorest neighborhoods in your city are still filled with black people. These roots are why the kids in those inner cities continue to be stuck in the cycle of poorly funded schools with second-rate education – born with the deck stacked against them. These roots are why the majority culture continues to preach every man for himself when every man doesn’t have an equal opportunity to do so! These roots are why in 2018 we can still have a Forbes 400 list of Americans that includes a grand total of two black people. Is it crazy to think that if opportunities in this country were equal the list might have a darker hue? Instead, the lists that black people dominate are prison, abortion, and murder. These roots of our country are why the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the denomination of which I am a part, has only 1% black representation in its elders and senior pastors when roughly 18% of our country is black. While a theologically rich denomination with top-notch education, the PCA remains ethnically uniform. Many other denominations share the same problem.

These are facts of which the leaders of our churches must be keenly aware and actively trying to change. The issue here is cultural blinders and oversight. Black people aren’t the first people our nation thinks about when it is considering positions of prominence. We are the first people the nation thinks about when it comes to hip-hop and athletics. But politics, business, science, theology… we are not anywhere near the top, and it shouldn’t be that way. We are content with having white leaders who merely appreciate black culture, and that just isn’t good enough.

So how do churches lead the charge in fixing this? Unlike Common, Kaepernick, and Bennett, the church has legitimate, particular, and definable reasons for pursuing racial harmony that will have lasting effect if we do it the right way. Some of the more popular protests lack definition and end up sounding more like noise rather than the legitimate societal revolution Dr. King was so vital in spearheading. The church can do better than the culture. The church should do better than the culture.

Churches that want to be faithful to the Christian mission through racial diversity must demonstrate that seriously. The token minority on stage fools no one; a serious church will put minorities in legitimate leadership positions and allow them to make decisions. I once had a church ask me if I would be willing to lead their basketball ministry and draw inner-city youth to it. I had visited the church exactly one time… If that church genuinely desires diversity, at the very least they need to go out and get a black associate pastor who has actual authority. They need to seek minority leaders whom God is raising up around them and send those guys out with people and resources to plant churches in communities where they feel they don’t have influence. Asking the one black guy who visited to do basketball for kids isn’t a good move as conscious-freeing as it may feel.

Pastors should quote minorities as intellectual authorities in their sermons. I have heard Tupac quotes and LeBron quotes, most of which are done tongue-in-cheek, or more for the purpose earning cheap street cred. MLK gets quoted quite liberally around February as well. It’s pretty rare to walk into an evangelical church on an average Sunday and hear a minority quoted as an authority on something other than race, specifically. What does Anthony Carter think about Romans 9? What insight can Carl Ellis give to your sermon series? We know about John Knox in most PCA churches, but do we know about John Gloucester? Find black leaders we genuinely admire and make a point of referencing them. It goes a long way.

Churches should fund young minorities to go to seminary who desire to do so. Grant them internships and demonstrate that they are valued. Be intentional about finding minorities in your pastoral search committee. Partner with black pastors in your city… Partner! Not come in with your clearly superior ideas and offer, “help.” When predominantly white churches do that they sound like the Parks and Rec lady from Eagleton who thought Leslie Knope’s efforts in government were “cute.”

All in all, sin is embedded deeply within us which causes us to have cultural blinders and racial biases of which we are not always aware. For that reason, racial harmony will never just happen without some intentionality. The leaders of the majority culture in American Christianity have to lead the way, and I must say that I am encouraged that most Christian leaders I meet desire to do just that. Honoring MLK’s legacy is all about figuring out how to actively pursue racial harmony in our modern era and not just passively let things happen while pretending to care.

I am personally thankful for so many guys in my life who have done just that. There were many evangelical churches along my journey in which white guys with authority recognized God doing something in my life and gave me the platform to really harvest those gifts. My current status at Spanish River Church and the leaders there such as Tommy Kiedis and Ron Tobias have been particularly impactful. These men continue see the clear problem of diversity in American Christianity and seek to do something about it by partnering with minority church planters like me all over our nation and all over the world. More churches need to get on that train if we want to see the changes we talk about so much – the changes that men like MLK and other activists died for.