Some Books from 2020

I don’t want to label this a top ten list and make it sound like I read enough books to have a realistic top ten list. So these are just some books that I read in the past twelve months that I enjoyed, I learned from, or I was challenged by.

  1. Letters to the Church by Francis Chan –I marked this book’s pages more than any other I’ve read this year or in a long time. His critique of what has become “church” for most of us was a jolt to my convictions that I needed to read.
  2. The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax –I’m a parent, so I try to learn about being a better parent. This book was challenging. It confronts the friend approach that many parents take in our modern-day and age. It spoke to that truth I know in my heart: that my job is not to entitle my children but to train them to be adults that can survive and be successful in this world.
  3. Born Again This Way by Rachel Gilson –Rachel Gilson talks about Rachel’s journey of being a same-sex attracted woman while living by the Bible’s principles. This is one of the clearest treatises on this topic I have ever read. But this book went beyond addressing just one group’s “sin” I was confronted in my sin also and encouraged by the hope we can all have through the power of Jesus!
  4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates –This book is one that many could argue with as they read. I chose to set cultural and racial defensiveness aside and learn from another’s perspective. I’m glad I did. (*language).
  5. Creating Community by Andy Stanley –During COVID, I became convicted that, as Ellen White said, small groups are a method that “cannot fail.” So I did some small group reading. Of the small group “method” books out there, this is one of the better ones I’ve read.
  6. Re:Vision by Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon Penfold –I’m about two years in and two chapters into my doctoral degree, and this was one of the books assigned to me in my core curriculum. I loved it. But you should know almost everyone else in my class hated it. I can’t tell you why; it just rubbed them wrong. It smacked me and encouraged me to take more ownership of where and how I’m leading the people God has called me to lead. By the way, my doctorate is examining leadership in relationship to church revitalization, so this book is about church revitalization.
  7. Running the Dream by Matt Fitzgerald –I just love reading about distance running! (*language)

And here are a few titles I’ve started in 2020 and will hopefully finish in 2021:

  • James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney
  • Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright
  • Myth of Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd
  • Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin
  • The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands

What have you read in 2020 and what are you reading in 2021?

White Privilege in My Home

My Dad used to say when he would get upset with someone, “Get a life.” If we were complaining about something he thought was ridiculous, he’d say, “Get a life.” My sisters and I were fighting over something ridiculous, “Get a life.”

I think it is was his version of “Get over it.”

My sisters and I have made fun of my dad often in adulthood for this phrase. Now if my dad is pontificating about some ill he thinks is important, but we find ridiculous we’ll say, “Hey Dad . . . Get a life!” We find it humorous I don’t know if he always does.

In the midst of this time of COVID-19 as I have been isolated with my three sons, I have found my patience strained . . .

How strained? At the end of one day of non-stop back and forth bickering, I yelled out, “Would y’all just ‘get a life!'”

Suddenly I was uttering a phrase that I hated my whole life growing-up.

I have a lot of my Dad in me.

My kids will have a lot of me in them.

Which is why I have made the following commitment:

  • They will never hear me make another racial joke.
  • They will never hear me define a problem because of the color of another person’s skin.
  • They will hear me speak out against bias implicit and explicit.
  • They will hear me repent of my implicit bias.
  • They will see me make friends with individuals of different colors.
  • They will be encouraged to love and even marry any girl no matter her color.
  • They will be reminded that Jesus likely looked less like them and more like others with darker complexion. And so if they love their darker Jesus they better love their darker neighbor.
  • They will see me speak up against injustice.

I believe in protest.

I believe in conversation and debate.

I believe in the vote.

But I don’t have a lot of hope in these changing anything–

Which is why I focus most on changing the next generation, and that change starts in my home. 

Addressing White Privilege in Me

Last week I wrote a blog, on white privilege and a friend of mine that read it asked the great question–how? How do we address the problem of white privilege? And she challenged me to give provide practical steps to the “how.”

