Hi B4 Friends and Family
There's a heaviness in our culture right now and it's not just because of the pandemic. George Floyd's death and the events that followed have affected us all deeply. If you received last week's email update or if you follow us on social media, you saw my comments as last week unfolded. There is a visceral reaction inside of me when I see racism so I shared some clear statements about who we are as a church, who I am, and where we stand when it comes to racism.
Today's update is more of a response than a reaction. Part of that is just loving you and caring for you as your pastor. My heart has been breaking for our community these past several days and much of how I'm responding is about sharing my heart and story with you.
I had the privilege of growing up in a home where my parents did a lot to fight prejudice and racism. My dad was very outspoken. He taught me to be respectful of the variety of people that I would encounter in my life who didn't look like me or share my background. However, it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I began a deeper dive into the complicated nature of discrimination, racism, and privilege in our culture. That journey began because of a relationship I share with two individuals: our District Supervisor, Pastor Gabriel Barreiro, and East Hill Church Lead Pastor, Keith Jenkins. Those two men have been like brothers to me.
The relationship hasn't just been about friendship. We've held each other accountable and served as cultural interpreters for one another, all of us helping each other to understand where we were coming from based on our ethnicity and backgrounds. It's honest and raw at times. We can argue about things together and we had the kind of open conversations that need to be had. They've opened my eyes to things that I never saw before and my heart's been broken over them.
Their friendship motivates one of my commitments to B4: that we would be an intercultural church. Even though the Pacific Northwest has traditionally been majority white, the increasing diversity of our neighbors demands that we lean into the changes surrounding us. As your pastor, I want you to know that this is my heart but I'm not going to be a perfect leader. There are incredibly sensitive and difficult issues involved—and I'm not always going to respond the right way but I just want you to know that I'm going to do my best. I'm going to lean into Jesus. I'm going to hear what he has to say. I also want us to be a church that is listening for what Jesus would be telling us to do during times like this.
Besides listening, I've also been asked what should we do, especially those of us who are white. I think our first responsibility is what I call self-leadership. Ephesians chapter four gives us some guidance.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Eph. 4:1-3
Those words help me understand what self-leadership looks like. First, we pursue a life that is humble, gentle, and patient. We do that to maintain the bond of unity that we have in Christ. Lamenting and listening to the pain of others is what humility, gentleness, and patience look like right now. I've been lamenting, just pouring my heart out to the Lord — acknowledging the brokenness of our world — without having a lot of immediate action steps. I'm asking, "Is there something specific that I need to do to lead myself and care for my soul while pursuing unity?"
Second, I encourage you to do all you can to educate yourself. Our Adult Discipleship Team will be making a list of reliable resources on the issues related to racism. This will be helpful if you're just now diving into the conversation around racial inequality and privilege in our country.
Next, use your influence. Over the last decade, Cheri and I have worked really hard to educate our girls. The next generation needs to know what we've learned so our primary place of influence has been in our home. Maybe it's different for you so think about where you have real influence and leverage it on behalf of those who don't have it.
Finally, I want to just encourage you to pray. Later today I'm going to go downtown with Pastor Keith and Pastor Gabe. We're going to walk the streets of Portland together. We're going to pray for our city, as well as our brothers and sisters. I challenge you to do the same in the coming days, whether downtown or in your neighborhood. Please pray for reconciliation and for justice.
To my friends who are not white — who are a vital part of our church — I want you to hear me say, "I see you." I'm praying for you. I love you. Depending on where you're from and where this conversation is hitting you, there are all sorts of tensions you're feeling that others aren't. I want you to know that we want to work with you. We will defend you and we will be there for you.
To those of you in law enforcement, my heart breaks for you right now. I know a lot of really good officers — men who love Jesus, love their communities and their cities. They are not violent and they're not racist. if you're in law enforcement, if you're a first responder, we're praying for you. We see what you're walking through right now and we care.
I'm looking forward to sharing with you all this Sunday. There are times when the Spirit forms the messages, or a series, for a given Sunday in a unique way. I knew when we began this series on Acts, that the Spirit had prompted this. Given the times we're going through and everything that has happened recently, we realize the timing is perfect. This weekend we end up in a passage from the book of Acts that deals specifically with privilege and racism. I want you to know that I'm really looking forward to unpacking this. It's going to be very practical, very challenging, and very life-giving for us. I'm really hoping you get a chance to watch this weekend.
I love you, I'm praying for you, and we'll see you again hopefully soon.