I don’t want to change EITHER!!!

•December 29, 2014 • 1 Comment

When I was called to the ministry the United Methodist Church had a membership of over 8 million members, strong.  Most of our congregations were hearty in attendance.  Most of them had vital Sunday Schools, great choirs and awesome buildings to hold those things.  Sometimes, there were mean folk in those congregations, but they went on, they thrived….or maybe they didn’t.

Many of those congregations I mentioned above are dying out, struggling, existing on life support.  They cherish their past and over exaggerate it’s glory.  For example, along the way, something happened, that they lost their evangelistic appeal.  They no longer are able to adapt in a post denominational world.  They don’t understand the concept of people who want genuine church, genuine community, and genuine connection.  This is the protestant church’s main downfall, it’s inability to adapt to the world around it.  The world now has no use for its archaic, antiquated, and stuffy ways.

When I was called, we held annual conferences on college campuses.  We literally lived together on a campus for four to five days!  We never imagined staying at a hotel, eating in separate or fancy restaurants (although we may have complained).  Believe it or not, the district superintendents sat among conference members and not along a row of chairs and tables at the front.  It was an awesome time!  It was a great time!  A few of my youth delegation friends would gather in circles, sing songs, talk about controversial legislation, future goals, youth stuff, dating stuff, etc.

Most of those kids are now on a diaspora of sorts from their United Methodist congregations that have declined and failed to meet them halfway in terms of their needs for newer worship, revitalized ministries and places to be.

I know I never imagined inheriting a denomination that looks so different than the one I fell in love with forty years ago. We looked more homogenetic.  Much of the clergy were male, donning black robes and in some cases, all white and not many black faces.  It wasn’t the beautiful display of diversity that we see now in our annual conferences.

Further, I can’t be the type of clergy person I dreamed of being back in those days.  I now, out of love for this church must be a stubborn agitator.  I have to lead congregations to revitalize their cultural DNA much of which was established years before my birth.  I have to be pushy and aggressive by not giving in to the excuses of why we can’t change, why we can’t launch out into the deep, why we can’t make room for new people and why we can’t continue to go along as we have been. I can’t buy the lies we tell ourselves and I can’t participate in the fantasy that one day the old church will drop out of the sky and neatly settle on our cushioned pews.

I have to be the initiator of change.  We have to change the type of music we sing, the style of worship flow, the evangelistic witness, new member experience or else we will drift into the abyss of nothingness.

Now, I’m not being a pessimist.  Wherever there are people there is a need for the gospel and a community to help carry it out.

However, I also want to shout from the mountain top to local congregants, “I don’t want to change either!!!”  I really don’t.  I still long for the day when everything was etched in stone and we didn’t have to think and imagine so hard.  I long for that day where the neighborhood had their denominational affiliations and we didn’t have to depend so heavily on the work to capture the imagination of passers by.  I long for the time, when the music was much simpler, just open a hymn and pick a song and all will be well.  All you need really, is a piano, maybe an organ, but not more than that.  I long for the day, when clergy apparel was easily defined; black robe during the month, white robe on first Sundays with red, purple, green, or white stoles and paraments.  I live for that day when the words, “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins and live in charity with your neighbors, draw near with faith and take this sacrament to your comfort” meant we were deeply gathered around the table with the beautiful chorus of “Let us break bread together.”

Let me make it clear, I don’t want to change either.  But, we serve a God who “makes all things new.”  The new is the constant work of change, of different looks, different feels, and different approaches.  It will never be what it was. I honestly believe that God gets bored with the routine, the regular and the normal.  We serve a God that loves to shake it up from time to time and when God does it often takes us twenty years to get with it only to discover that God has moved on to the next thing.

So, I go back to church, ticking everyone off, announcing the new worship order, the new leadership slate, the new programming, the new bulletin design, the emergence of newer members into roles that have been occupied by more seasoned and veteran members.  I go back daring to touch the Gloria Patri, the chanted version of the Lord’s Prayer, and rewrite liturgy that will connect to a generation that really doesn’t believe that church is worth their time.  I will get my hand sapped for sure by some protective element in the church.  I will get frowns for sure by some who defines sacred ritual as being dressed in a suit or fancy dress and a formal adherence to liturgical text, when I tell them to close the books and we don’t “read” the liturgy at all.  Instead, we just have communion.  We break bread and we raise cup.  We weep at the table realizing how we shouldn’t even be there because of our sinful nature, but God has invited us anyway.

