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How Can I Not?

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

 

In my bible, I read that all people are created equal. Not all people have been treated equal though. I see the story of a people that began as a chosen race, but their sense of elitism messed that up to the point that the Creator stepped in and sent His Son to correct the issue. His Son, Jesus, came and stood for people that could not stand for themselves. He loved the hated. He touched the unclean. He made the broken whole. He brought life to the dead. He offered his kingdom to the Gentile (non-Jews) as well as the Jews. He offered his kingdom to the slave as well as the slave-owner. He offered his kingdom to the women, not just the men. He showed us that ALL people are loved by God and that he came for them…all of them. And he invited me. He invited me in and he invited me to join in going out and inviting others. This kingdom ruled by love not fear. This kingdom of freedom, not rules. This kingdom of opportunity, not oppression. THIS is the Kingdom he brought.

In the first century, the groups of Jesus-followers that were called Christians eventually learned this. At a time where division between races, sex and class were rampant, they came together to change the way people treated each other. They came to believe with their lives that because of Jesus they were called to love God with everything they are, and to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). They had to treat each other better. How could they not?

For a great message from this past weekend, take an hour and watch this panel discussion from a church in Atlanta. It’s worth the time.

My desire for equality among race, gender, sexuality, economic levels, etc. is on the surface because I am an American and I still believe this is the land of the free. However, the foundation of said desire is rooted in something much bigger. I follow a God who revealed himself as a person. That person stepped over boundaries to get to people and laid down his life for them. By doing so, he brought life to everyone. If I am to follow him, how can I not love in a radically inclusive way that just might go counter-cultural to the world in which I live?

My love for the LGBT community is rooted in my love for Jesus and my relationship with Ken. My love for the African-American community is rooted in my love for Jesus and my relationship with Ulysses. My love for policemen is rooted in my love for Jesus and my relationship with Kyle. I am committed to investing in more relationships with people that don’t look like me, think like me or dress like me. May my list of names I support ALWAYS be longer than my list of causes or hashtags.

You really love those people?

How can I not?

 

Some of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs:

“Us For Them”
Gungor

Blessed are the poor
All the lonely broken lost and torn
See a kingdom comes to us
A war that’s fought with love
Our only war is love

Prepare the way of the Lord
Wielding mercy like a sword
Every mountaintop will be made low
Know, He holds the earth like dust
And His judgement comes to us
And His judgement is love
His judgement is love

We will not fight their wars
We will not fall in line
Cause if it’s us or them
It’s us for them
It’s us for them

We reject the either or
They can’t define us anymore
Cause if it’s us or them
It’s us for them
It’s us for them

 

Feel free to shoot me an email to carry on this discussion, if you’d rather not post publicly.

I’m Tired

Today, I am tired. I am tired of playing catch up after two weeks away. I’m tired of sitting at my computer after two weeks of being away from one. I’m tired of driving. Oh I’m tired of driving. I’m tired of getting old. I’m tired of 2016. I’m tired of Baylor. I’m tired of the heat. I’m tired of people. I’m tired of church…and I’m a pastor! I’m just tired.

I’m tired of politics…in the church, in my school, in the media, on Facebook, Twitter and almost every other source of social media sans Instagram. Know why I love Instagram? Because I feel better after being on it. People that I follow post good stuff. They think, “I like that” and they share. It takes more time to post on IG, so I think we think more about what we are posting. Thank you Instagram.

I’m tired of people telling me that we are still a racist country because certain skin colors are shooting other skin colors. This week, I saw Free State of Jones. Now THAT was a racist country back then. Not that long ago, I looked at a genealogy book and saw that listed in people’s estates were actually other people…THAT was a racist country. I grew up passing a “black school” when I’d go to my grandparents house. It wasn’t in use, but it also was new enough to not look like a historical relic…THAT was a racist country back then. My grandparents didn’t have friends of other colors, I grew up with friends of other colors that also lived on the “other side” of town. My kids have 9 nationalities on our street and when I go to a class party for my 9 year old, I see a rainbow of kids in that room. THAT is a country that’s very different than it was not that long ago.

Are we a perfect society? If you are hunting for that, you will be more disappointed tomorrow than you are today. You will live angry, fearful, desperate lives. I remember attending a Promise Keepers rally (yep, I did) back in the early 90s at University of North Texas. Tony Evans was one of the speakers that day. I remember him getting on a roll and saying something like this: “If you want a better world, it starts with being better countries. If you want a better country, it starts with being a better state. If you want a better state, it starts with being a better county. If you want a better county, it starts with being a better city. If you want a better city, it starts with being a better neighborhood. If you want a better neighborhood, it starts with being a better home. If you want a better home it starts with being a better YOU.”