So in three parts I want to share some thoughts I’ve had on the “How.”

  • White Privilege in Me
  • White Privilege in My Home (the next generation)
  • White Privilege in the Church

I start by addressing white privilege in me because I agree with the words of Leo Tolstoy,

“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy

I’ve been on a long journey with discovering the deeply rooted prejudices that exist in me and my lack of recognition of the privileges I possess over others due to the color of my skin. As I reflect on that journey, four stories from that I can apply practical application to my life now, and maybe you can as well.

Story One:

When I was a Freshman in High-School I got my first real black friend (I had other people I called friends who were black, but they were more acquaintances or friends of my parents); her name was Danielle. Danielle and I met at a picnic table at Loma Linda Academy. I happened to be at the picnic table because one day early in the 3rd quarter of the school year, I was thrown out of the library study hall. When I went back the next day, the librarian informed me the banning wasn’t a one day deal, it was permanent, but no one told me where else I could go. So without a car or a great desire to walk anywhere–I found myself at a picnic table every day (one could do that in California). One afternoon as I was carving something into the picnic table, a young lady, a young African-American lady, Danielle, came and sat down by me and began to talk. It was odd that Danielle was talking to me, she was a junior–but that wasn’t the odd part. What was odd, I hung-out with a group of people who wore white laces in their Doc Marten’s, and I had a WP written on my trapper keeper; it was a WP I was carving into the picnic table that day Danielle approached me. She saw what I was carving and said, “that is so stupid.” And then she proceeded to continue talking to me . . . not just that day, but every Tuesday and Thursday at that same picnic table. She later told me I was quite a jerk to her when she sat down, but she knew I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. By the end of that year, I would have counted her as one of my closest friends. And that friendship began to change me. Not the way all friendships change us, but in my philosophical world view, some of the “white pride,” I had adopted in my life. It is hard to not do some self-analysis when there is a person you care about in your life that opposes darkness in your soul.

Practical lesson one: 

Having a friend of color then helped grow me. If I want to continue to grow in this area of life I need to have black friends now.

Story Two: (A shorter story)

A year later I was living in Ohio and even though I now had a black friend, Danielle, had moved to Maryland, and I was growing, I still had blind spots. One of my blind spots was a Confederate flag that hung on the ceiling of my bedroom. One day my friend Gerald, an Asian, walked into my room. He looked up and saw the flag and asked me, “What is that?” I was immediately embarrassed, he then said, “Only racists of have those. Whatever.” That was the end of the discussion, but soon after that the flag came down.

Practical lesson two:

I need friends in my life that will be honest with me and call me on my non-sense as Gerald did.

Story Three:

Jump ahead to my days at the Seminary. I was asked by the chaplains office of Andrews University to oversee the revival of a vespers program called United Vespers that happened once a month. I went to the first United Vespers and it was dead! There were a few white kids there and they were half asleep. Where was everyone else. Over the next several weeks I visited several other gatherings: Mosaic, a great musical celebration made up of a packed house of mainly white preppy kids. Adelante’s Vespers, a smaller gathering of the Hispanic community on campus, warm loving people. I also attended the Asian club’s vespers, great food, great fellowship, also a small gathering. But it was the last vespers on campus I attended that changed my world, BSCF (Black Student Christian Forum), amazing preaching, amazing music, and wall to wall people. And I realized if I could somehow get BSCF and Mosaic to connect we could truly have a united vespers. And so I went to my friend Dilys, a Jamaican student there at the seminary, I shared with her my vision and asked her to help me make the connections (Dilys was friends with everyone on campus). She did and by the grace of God Fusion was born (if you were on campus at Andrews in the early 2000’s to late 2000’s you are familiar with the Fusion vespers). That vespers (which happened once a month) exploded, it got so big the school, with the help of Ron Whitehead, let us move it from the gymnasium to the Howard Performing Arts Center and you had to get there early to get a seat–and it was diverse–all the colors and people’s on campus. I share this longer than necessary story, because through my time at seminary and more specifically my work with Fusion and my friendship with Dilys and her husband Delroy, I got connected to a larger black community than I had ever known before. And as I became a real friend with many of these individuals I would sit and listen to them talk and as I heard them share their stories and their pain, I realized they had experiences, that first I could never relate to, but second that I knew I never would have to relate to, based upon the different colors of our skin. I also was able to ask them sincere questions about the stereotypes I held in my head and they helped me understand how to work through those views.