I will make folk mad for sure!  But, I am with them to some degree.  I admit it.  I don’t want to change either!!

But,  I have to.  I have to.  I just have to.

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Church Temper Tantrums Over Worship and Music Placed in Context

•January 8, 2014 • 1 Comment

Now, don’t get me wrong.  When I say the “church” I am not speaking of any one church in particular.  Yet, I am more or less speaking of the church in a universal sense.

The African American church and many other church traditions are living in enormous fear of losing its tradition to newer brands and styles of music.  Some are horrified at how closely much of this music sounds like secular music.  The beat, rhythm, style of music is nothing like it used to be.  The music is no longer centered around the I, IV, and V chord pattern of music.  Music has become far more complex with an assortment of sounds, theoretical complexities, etc. “It’s just too entertainment oriented, too much technology, leaving behind the old values”, I’ve heard along the way.

True enough, the church music scene is far more advanced than what it used to be.  Looking for a church musician is not really that simple anymore.  Now, we look for musicians, or at least I do, who are technologically advanced enough to impact their sound beyond their piano mode.  Before, we just wanted someone who could read and play the piano.  Now, we need someone who can play the keyboard and make it sound like fifty instruments are in the house.  We need someone who can arrange, write, and create, sometimes on the spot.

So, there are segments of people that sit in congregations bewildered and perplexed about what has happened to sacred worship. They are worried about not educating people of the hymnody of the church, as though this knowledge is essential to Christian salvation and faith.  In addition to losing hymnody of the church, we are not recalling enough of those songs that got us through difficult times, some would say, such as music of Thomas Dorsey, Andre Crouch, James Cleveland, Walter Hawkins and so many others.

So, many are saddened and in some cases angered that worship has actually grown beyond the past fifty years of music and liturgy.  “What about us and what we want” you may hear from these disgruntled but sincere worshippers.  “That music doesn’t do anything for me” they’ll confess.  Other than trying to create more balanced God experiences, I’m not sure what the response could be to these statements.  Yet, one response I will not have is one of panic.

Here is the reason why I don’t panic when there are some in the church who are outraged at what is happening musically and litrugically.

1. The church is always suspicious of new things.  When the church is suspicious of things, they will beat it down, destroy it and kick it out as though anything new is almost always Satanic.  It’s almost as if there is an 11th commandment, “thou shalt not do anything new, try anything new or discover anything for doing so is an abandonment of the souls, traditions and individuals that have personally contributed to our life.”  As a result, we forget that God is moving beyond and outside of older experiences and has not decided to stop saving people because of their musical and liturgical preferences and locations.  Therefore, many churches are at a standstill because they’ve become incapacitated to meet God in newer places and in newer ways and as a result, no one is interested in worshipping in those settings, where routine is the order of the day and there is no fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit.

2. Further, the church has forgotten that it was just as negative about Dorsey, Crouch, Cleveland and any other artists that have come on the scene.  Kirk Franklyn began a new revolution around sacred music that was immediately banned by many pastors and worship leaders from their church.  Today, Kirk Franklyn is all over the place, albeit old now, because it has been discovered, some twenty years later, that his music can actually be a resource as opposed to a distraction.  The church eventually comes around. The church often runs behind the wind of the spirit, instead of running with it and as a result it arrives late to what God has already done.  By the time that it shows up on the scene, the world has left that once occupied place and the church begins to run behind the world as to say, “hey, we are playing your type of music now, come join us.”  However, the world’s needs, sociological scenarios and political locations have changed and we are behind because of our fear to serve the present age and adjust worship methods to meet them.

3. Lastly, I don’t panic when folk are outraged about the newer day and its nuances because the past is definitely overrated.  Forcing me to live in an era that is not mine and does not speak to my needs is nothing short of oppressive and terroristic to me spiritually.  I too have a song to sing, a story to tell and a victory to shout about in my own voice and in the voice of my generation.

I hear so much of how we need to get back to the good ole days.  I’ve actually sat in meetings where there were litanies of how parents used to pick up children in the neighborhood for church, how fathers played baseball with sons in the park and how young girls were taught to dress.  Yet, those are just some of the stories, quite frankly.  As I remember it, some of those same days in the past were not so good.  For example, in the 80s, we witnessed one of the biggest drug wars the world had ever seen.  Thousands of people, children, many of whom should have been in Sunday School and church were being killed on the street, overdosing, prostituting and being traumatized by the crack epidemic.  I also remember AIDS at an all time high.  I also remember the fear and threat of nuclear war.  The only thing that has helped these delimmas has been, the future.  It was the future that held promise, possibilities, and solutions.  Seemingly, we have become stuck on the past and most unfriendly to the future.  For this reason, I can’t pay the church too much attention when it kicks and screams about moving forward.  If I do so, then I will submit to negativity and delay forward progress and engage in a ministry of merely accommodating comfort and ultimately someone will miss out on this gospel train.  If it is a gospel train, then it must not get stuck at one station before reaching its destination.

