Every year I celebrate with someone who is graduating from high school. It’s a moment of great accomplishment and anticipation for the next stage of life.
Today I am also reminded of the multitude of teens who didn’t walk across the stage this year. Right now it seems that there’s no hope for their future. In addition, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of young women and men in our state who have experienced the pain of sexual abuse and are reeling from the trauma in their lives. Right now it appears that there’s no healing in their future. I’ve encountered some of these people in both suburban and urban communities.
It’s important that we pursue, embrace, and love our teenagers for who they are right now. Our deep love for them will cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Their stories may have a dismal start but they can have a glorious finish.
I believe that every community has a Maya Angelou. This week Maya’s life of perseverance, forgiveness, and hope came to an end at the age of eighty-six. As a young girl she was raped and as a teenager she didn’t graduate from high school. But as an adult she was revered for her wisdom, endurance, leadership, teaching, fluency in five languages, brilliant prose and profound poetry.
I believe there are many girls and boys who will endure great pain and accomplish great feats. If only we could see them for who God has called them to be rather than who the world tells them they are right now.
I know that church planters are supposed to have a target group
I know that this target group should look the same, make the same (money), and act the same.
I know that this approach is somewhat easier because it’s easier to attract similar people
I know that ministry with and for people of diverse backgrounds is difficult.
I believe that God desires people from every nation to be drawn to Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).
I believe that if on the day of Pentecost the Spirit enabled people to hear of the glory of God in their native tongue then He can do it today (Acts 2:1-13).
I believe that when different people come together for one Person, the world will know about the love of God (John 17:23)
I believe that we can see so much more of God when we seek to know Him beyond our cultural experience (John 4:23).
I believe that Baltimore is primed to see these beliefs become what we all know as our reality.
That’s why I’m grateful for the people in this picture and those who will be a part of the church in Southwest Baltimore. God is drawing people with similar hearts from various backgrounds together for the single purpose of displaying His glory!
Over the next 25 years I would like for it to be normal to see sons bury their fathers. In Baltimore too many young men are being buried. Of the 66 murders in Baltimore this year, 45% have been men aged 20-29 and 26% have been men aged 30-39.* A historian once said,
“In peace, sons bury their fathers.
In war, fathers bury their sons.”
This definitely isn’t a time of peace. Unfortunately, many of the young men dying in Baltimore don’t have fathers around to bury them. So my hope is twofold: To see sons bury their father would mean that our young men would live longer. Second, it means that the fathers would be actively present in the lives of these men. It means that violence would decrease as people come to know the peace of Christ (Ephesians 2:14). It means that fathers would live in the home and provide stability by the work they do inside & outside the home. It would mean that violence and abandonment would no longer seize the future of our families. Instead, longevity and legacy would propel our families into a more prosperous future.
I want to see young men live and older men lead.
*Statistics are found at: http://chamspage.blogspot.com/2014/01/2014-baltimore-city-homicides-list-and.html
Where is the strong leadership that we need in our world today?
This is a question that I’ve asked myself many times. I delight in reading stories of great leaders throughout history and I wonder where leaders of this caliber reside today. We live in difficult times and we need leadership. But the truth is that there are thousands of people who are positioning themselves to be great leaders. Leadership books fly off store book shelves and race to the top of best seller lists. So are we really lacking leadership?
How many times did Jesus teach about leadership and how many times did he teach about serving?
What if the problem isn’t a lack of leaders but a deficit of servants. Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). When the salvation of the world was on the line we didn’t receive a leader but a servant. Even King David is described as serving, “God’s purpose in his own generation…” (Acts 13:36).
Then what has He sent me to do?
This has been a thought brewing in my mind and stirring my heart. As I start a church in Baltimore City, I am now seeing the great need for servants. I can serve the community by providing direction, hope, truth, love, freedom, purpose and life in Jesus. Leaders can lead from afar but servants must draw near. That’s why Christ lived among us and why I must live among the people of Baltimore!
“You cannot serve people by giving them orders as to what to do.
The real servant of the people must live among them,
think with them, feel for them, and die for them.”
-Carter G. Woodson
Have you ever read the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost? I feel like I lived out the most popular line of the poem as I drove my daughter to school yesterday.
“Two roads diverged in a [city], and I
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference”
As I approached my daughter’s school I wondered why I shouldn’t just drive her to the carpool drop off. All year I’ve parked across the street and walked my daughter to school. As a result I’ve developed a great friendship with the crossing guard and a number of parents. For a moment I was tempted to take the carpool–it would be so convenient. Then I remembered that I walked my daughter to her school for a purpose–not convenience–and the relationships have become invaluable.
So I parked the car, walked across the street, kissed my daughter, and began to walk back to my car. When I got across the street I saw the crossing guard talking to a woman who was weeping. The crossing guard immediately looks at me and says, “Can we pray for her?” So, in the pouring rain we embrace this woman and pray for God’s comfort in her grief. She was grieving the absence of her son who was murdered a year ago. He would have been 30 this year. In addition to the grief, there is the frustration that no one has been held accountable for his murder. It was such a God moment that she just happened to get off the bus, the crossing guard happened to notice her tears, and I happened to be walking back to my car. I assured her that our very encounter on that corner was God’s provision for her to be loved, heard, and embraced right when she needed it most.
I almost missed the opportunity to pray with this woman. It was a tender and powerful moment. I almost missed an opportunity to see the grief and the hurt in my city. We hear the statistics of people who are murdered (56 in 2014) and the low percentage of the murders that are solved (50%). But we rarely get to feel the lasting grief of the family that lose a father and a son. In these moments statistics move from numbers to personal tragedies.
Moments like these remind me of how God led His people when they left Egypt: “God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around the desert road toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:17,18).
Yesterday I chose the road less traveled and it did make all the difference.