I have forgotten a lot of things since then, but not that. If you are distraught over what happened in Orlando, then be a better neighbor to your LGBT community and discover what it means to love a gay person. I’m tired of reading that we are Orlando because I am not Orlando, I am a man who has friends and people around him that he loves no matter who they are attracted to. If it bothers you that black men are getting shot by white cops, then pray, but please don’t just stop there. Demonstrate the gospel to people of different color than you by showing them that Jesus came to bridge racial divides and bust down walls between people of different races. Show by doing…not by saying. Life is not a hashtag. We need to quit supporting cities and start supporting people with faces and names, people with jobs and desks right next to ours. I have a brother who is gay, so I don’t need Orlando to stand up for gay people. I have neighbors named Ulysses, Marcos, Vacille, Tim, and Bella who all are from different countries, so I don’t kneed Baton Rouge or Minneapolis or Ferguson to stand up for people of color. I have friends like Gabe and Kyle and Adam and Michael and Wendy and John who serve publicly as policemen and firemen, so I don’t need Dallas to stand up for the police. It’s time to get off Facebook and look someone in the face and tell them you care about them, you pray for them and that you are in their corner.

I’m tired. I’m tired of holding all of these ramblings inside. I’m tired of someone telling me who I should pray for, who I should stand beside and who I should be ashamed of. It probably won’t stop and this may or may not get me in hot water, but even hot water is good for something. Thanks for sticking with me.

In his song “Every Breaking Wave” on U2’s 2014 album Songs of Innocence, Bono sings:
“And every shipwrecked soul, knows what it is
To live without intimacy
I thought I heard the captain’s voice
It’s hard to listen while you preach”

Excerpt From: Preston Sprinkle. “People to Be Loved.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Lq5H8.l

If you’d like to have a conversation about this, but don’t want to do it publicly, I’d still like to “chat” with you. Feel free to complete the form below and I’ll get back to you. I’m not up for debate, but I am always up for good conversation.

Why I Visit Other Churches

Eight years ago, when we launched Church at the Springs, we did some things differently. Specifically, we only met together as a corporate church two times a month. Our prayer at the time was that we would build a church that was not dependent on the Sunday experience, but would understand that when we said small group community was more important, we really meant it. Over the years, I discovered many benefits of having two open Sundays every month. We didn’t burn out volunteers, we had margin in our schedule to invest time in relationships with folks never planning on attending church and we were able to spend time with our families. All of those, we sort of expected, but what I failed to plan for was ability I have to visit other churches.

At first, I’d meet neighbors that attended other churches, so I’d plan to attend their church on one of our open Sundays to learn more of their story, but also to show my personal support to them. This freaked them out a little…in a good way. I’ll never forget the look on one of my neighbor’s faces when I settled into the seat just in front of them on a Sunday morning. Conversations after that often involved his spiritual journey. As a pastor, I am prone to certain prejudices about other churches. This church is charismatic, this church is stuffy, this church is all about the show or this church is just emotion-driven. But before my current journey, I was just guessing…like most pastors. I wanted to truly love my neighbors, and part of that “knowing” was understanding where my “brothers and sisters” choose to worship on Sundays and supporting them on that journey.

In the New Testament, Paul planted several churches. When he would write to one, he might reference the works of another. In order to do so, he had to visit the other churches. This brings me to my most unexpected learning and in many ways my greatest joy in visiting other churches. Worshiping with my “spiritual family” from other congregations releases me from the temptation to view them as competition. I may not always agree with their doctrines and dogma, but if we share Jesus, then I want them to feel like family – not like an opposing team. Worshiping with them, helps me see them this way. The pastors are friends. When I see them, I don’t need to ask how the church is because I’ve been and I’ve seen. I can look them in the eye and ask them how THEY are doing.

Please don’t think too noble of me though. I still go to school on them. I still learn what I’d like to do better and sometimes what I’d never want to do at our church. I sometimes get a jealous spirit because they have more people than we do. I am a church design nerd, so I really get jazzed by architecture too. What I do know is that it’s harder to stay in those ruts when I am shaking hands, giving hugs and raising a shout with the sheep that my friends have been called to shepherd.

So…here’s to Trent Henderson at Heritage Park Baptist Church, Matt Boyle at Ecclesia Clear Lake, Brian Barr at OneLife, Chris Seay at Ecclesia Houston, Darrin Tidwell at LifePoint, Bruce Wesley, Yancey Arrington and Brad Loser at Clear Creek Community Church, Clint Degroot at Dominion Church, Mark Johnson at Life Fellowship, Brian Haynes at Bay Area FBC, Jerry Nelson at Coast Pointe and to the new pastors that I will get to know in 2016. You all make me a better person and a better pastor, hopefully.

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