If we really like hymns, maybe we should revisit some of them, like, “We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion, we’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.”  This was a hymn of a church in motion, in movement.  It was not about marching around the church building, or around the block.  It was about marching toward Jerusalem, the city of God.  It was about not being afriad to, as the hymnologist Brian Wren says, “step from the past and leave behind our disappointments, guilt and grieving.”

Moving toward the future is not the same as forgetting.  It is building upon what was, brick by brick.  Insead of being religiously glutonous, like chickens whose bellies are alread full but still wanting feed from the others, our veteran Christians now need to see themselves as missionaries to a world desparate to know Christ.  Following Christ has a component of giving up things that are valuable to us…or else following will always be compromised.

“Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor. The man went away sad, because he had much.”  But, Jesus kept on toward the cross in between temper tantrums from on-lookers, temple priests and legalists.

He never stopped until he reached his destination, neither must we.

This Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Homosexuality, poverty and struggle in the United Methodist Church

•December 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Homosexuality, poverty and struggle in the United Methodist Church.

This Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Homosexuality, poverty and struggle in the United Methodist Church

•December 20, 2013 • 6 Comments

I write this as a child of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas.  I write this as a distant relative of the thousands of men and women who were snatched from the comfort of their West African surroundings only to end up on blocks of auction where they will be brutally beaten, humiliated and unfairly and permanently separated from spouses and children.  I write this as a child of those who were psychologically damaged and raped by a nation that devalued their humanity and attempted to cripple their walk from upright to bent to white supremacy.  I write as one who can still feel the aftershock of this horrible, racial, 200-year-ago earthquake.  I write as a son of Harry Hoosier, Richard Allen, and the slave owned by Bishop James Osgood Andrew’s wife that created a denominational split in 1848 lasting almost 100 years.

I’ve been told now and then, to let that slavery talk go as it is not helpful to anyone to recall it.  Yet, I can not.  I don’t recall this to take a historical stroll down memory lane or to increase our embarrassment and shame around it.  I recall it to remind myself that “stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had died.”  I recall those days to instruct me in how to exist in a world, where to this very day some would attempt to keep me in my place by suggesting that challenging power is dangerous, political suicide and inappropriate.  I write this as one who lives in a world where diversity is still awkward and the voices of the poor and disenfranchised are still silenced and ignored.

I often reflect on how do I do ministry in a world and in a church where division is thicker than ever before and conflict is at an all time high as America grows up in a way where those that make the majority are no longer one race, but many.  How do I serve while many angry white citizens are determined to complicate a presidential administration by humiliation and disrespect?  How do I serve when even the Black community is no longer as homogeneous as it once was and is finding its own challenge in seeking its identity in a new day with new opportunities and challenges?  How do I serve in a denomination with a southern base that is threatening to vacate if Disciplinary language is overturned or where there is a Western and Northeastern determination to make room for insubordination, even at the expense of setting church law aside to accommodate those that break it?  How do I serve in a denomination where this is a newer global voice rising from the African nations in particular, that is bewildered by this conversation altogether even to the point of saying public, cruel and insulting things from the floor of General Conference?  What is my affirmation of ministry in the midst of all of this?  Here it is:

