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April 2014

Qu ar t er ly Edit ion

?NEVER AGAIN?: 6 THINGS YOU M AY HAVE M ISSED IN THE THE DOORS OF CALVARY ARE NOW OPEN We rejoined the Greenleaf family in the Season 2 Premiere of ?Greenleaf,? a one-hour drama from Oprah Winfrey?s OWN. The newcomer to the OWN lineup gives us a glimpse into the first family of the Memphis megachurch Calvary Fellowship World Ministries. Though the Greenleaf family appears to be a model of loving grace, all that glitters isn?t gold. Grace ?Gigi? Greenleaf, the estranged daughter of Bishop James & Lady Mae Greenleaf, returns to uncover all of the fool?s gold of her family?s sordid history. This season?s opener certainly didn?t disappoint. While we were obsessed with the revelation of family secrets, you may have

by Sar ah Bessey

We have a few good phrases we say in our house a lot, little catchphrases or sentences that carry a lot of meaning in just a few words. They are the phrases that distill a lot of conversation into one sentence. For instance, we say ?calm your heart? and ?we use our words to love each other.? Th is is an ot h er on e: Gu ar d you r gat es. It was Halloween and we were at my parents?house helping to hand out candy. We aren?t really into Halloween and so we hadn?t made a big deal out of it. At the time, Anne was barely two and Joe was only a month old so the idea of trick-or-treating was more daunting than delightful. So we stayed inside and handed out candy with my parents. Anne was off and about, playing here and there but she happened to wander past the front door right at the moment that I opened up the door to a gaggle of teenagers decked out as zombies and witches. We can talk about whether or not teenagers with beards should be trick-or-treating another time perhaps but I?ll tell you this: An n e w as t er r if ied of t h em . She didn?t even scream and cry, she just froze in absolute fear, her eyes swallowing her face as the colour drained.

My mother saw her reaction and quickly scooped her up and away from the door. After I finished with the teens and shut the door, Anne was perched on my mother ?s lap. I was privileged to overhear my mother helping my daughter learn how to deal with fear. As best I can remember it ? it?s been six years and more babies since then ? this is what she said: ?Annie, that was scary, wasn?t it?? Anne nodded, her mouth quivering. ?Well, you know what? You don?t have to let that fear into your mind and into your heart, sweetheart. Just because there are scary things, it doesn?t mean you need to invite them. Let ?s pr et en d you r h ear t an d you r m in d h ave a gat e, ok ay? And we can either open the gate to scary things or things that make us bad or do bad things. Or we can shut that gate. Sometimes we still see things over a gate, right? But we don?t have to open the door and invite them to

bySarahBessey bySarahBessey

come in and set up forever. If scary things come into your mind and heart, it?s hard to get rid of them. Your eyes and your ears are your gates, Annie. So if you ever see something that makes you feel really scared or makes you want to do bad things, you just shut your ears and your eyes to it. You need to guard your gates, baby. If you gu ar d you r gat es, t h en n ot h in g w ill com e in t o you r m in d an d h ear t t h at you don?t w an t in t h er e. You w an t t o open you r gat e u p t o t h e

are careful about what we allow the tinies to watch and experience and listen to ? we know that it can become part of their very selves. In a w ay, it ?s becom e a bit of a f am ily jok e. If we?re watching Hockey Night in Canada and a commercial for a horror film comes on (seriously, HNIC, why do you do this? you know kids are watching), someone ? often one of the tinnies themselves ? will holler ?GUARD YOUR GATES? and then the tinnies clap their

good t h in gs, sw eet h ear t . You open your heart and your mind up to the things that make you laugh or make you good or make you think. ?

hands over their ears and screw their eyes shut. They know that if they see that terrified girl or that blood dripping down an arm, it will become part of their mind and their heart, haunting their dreams. I?m

Annie got it. Since then, all of the tinnies have gotten it. In her childlike trust, she believed my mother and the thing is, I did, too. Tinnies are so sensitive, so easily influenced, so perceptive. Of course I wanted to guard her gates and teach her how to do the same thing. We

sure that when the tinies are all grown up, they?ll laugh themselves silly over how we used to holler ?guard your gates!? during the commercial breaks of Chopped on the Food Network because an ad for a prime time show came on.