Practical lesson three: I have to listen to the stories of others. The world is evolving and people’s stories evolve, so I have to keep listening!

Story Four:

I watched in sadness the news in 2016 as I saw the events that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement, and then on July 7, 2016 police officers were ambushed by a man who was angry over police shooting black people and as he stated he wanted to “kill white people.” I watched now horrified on my computer the event unfold. Then the next night just before bed, I went to the Facebook page of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and I began to read some of the comments on their page related to the Black Lives Matter movement and the things Adventists were posting made me sick and angry. That night I scrapped my sermon, and I wrote a few thoughts, and the next day I went into the pulpit and told our congregation, “we must do better.” I don’t remember what I said or how I said it, but it was intense and mainly off the cuff–something I never do. As I was driving home from church that day I was about to turn onto my road when the Holy Spirit said to me go down to Emmanuel-Brinklow and apologize (Emmanuel-Brinklow is the African-American Adventist church a mile from the Spencerville Adventist Church). This impression from the Lord was as a strong as the day I stood up and accepted Him as my Savior and as strong as the day He called me into ministry. I wanted to resist, but I couldn’t. So I drove down there, black churches go a little longer than our predominantly anglo churches 🙂 So when I walked in the preacher was nearing the end of his sermon, I decided to just wait in the foyer until he was done, at the conclusion as the worship band was playing Pastor Tony walked to the back door to shake hands, I stepped forward to introduce myself and then I said, “I just wanted to come and say sorry for what is happening and I want to be a better neighbor.” Pastor Medley stopped the music he told everyone to sit back down and then he walked me to the front and said you need to share this with everyone, and so choking-up I repeated what I said. After that service some of the stories members shared with me and the way that community embraced me–I went home and I wept, I couldn’t stop crying.

Practical lesson four (actually multiple lessons in this one):

First, I need to open to the Holy Spirit always in matters of how I interact with people of other races. Racial conflict is a result of sin. I ask Jesus to reveal in me the dark spots of my heart concerning impatience, arrogance, and lust–why not my prejudices, my accepted white privilege? Second, own the collective hurt of the black community and say “sorry.” It doesn’t matter if I have perpetrated every wrong, I can still let them know I am sorry for what my people group has done and I should be sorry!

So those are the “how’s” for me of continuing to overcome my biases and my blindness to white privilege:

  • Surround myself with a diversity of friends
  • Have honest friends that will call out my prejudices and blind spots
  • Listen and ask questions willing to change when you hear the answers
  • Be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit
  • Say sorry

What about you?

How White Privilege Inhibits Christian Perfection

This morning I read these words, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. The context of this text is not referring to the day of worship we keep, or the style of worship we embrace, or the way we dress. In context, it’s talking about each of us growing in our love for our fellow man. We are emulating the perfection of Jesus “only when we love with an ALL embracing love.” (John Stott) My heart is broken because I have seen much less than perfection in three recent events, the killing of #AhmadArbery, the killing of #GeorgeFloyd, and the racist display towards #ChristianCooper. And one cannot ignore the obvious commonality in all three of these events—white people using their privilege to physically harm (in two of these cases) or potentially harm black Americans. 

While this privilege cost two of them their lives, and there is nothing more horrific than that, it was the incident in Central Park that illustrates why the other two events can happen. 