I do not allow homophobic comments from my pulpit.  I will not sign any petition against gay marriage.  I will not ex-communicate you because you don’t agree with me, or I with you. I will defend and cover EVERY gay person that is in my congregation and affirm their struggle. I will not violate clergy relationships and collegiality to prove a point or exploit an issue.  I will remain loyal to the Book of Discipline, because I promised I’d do so, even if I don’t agree with some of its content.  I will not pressure my bishop or tell him/her what to do, what to say and how to say it as I depend on that bishop to lead from their heart and not from my agenda.  I will not attempt to corner a bishop and put that bishop in a box of which anything said, will be contradictory.  This conversation by its very nature IS contradictory.  It is not black and white, no pun intended.  It is dialectic in nature and one or two statements will never be broad enough to cover the magnitude of this painful issue.  I will not compare any social justice issue with that of the African slave trade/civil rights movement anymore than I would compare any experience with the Jewish Holocaust, as this is being historically irresponsible and as every movement of justice has its own nuiances and particularities and deserves its own march toward resolution.  I will not define the United Methodist Church by its weakness or its strength, but rather, its willingness to go on toward perfection and conference with one another until we arrive at the place where the Spirit leads us.  I will not assume I have all the answers (or all the questions for that matter).  I will not abandon deep seated issues of poverty, predatory lending which often leads to gentrification, racial inequality, unemployment, classism, low reading scores among children of color, and homelessness, over one issue.  I will not abandon impoverished people, of spirit and resources, to join an argument largely held in wealthy circles.  Lastly, as a preacher formed in the prophetic preaching tradition, I will not be silenced and I will not allow the church to forget that the struggle continues in every “hamlet and every corner.” I will not fall asleep by thinking that while we are in a post-civil rights era and while the White House is occupied by someone with a similar color of skin as mine, that there are no longer conditions to overturn.  I will fight for your self-worth.  I will not preach a gospel or teach a class that will cause you, regardless of your age, sexual orientation or gender, to question God’s love for you.  I will try my best to stomp out discrimination, hatred and exclusion wherever I find it.

Make no mistake, I will stand along side you with bloodied hands and tired arms as we struggle to uncover this challenge and find our way.  To you, my brother and sister colleague, perhaps those whom I will never know or meet, that openly struggle to defend your humanity often in an environment that is hostile and mean spirited, I will stand with you, I will pray with you, for you and clinch my fist with frustration as I watch your removal from our ranks.  It is like watching a sibbling being snatched from the house in the middle of the night while we watch in horror, helplessly. I often think that I too should be removed from this order, but for the grace of God.  We are all flawed and we will NOT be the same without your presence in our order.

But, I will also remind the larger body, that there are so many places we must go as a people and a church who deeply desires to spread scriptural holiness across the land.

I will do so because I am a Christian who is a Methodist.  This is the Methodist way; to go house to house, issue to issue, even if those houses are in dangerous neighborhoods, where crime and car theft is at an all time high.

This is where God and Methodists can be found.  In the thick of it all, fighting and wrestling ’til the break of day.  In Revelation, God promises that he is “moving in the neighborhood.”  Jesus instructs those who will carry out his ministry to “go to Jerusalem the city and tarry, until you receive power.”

So, meet me in the neighborhood or let me meet you there, in the slums of the city, where the blood of victims from senseless violence still fills the streets, as mothers weep and cry over lifeless bodies of their children.  Let’s meet up, working with families who just lost their homes because their resources were not enough to make it in a city like DC where you need at least $86k a year to just get by.  Let’s meet up at the funerals of those who died because they didn’t have proper insurance to cover their illness(es).  Let’s meet at congress, write letters and house illegal immigrants who hold crying babies through the night as they worry about being deported to a place of unbelievable poverty where the baby they hold will have very little of a promising future.  We should be where Jesus went and calls us to go.

And when you arrive, don’t bring your digital camera and don’t leave with a t-shirt suggesting you’ve been there.

This kind of revolution of which I speak will not be televised.

No More Reverend Nice Guy

•November 26, 2013 • 11 Comments

I was deeply saddened to hear of the apparent Suicide of the Rev. Teddy Parker of Macon, Ga.  He was just a few years younger than I.  In between services, he told his wife and children to stay behind, went home and shot himself while parked in his driveway.  He suffered from depression.  Clergy depression is something that no one really talks about. We just let those pastors figure it out.  According to a not-too-distant clergy health study done by the General Board of Pension and Health of the United Methodist Church, 25% of clergy were diagnosed with depression and far less of that number were on going treatment for depression.  An even more alarming statistic was that 70% of clergy stated that they did not have any personal friends.  Dr. Jamal P. Bryant said that 76% of clergy deaths happen on Monday.  Wow!

Being a pastor has always been a stressful job, regardless of the era or age.  According to insurance companies it is the second most stressful job only behind that of emergency room physicians, thus validating the need to have outrageous insurance costs.

Even in my own pastoral life I have had my own painful moments in the pastorate as I’ve heard things like:

1. My marriage is on the rocks because we don’t wear our wedding rings.  They don’t know that my ring breaks my skin out and Lisa misplaced hers.