Whatever. What?s parenting for if not to give them a few ways to laugh at you later on? Con f ession t im e t h ou gh : I st ill gu ar d m y gat es. I?ve admitted at long last that I?m not immune either. I?ve learned to guard what I watch or listen to even in movies and television and music. Not because I have some weird legalistic thing about it, but because I?ve finally admitted what most everyone who loves me has known for a lot longer: I?m very sensitive. The tinnies come by their sensitivities quite honestly. I take these things into my mind and heart and they latch on. I?d rather not open the doors of my heart wide to fear or lust or violence, for instance. If I believe those things are antithetical to life in Christ, then why am I flinging wide my own gates to them? It ?s f u n n y h ow m u ch I?ve t r ied t o pr et en d t h at I?m beyon d bein g in f lu en ced. Like I?m supposed to be so past it, so over it, that it doesn?t bother me or impact me. Like what I listen to or watch doesn?t affect what I think and how I speak and how I move through my life, how I view humanity and violence, sex and God. Brian and I tried to watch a show recently that everyone was raving about. We made it through two episodes before we realized we were both sitting there with a cringe-y look on our faces. ?It?s just not us to watch this stuff, is it?? he said. ?It makes my soul feel sad,? I admitted. So we turned it off. Maybe we can?t keep up with 99% of pop culture references but I?m okay with that. Lesson learned. And yet I watch my fair share of crap, too ? I can?t figure it out either. Somethings just make me a worse version of myself. I can admit that now. But as the tinies grow up, the simplicity of that instruction has shifted. As we deal with friends and challenges and new influences, we?ve had more conversations about what it means to guard your gates beyond just slapping your hands over your ears. Gu ar d you r gat es n ow m ean s t h at w e get t o decide w h o in f lu en ces u s ? how we think, how we feel, what we do. As in most things to do with parenting, I find I?m learning right along with the tinies. One of the tinies recently asked to listen to some quiet reinterpretations of old hymns after our bedtime prayers. ?It feels like someone is still praying over me as I go to sleep, it keeps the gate open to good things,? they said. Another time, we had to have long talks about the influences of certain friends and how these friendships had opened up the gates to some unacceptable behaviors and habits.

It was time to practice guarding the gates against those influences while still being kind and friendly. When we have the agency or choice (which we don?t always have), we want to be careful about who and what takes up residence in our minds and our hearts. I think this is the hard thing about parenting ? okay, who am I kidding? one of many hard things ? this whole ?finding a way to help lead and teach and model nuance and wisdom? thing. When the tinies were toddlers, it was as simple as ?shut your eyes and shut your ears? to scary things. Done and done. But now that they are getting older, gu ar din g on e?s gat es h as t o becom e an act of Holy Spir it lead discer n m en t . Because there are times in our lives when we damn well better open our minds and our hearts to things that make us uncomfortable. In fact, I think sometimes that a lot of good Ch r ist ian s t ak e t h e t oddler appr oach t o ?gu ar d you r gat es? ? they just don?t listen to or hear anything that might be difficult or complex or heart-breaking. They go through life with their fingers in their ears and their eyes screwed up tight against anything that might challenge them. Indeed, I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of listening to the stories that make us uncomfortable and challenge our peace. Just because something is terrible to learn, it doesn?t mean that I need to guard my gates against it. As Ch r ist ian s, I t h in k it ?s ou r r espon sibilit y t o car r y each ot h er ?s bu r den s an d be a par t of r est or in g ju st ice f or on e an ot h er . Sometimes that means being able to carry truly terrible truths without letting it bury us whole. We grow in these places of challenge and hardship. Guarding my gates doesn?t mean shutting out the cries of our brothers and sisters. Sometimes the most holy work we can do is listen to each other ?s stories and take their suffering into our hearts, carrying each other ?s burdens and wounds to Christ. So, no, I don?t guard my gates against simply terrible or scary things anymore. In st ead, I w an t t o gu ar d m y gat es again st w h at dim in ish es w h olen ess an d h olin ess in m e. I guard against the influences that make me the worst version of myself, the influences that feed my natural tendencies towards sin and bitterness, rage and cynicism, seeing the worst of people and being quick to offense.