Amy Cooper said to Christian Cooper (no relation), “I’m going to tell them an African-American man is threatening my life.” She, however, did not say these words because she genuinely felt threatened. If she had, why would she approach him and take her eyes off of him to make the phone call? Why was she not screaming like she was in trouble until she was far away from Mr. Cooper and until the police were already on the phone? In my heart, I believe that Ms. Cooper said what she said because she understood something clearly. She understood the same thing that the police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd understood. She understood the same thing that the men chasing down Ahmad Arbery understood, which is; if there is a dispute between people of different skin colors, the individual with the lower levels of melanin is likely going to be believed over those with higher melanin. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong! In other words, and I’m speaking to my white brothers and sisters here, we hold privileges that our black brothers and sisters do not have! 

In addition to her shared understanding with the police officers in Minnesota, and the men who chased Ahmad Arbery in Georgia, Amy Cooper correctly expressed the core problem in modern society. Namely, that “racism is real, and I can use it to my advantage.”

The saddest part about each of these incidents is that any semblance of justice was likely only brought about because there was a camera present. In the case of Arbery, the men who ended his life were finally arrested because a video recording of the incident surfaced more than a month after his killing. In the case of Floyd, we know that when cameras are not present, there has been no justice for victims of similar incidents. If we go back far enough, even when I was a kid, we know that even with cameras present, sometimes justice is not done (remember Rodney King?). Finally, I want you to ponder how the incident with Amy and Christian Cooper (again, no relation) might have turned out if the police HAD shown-up? What if they heard the account of a white woman who said an African-American man was threatening her. Who ends up in handcuffs in that scenario? The frantic, screaming, white woman claiming to be attacked? Or an African-American man standing his ground? 

Folks, we have a problem. It’s called white privilege. And while most of us don’t take advantage of this privilege in egregious ways, many of us remain part of the problem. It’s a problem because we only allow our privilege to confront us when we have horrific, unspeakable video evidence placed before our eyes—which is the reason I’m writing this post—and that, my friends, is not enough! We have not done enough.

Until we acknowledge our racist and prejudiced feelings—even our potential for those feelings—we will not change. Until we acknowledge the existence of white privilege, it cannot change.

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. 

We begin emulating the perfection of Jesus “…only when we love with an ALL (red, yellow, black, and white) embracing love.” 

Let us begin the process of perfection today by acknowledging there is a problem in our world, in our nation, in our church, in us.

Revisiting Ordination

Warning–this post is not about gender! Sorry to disappoint some of you. This post is about the process or rather the requirements for ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. It is a post that I hope will help us also to explore the question, “What are we ordaining people to?”

Several years ago I wrote a blog post entitled, “The Mess We’ve Made of Ordination.” In that post, I argue that one of the messes surrounding the process of ordination is a lack of consistency in policy across the North American Division in who does and does not get ordained.

I want to affirm the North American Division for attempting to rectify this problem by recently establishing guidelines that they are recommending to all Seventh-day Adventist conferences in North America to consider prior to ordaining any pastor. These guidelines are based upon the seven core qualities discovered in research done by NAD ministerial which they believe are the foundational qualities for an effective pastor. These core qualities are as follows:

  1. Character
  2. Evangelism
  3. Leadership
  4. Worship
  5. Management
  6. Scholarship
  7. Relationship

Here is the problem though, based on these seven core qualities and the descriptions provided by the North American Division, I am not qualified to be ordained. Why? There are two core qualities for which I do not meet the set standard.

Management and Relationship.

Let me start with the management. In the not too distant past I was at lunch with one of the associate pastors on our church staff. We were meeting to discuss the future and to provide feedback for one another on the growth each of us needed.

As we sat there in a crowded Panera, my colleague said to me, “Chad you are a great leader. And I think you could be even better if you let someone else on the team manage.”