2. He is sleeping with one of the officers of the church so that’s why he supports that leader so fiercely.

3. The pastor lost his home to foreclosure so that’s why he’s living in the parsonage.

4. He does not prepare sermons and he speaks too much about himself.

5. He fires everybody.

And the list goes on.  How many of these things are true?  NONE of them.  Yet, these are the work of some church folk.  There are always some who wake up to figure out how to make the pastor’s and the church’s life extremely difficult. It’s interesting to study the authors of such confusion.  If you take a survey of those engaged in this kind of activity here is what you’ll find.

1. Very few, if not none at all, are tithers.

2. None of them are engaged in any mission activity.

3. None of them are in “real” Bible Study that teaches Kingdom principles, spiritual growth and life transforming elements.

What makes this work even harder is the assumption, that this is a part of the job and that pastors just have to “deal with it.”  Uhhh, no I don’t. No, I won’t.  Not this one.

Being a pastor does not mean I have to buy into anyone’s perception about who or what I should be.  Being a pastor does not mean that I have to be a slave to perception, gossip and cruelty.  Being a pastor does not mean that I will be abused, mistreated or disrespected.  Being a pastor does not mean that my family is available to harsh and thoughtless comments my non-caring people.  None of those things have anything to do with pastoral ministry.  I don’t work for the federal government, I am not in political office and I my job is not guaranteed by opinion polls.  I work for the Kingdom of God which is trying to invade our wicked ways and create loving community.

So, today, I’ve decided that I will not let a congregation, any congregation be the source of psychological and emotional damage and abuse.  I’ve decided that I will not sign up with what I know is insanity, unfair and just pure nonsense to appease a group of people and keep them from getting mad.  I’ve also decided and am comfortable with the fact that there will always be those who suggest I can not preach, I am ineffective, I am not called, I only like young people, I don’t communicate well, I wear the wrong clothes, I am thoughtless and inconsiderate.  If you are a pastor, you have your list too.   There will always be those who will feel something negative.  In some ways, they may even be right.  But, I’m only human.  Christina Perri has a new song out that says, “I’m only human, I bleed when I fall, I crash and I fall, I can only take so much before I say enough is enough.  I’m only human.”  Pastors, you are only human.  You are not to bear the burdens of the world.  Just work to transform them, little by little, one day at a time.  But, do not wear or absorb everybodies anger and hatred which in so many cases has nothing to do with you.

I want to make a better commitment to myself and to actually live into being a little bit selfish from time to time.  I am going to make sure I take time for me when I need it.  I will not subject myself to seeking approval from anyone.  I will serve on purpose.  I will review every location for fitness of carrying out my call.  I will not sign on with insanity because that is my choice.  And, I will love every member.  But, loving them does not mean putting up with nonsense.

I must have this stand.  My life depends on it…and so does yours!

Preachers, please be healthy.  Preachers be free!  Live life!  Don’t wear a church’s dysfunction on your sleeves.  They’ve probably been like that for years and will be like that when you leave, no matter how good you are.

Preach the gospel, love the people but if you are going to bleed make sure it is for the cause of Christ and not someone’s ill will, misguidance and confusion.  There is a difference!

And for those who don’t get it, show them the door with these words, “No More Reverend Nice Guy.”

Enough is enough.  That is all.

Thou shalt be sexy…until…!

•October 9, 2013 • 1 Comment

Truthfully, having just been exited from young adult culture I am recognizing how youth brings a certain amount of sexiness to it.  Seemingly, the new commandment is “thou shalt be sexy!”  We have become narcissistic as a society.  We invest much on our exterior shells; clothes, glasses, shoes, socks, arched eyebrows, manicured nails, facials, scents and extensive time in the gym to maximize our fashion potential.  We then turn around and pay photographers to enhance what we’ve done.  Thou shalt be sexy!  It’s almost as if Home Depot is no longer the “Do it Yourself” King.  You can now do Hollywood makeovers and look just like a celebrity ready to go on camera only coming back from a local from a quick trip to the beuty salon or a designer barber.  It’s fascinating what we can do to ourselves.  We’ve even mastered all sorts of natural looks like the casual look, the ruffled look, the hanging-out look.  It’s all fashion.  It’s all sexy, to someone at least.

Some in the religious community have taken to this as well.  I regretably admit I’ve been drawn into this cultural craze of looking great, even though I don’t quite meet the mark most times.  Even my vocation have caught on to stylish and model-like poses in the robes we dawn, the stoles we wear, or the suits we display.  Somehow, it seems that there is a way to make anything sexy; cars, houses, landscapes and even kitchens.  Well, there is one place where sexiness seems to fade from the scene.  The hospital.