This is a hard thing to write about without sounding like this is an exercise in boundary-marking and legalism. I?m not really into policing anyone else?s standards. I tend to trust the Holy Spirit in you. But it?s also a good bit of common sense to me now. Sometimes it is this simple: is t h is in f lu en ce ? w h et h er it ?s a book or a m ovie or a f r ien dsh ip or a Facebook page ? br in gin g lif e an d w h olen ess an d t h e f r u it of t h e Spir it t o m e an d ot h er s? Is it challenging me to be fully alive, to be more compassionate and human, to be more wise and loving? It doesn?t have to be pleasant, oh, no sometimes the things that bring compassion and wisdom and wholeness into our lives are the very things that break our hearts or make us angry or challenge us. Even in the face of terrible and terrifying things, I w an t t o open m y gat es t o t h e in f lu en ces t h at w ill h elp m ak e m e w h ole an d h oly. I want to grieve and lament, push back against evil and darkness, challenge injustice while still, as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8-9,?filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious? the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.? And I want to open wide the gates of my heart and my mind to the influences that bring life and light, goodness and holiness to me. I want to fill my heart with those things because then when I encounter the terrible and the terrifying, my true life will brim over into true words and deeds that bring life (Luke 6:44).

I w r it e abou t m y f am ily: Abou t t h e past 15 year s w it h m y h u sban d, Br ian , w h o is f r om Am er ica?s h ear t lan d. He?s a f or m er past or n ow t u r n ed bu sin essm an w h ich is a Wh ole Ot h er Th in g w e cou ld t alk abou t . Abou t ou r t in ies: An n e, Joseph , Evelyn n Joan , an d M ar gar et Love. Few t h in gs h ave aw ak en ed m e t o t h e n at u r e an d ch ar act er of God lik e m ot h er in g all t h ese t in ies. An d f ew t h in gs h ave m ade m e so t ir ed at t h e en d of t h e day.

TheSkinnyTunaMelt byGina Classic com f or t din er f ood, ju st got a m ak e-over ? t h e low f at t u n a m elt . Addin g veggies t o you r t u n a, r eplacin g t h e f u ll f at ch eese an d m ayon n aise w it h ligh t m ayo an d ch eese an d ser vin g it open ed f aced m ak es t h is classic san dw ich low er in f at an d Weigh t Wat ch er f r ien dly. Use you r f avor it e w h ole gr ain br ead an d ser ve w it h a salad or a cu p of sou p on t h e side. Gin a?s Weigh t Wat ch er Recipes Ser vin gs: 2 - Ser vin g Size: 1 open ed f ace san dw ich - Poin t s +: 6 pt s - Sm ar t Poin t s: 5 Calor ies: 231.1 - Fat : 6.3 g - Pr ot ein : 28.6 g - Car b: 14.7 g Fiber : 3.5 g

I n gr edien t s:

1 4.5 oz can t u n a (in w at er ) dr ain ed1/ 4 cu p car r ot s, sh r edded1/ 4 cu p diced celer y1 t bsp r ed on ion , m in ced1 t bsp ligh t m ayon n aise (Hellm an?s Ligh t )1 t sp r ed w in e vin egar salt an d pepper 2 slices ligh t w h ole w h eat br ead 2 slices 2% ch eese2 slices t om at ooil spr ay (I u sed m y M ist o

Sim ple Tu n a Bu r ger s I made these burgers for a quick lunch today. The husband said they smelled good, yet he opted for a plain old ham and cheese. Go figure. I?ve come to terms with the fact that I shall never understand his dietary choices. ;) Being honest, I had no idea how these Tuna Burgers would turn out. I wanted to go a little nutty adding in mango or even pineapple, but then decided to go simple just to see if the base recipe would work out. I?m happy to say it did! I was

by Ron i worried there would be a dryness to them, but the opposite was true. I think the ground oats helped soak up the moisture from the tuna

and lemon juice. The burger texture was soft yet meaty. They held up very well! Her e?s w h at I did? 1 7oz can of chunk tuna packed in water drained (some liquid ok)1 egg1/2 cup old fashioned oats (40g) ground up in a blender or food processor.About 1/3 cup of finely chopped bell pepper. About 1/4 cup

finely chopped onion.A large clove of garlic minced1 tbsp lemon juice1/4 tsp celery salt pinch of fresh ground black pepper Place all the ingredients in a bowl? They held up very well!