I asked her to expound on her thought,

“Well, you are great at casting a vision and empowering us all to serve in our various roles. You do a good job of getting people on board with a plan and helping people to become inspired and find their gifts. But your managerial skills hold you back because you don’t do well in making sure we complete every task, or that we as a team follow through on all our plans or goals. You try, but because it doesn’t come easy for you, it wears you out, and you have to spend more time doing management, which you don’t do well when you should be doing other things related to leadership. You need to let someone else manage.” 

Wow what an insight!

The second core quality that I do not meet the standard is the final quality: relationships. The description of this quality is as follows: “relating well to others regardless of faith, age, ethnicity, personality, or gender.”

I fail in this quality because I do not relate well to individuals regardless of age.

I do not relate well to kids and or youth. Yes I can get by, but the description is “relate well.” I look at those that work with youth and kids and I am amazed. In our church we have a pastor (who works in the Adventist HealthCare system) named Costin and when he talks to the adults they love him, he is a favorite adult Sabbath School teacher, but he is also a favorite of the children to provide the children’s story. If he is an example of relating well, then I do not measure up. Even my own wife agrees I should leave the work with children and the telling of the children stories in the hands of more capable individuals.

Based upon these two analyses of two of the seven core qualities of an effective pastor and the characteristics upon which are the basis for ordination then, I am a.) not an effective pastor and b.) it was ill-advised to ordain me years ago.

I’d become discouraged by these two revelations, but I’ve read the Bible.

And here is what the Bible teaches. First, the word ordination never actually appears in the Greek or the Hebrew (the two primary languages of the original Biblical text). Second, what we have accepted as the process by which we ordain, the laying on of hands, and the structure of leadership: pastor, elder, deacon while assumed by most to be a straightforward Biblical model is not so straightforward. (For more on this topic read the excellent paper, “The Problem of Ordination,” by Darius Jankiewicz).

What the Bible does teach is that people were asked to “fill the hand” (Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 & 9). That is the translation for the Hebrew word in the Old Testament that some have translated ordain. This term seems to reference the handing over of duties within the temple to certain people called by God. I also read about individuals being “consecrated” and “appointed” to the priesthood (Numbers 3:10) but others were also “consecrated” and “appointed” to other tasks in the temple service (Numbers 3:36). The same word “appointed” or “consecrated” but different roles. I read about the laying on of hands over Joshua in Numbers 27 which in the Hebrew is also referred to as a “commissioning.” (Interesting commissioning actually is in the Bible but not ordaining 🙂 ) And in Exodus 31:6 artists were “appointed” to work on the crafting and care of the temple structure; again the same Hebrew word used to “appoint” or “ordain” the priests.

Deacons in the New Testament were “chosen” and “turned over responsibility to them” through the laying on of hands to care for widows and make sure people had food.

Paul and Barnabas were “set apart” to be missionaries to Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas then “appointed” (Acts 14:23) elders not to be missionaries, but to oversee the churches that had been established. And by the way they were not set apart with the laying on of hands, but the Greek word indicates through a show of hands, in other words, “let us vote” if these persons should lead us.

And Paul sent Titus to Crete, not to establish a church or to oversee a church, but to straighten out a church (Titus 1:5).

The point I am trying to make is that we use many examples in the Bible to support the idea of ordination but each of these examples illustrates a significant point: the ordination of an individual is not limited to specific roles or functions.

So if we as a church are going to say these seven qualities constitute the picture of a qualified ordinand, we must be ready to say, first, most of our pastors that are ordained do not currently qualify and second if we apply these seven core qualities then we are creating a box around the function and expectations of calling to the work of ministry that the Bible never stipulates.