This is why trips to the hospital are always experiences of culture shock for me.  It’s almost as if I’ve drifted into an entirely different world, very different from the one outside its frequently opening and closing sliding doors  There is very seldom anything sexy about the hospital.  If you go during the day, you will see an array of people who wear huge shoes to support their frail bodies.  You see hands with fingers twisted in any direction but straight.  You see people who can’t stand up straight and walk humped over.  You see hips twisted on one side and slanted on the other.  You see women with thinning hair, if any at all, on the top of their heads.  You see men wearing thick plastic glasses, barely able to walk trying to navigate their way from one side of the room to the other, masking shame and embarrassment with a unconvincing grin.  You hear weak voices ask where the doctor’s office is.  You see the circle of life, as middle aged children now take on the role of getting their sources of life to radiation treatments and check ups.

You don’t smell perfume, you don’t see heels, you don’t see fine suites.  You don’t see elaborate hairstyles, unless they are worn by the medical staff.   You don’t see sexiness at all.  You see life, refusing to give up yet.  You see deterioration and sometimes you see frailty being held back just a bit by the will that remains.

Today, I walked my own grandmother through those halls in the hospital as she herself wore socks with traction stripes on them, colored in a bright turqoise, tucked in shoes fitting for an older woman; a suite that was slightly too big and underneath that suit were garments to support possible incontinense.  Her hair was braided, being so soft.  Her hands were half the size they once were.  Without my assistance,  her walk was staggered and challenging.  Her cool points were non existent when she waved to people she thought she knew while they looked puzzled from her energetic greeting or when she sat by someone who was on their cell phone and she thought they were talking to her the entire time or when she cried asking me not to leave her again while I fetched the car.  Nothing about that was sexy.

I sat in that hospital, (while my grandmother caught her breath from walking a few steps), in a sea of old people.  People that I, God willing, will one day join with my own oversized tennis shoes, walking assistance and a suit that is a bit too big or that light blue matching-pants and shirt-set as I am being trailed around, hopefully, by someone who cares enough for me not to abandon me or treat me with cruel impatience.

None of these people were sexy.  None of them cared about impressing anyone.  Instead, they were just grateful to breath the air that surrounded them and be above the ground that upheld them.

May God grant us grace to accept the days when sexiness declines and real meaningful pieces of life emerge, like a faith that will not shrink, a hope that is authentic and a love that is real, meaningful and grounded in the God of our weary years.  These are the days when vuluptous hips, a washboard torso and an incredible array of jewelry and exquisite fashions will not be of much help.  Contrary to current days of youth, those will be the days when you won’t need sexiness to get through but things like best friends, faithful children, maybe a kind soul somewhere and a generous community or family.

None of those I saw in the hospital corridors were sexy. In fact, they were something greater. They were something far more real, far more concrete and far more lasting.

They, including my grandmother were all simply beautiful.

My non-negotiables

•October 6, 2013 • 1 Comment

 

Several years ago, I accompanied my son to his new high school’s orientation and the principal began his speech with what he called non-negotiables.  One was, fighting.  The other was cheating and I don’t remember the rest of them.  I kind of like that concept.  I’ve been comforted lately by listing what my non-negotiables are as a leader and a pastor.  Here they are.

1. From time to time I would hear that “we are not being heard.”  I will listen to anyone but I will not accommodate negative, disruptive and problematic attitudes. There is a difference.

2. I will not make room for prejudice, judgementalism and religious elitism.  

3. I will not apologize for aggressively reaching those seeking shelter from the cold walk without God.  They are the priority for all of US.

4. I will not allow abuse to me or my family.  I will confront you.  

5. I will not make room for insanity to flourish in the life of the church.  This insanity includes ignorance around what the church is, its mission, and its mandate, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Anything outside of that is not in my job description.

6. I will not place church or community culture OVER Kingdom principals.

7. EVERYBODY deserves to be loved.  

8. I will not do ministry apologetically.  In fact, if someone isn’t offended (challenged) from time to time about what I’m doing I’ll consider myself ineffective.  Challenge is where the growth happens.

9. I will not sink to anyone’s expectations of what persons want me to be and I will not fight sheep with the excepetion to number 4.  : )

10. I will not be held hostage by a particular tradition, preference, or demand if it stands in the way of healthy community and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

Come now, let us be on our way.  Translation: Let’s get with it!