Sin gle Ladies, Th e On e Idea Abou t Dat in g You M u st Recon sider

married for over 16 years and working as a relationship professional, I know the amount of effort that?s required. Unfortunately, not everyone is equipped with the wherewithal, knowledge or willingness needed to turn a dating relationship into a marriage. Most people don?t often realize dating is an activity that should be enjoyable, spontaneous and revelatory. What sometimes takes away from these particular objectives is the pressure

I love being on the listening end of conversations about new relationships. I get just as excited about the new connection as the friend or family member who?s sharing the details with me. I have always been a sucker for love and look forward to those around me experiencing more of it. I am also realistic when it comes to relationships. Being

added to it. Some singles enter relationships with a great deal of expectations. A few of them are unrealistic and often leads to a fast crash and burn. Others are fair, but sometimes requested too soon. As you begin your search for Mr. or Mrs. Right, you must remember this one idea, t o st op en t er in g each dat in g r elat ion sh ip w it h m ar r iage on you r m in d. The reality is that not everyone you date

has what it takes to be a good spouse and simply put, won?t even be marriage material. There are phases to dating and if it leads to marriage, congratulations. But we shouldn?t begin the relationship with that thinking initially. Building a friendship first is an excellent starting point. It?s important to make sure you genuinely like the person you?re dating. Asking questions, listening and observing are all necessary to becoming familiar or acquainted with someone. It?s stressful to think about creating a future with someone, you first haven?t even really gotten to know. When you?re looking at a dating relationship through a certain/specific lens, you?re going to miss something, or only see what you hoped you would. It will alter your ability to be open minded, and present, in the moment. You?ll increase the chances of getting sidetracked because your focus is in the wrong place.

We can sometimes be so hasty in wanting to turn someone into a spouse, that we miss having fun while dating. We must first make sure, they are indeed marriage material. I know most of us don?t want to waste time dating someone we have no intentions on marrying. But dating, while fun, is also a learning experience. Through dating you get to learn more about yourself, what you bring to a relationship, as well as what you are seeking in a relationship. Dating can actually prepare you for a marriage, even when you?re dating a person you wouldn?t consider marrying. Knowing what you don?t want, and learning that along the way, helps you create a space and seek what you actually do want in a partnership. You learn what you can t olerate and what you

can?t. You begin to recognize your own flaws and the damage they could do to a marriage,

if not corrected. Dating is an exploration and it helps to shape you into the future spouse you plan to be. You can?t be afraid to date just for the fun of it while removing any personal agendas centered on marriage. Make a plan of not going into every new relationship thinking this is your future husband or wife. Again, if it works out that way, perfect. If it doesn?t, look for the ways you?ve grown and prepare yourself for the future. We must stop putting all that pressure on the getting to know you phase of the relationship. I think when we enter a relationship with the thinking this could be the one, we accommodate and overlook things we typically value just to prove ourselves right. Imagine entering the relationship without any expectation of marriage.

by Tyia Cu n n in gh am -Su m st er

PapayaAvocado Salad Papaya, avocados, lime juice and cilantro ? this luscious tropical salad will make you feel like you are in the sunny Caribbean. This salad pairs wonderfully with rice and beans, grilled chicken, fish or steak and it?s loaded with vitamin C, A, folate and fiber. You can add a jalapeĂąo to add a little kick! This would even make a great salsa to serve with chips. Perfect for all diets restrictions, vegan, gluten free, low carb, egg free, nut free, to name a few. Enjoy! Papaya Avocado Salad Gina?s Skinny Recipes Servings: 6 - Serving Size: about 2/3 cup - Points +: 3 pts - Sm ar t Points: 3 Calories: 112.5 - Fat : 8.4 g Car b: 10.3 g - Fiber: 5.9 g Protein: 2.0 g 2 tbsp red onion, chopped2 tbsp lime juice2 medium hass avocados, diced2 cups papaya, diced2 tbsp chopped cilantrosalt and pepper to taste

by Gin a h t t p:/ / w w in n yt ast

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5 Ways Your Ch urch Can Stay Connected To Guest A f ter Th ey V i si t Last week, we revealed data on the research we?ve been doing over the past year concerning how churches are following-up with their visitors. Here?s what we found: ?More than 75% of the time churches with visitors that leave their contact information.?