I’ve already illustrated how I don’t fit the model, but let me give another example: one of the pastors on staff at the Spencerville Church, where I also serve, is currently not ordained. He is not ordained for what I would ascertain two primary reasons: first, and foremost he does not possess a theological degree. Second, he does not preach, though some in the conference office has pushed for him to preach on multiple occasions. Under the structure of the core qualities of a pastor his lack of preaching would disqualify him from meeting the core quality of worship: “facilitating an enriching corporate worship experience that brings people into the presence of God.” Now, I would put forth that he does help facilitate this by establishing our online church community which has 100’s of participants each week and even more during the time of COVID-19. But even if he had no role in the actual worship service, would this mean he is less called, less appointed, less qualified to be ordained than I am? Was God wrong in designating the title of consecrated and appointed equally to the priests, the guards of the temple, and the artists of the temple?

Would not our current structure and the structure recommended and endorsed by many conferences stipulate that only the priests in the above set would qualify for the standard of “consecrated” “appointed” or to use our vernacular “ordained.”

I applaud the church for trying to build clarity and consistency around ordination, it is what I was asking for years ago when I wrote the blog post I referenced above.

But years later I realize even when trying to build clarity and consistency we fall short because we are trying to prop up a model, a concept that is not Biblically supported at least not in the way we have framed it.

How would I fix things?

The church could acknowledge what we are doing in regards to the establishment of what we call ordination is not really Biblical, and state directly and honestly, “since we struggle with nuance in the church, we are going to establish a basic one size should fit all model.” If they did this I would probably complain less; I believe every business has a right to say, “this is what we expect of our employees.”

Or a second option, we could go back to the model of Acts 14:3: χειροτονέω.

χειροτονέω: stretch out the hand, for the purpose of giving one’s vote in the assembly.

(Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996, p. 1986.)

χειροτονέω might be a little dangerous for some because it puts power into the hands of the local church people guided by a few leaders.

In the example of lacking the qualifications for ordination I mentioned above, I would guess if we went to the assembly in which this pastor serves and we asked for a show of hands of how many believe he is a pastor called by God and faithfully serving as he has been called in the area he has been called, fulfilling the duties he has been called to, that most the hands would go up and he would be χειροτονέω–appointed by vote–or as we like to call it ordained.

Luckily for us, the pastor I am speaking of took a theology class (he’s getting his masters in pastoral ministry) from Dr. Jankiewicz, in which he came away realizing ordination–as we do it is not Biblical–so he is not stressed about when or even if he is ever ordained.

Me, on the other hand, until one of the above two scenarios, takes place or maybe a better idea comes along, I think I will continue to poke at this bear.

Build Your Library Part 1

So over the last two+ years, I have been pursuing my Doctor of Ministry degree with an emphasis on church revitalization at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Inevitably such a pursuit requires a lot of reading, and because I have a moment of quiet and it is better than Netflix and Chill, I decided to share with you the books I have enjoyed reading for my DMin thus far. There are numerous books I have not appreciated, so I won’t recommend those to you. Now please note most of these are not casual reading books, so unless reading church and theology books are your jam, don’t run out and buy all of these.

Sojourners and Strangers:  The Doctrine of the Church, by Gregg Allison

The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, by Jonathan Leeman

Reclaiming Glory: Revitalizing Dying Churches, by Mark Clifton

Our Iceberg is Melting, by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

There’s Hope for Your Church, by Gary McIntosh

Repentance:  The First Word of the Gospel, by Richard Owen Roberts

Comeback Churches, by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson

Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, by John Hammett

Can These Bones Live? A Practice Guide to Church Revitalization, by Bill Henard

Prayer: Experiencing the Awe and Intimacy with God, by Timothy Keller

Re:Vision: The Key to Transforming Your Church, by Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon Penfold

On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Call and Work, by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg

We Cannot Be Silent, by Albert Mohler

 Preaching with Bold Assurance: A Solid and Enduring Approach to Engaging Exposition, by Hershael York and Bert Decker

What is the Mission of the Church?, by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

Breakout Churches, by Thom Rainer

I’ve read some other great books during this time as well, but these are the books from my DMin program I enjoyed thus far.

If you pick one of them up I hope you enjoy them too.

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