Churches are missing out on following up with first-time (or second, or third-time) guests in a big way and the message being sent is that people who want to get plugged into a church aren?t important. In business (yes, I know churches aren?t businesses, but hear me out) they understand that if a customer expresses interest in something and doesn?t get a response, they likely aren?t going to do business with that company. The same is true for our churches. If a guest hears your call from the pulpit encouraging them to leave their contact information and then you don?t contact them, they take that to mean you aren?t interested, and they likely won?t come back again. We are approaching one of the highest attended services of the year (Christmas) and this year, Christmas day happens to fall on a Sunday. Many churches will be holding services on those days and seeing a lot of first-time guests. Now is the right time to prepare for that so you aren?t wasting your opportunity. Things you need to remember: Don?t Wait . Remember that if someone leaves you their information that means they WANT to hear from you. Follow up quickly (within 24-36 hours).

M ak e con t act in a u n iqu e an d per son al w ay. People are desensitized to emails and form letters. They are impersonal and don?t leave a lasting impression.

Consider a brief front-porch visit with a small gift in tow, such as fresh baked bread. If a visit isn?t something you want to do, consider a hand-written note. Either of those set you apart from the barrage of communication they receive each week. Don?t qu it . Invite them back the following Sunday. Another contact on Thursday or Friday is a great way to remind them about the church and that you are hoping to see them again. Too often, churches send out a one-time letter thanking a guest for coming and then the outreach ends. While we certainly don?t want to bombard people with communications, we also don?t want to stop after one try. You never know when that one touch is going to be what drives a person to consider coming back to the church. St ay con n ect ed. Add guests to your monthly e-note or newsletter, invite them to upcoming events,

seeker-friendly message series, and special services such as Easter and Christmas. You never know which time could make the difference in getting them to return. Do it . Make guest follow-up part of your weekly tasks. The only bad follow-up is not following up at all. Remember the part in the book of Matthew where Jesus tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations? That?s exactly what this is. Following up with guests is a ministry outreach arm of the church. You?ve succeeded in getting them to come and to leave their contact information. Here is where ministry can start to happen, but it won?t happen if you aren?t intentional about doing it. Abou t Fait h Per cept ion s Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to

us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

A Ken ya Saf ar i Vacat ion : Ou r Top 4 Reason s @twitter

1. Th e ar eas t h at aren?t t alk ed abou t Namunyuk, the Matthews Range, Laikipia, Lake Turkana, Lewa?

These are wonderful natural spots away from the crowds, and offer the unique experience of smaller homesteads and ranches where you and your children can ride, paint or fish in acres and acres of your own space.

2. M aasai War r ior s Kenya manages to bundle together many tribes within its borders, but the most famous are the Maasai garbed in distinctive red cloth.

To get up close to a Maasai warrior is like reaching out and touching the past. As these tribes slowly lose their battle with modernization, we recommend getting out there and learning all you can about -and from- these supreme hunters: you will irrevocably change your children.

3. Th e M igr at ion n ever get s bor in g. The might of hundreds of thousands of hooves pounding, animals surging together on their instinctual quest for life and survival.

The desperate battles with the accompanying carnivores. Talk to us about a seasonal camp that responds to the Migration so that you don?t miss the action.

4. Th e best of bot h w or ldsKenya?s coast is the place for action (kite-surfing, scuba diving, windsurfing, mountain biking), and a great spot to take kids (fab family-focused hotels some with kids?clubs), so we love Kenya for the time-trusted combo of safari and beach.

Kenya?s great international hub of Nairobi airport, its great internal flight network, and the lack of time difference from the UK make Kenya an extra compelling choice for multi-generational travel.

Wh y Avoid Ken ya

There are parts of Kenya that have fallen prey to their own success and are ugly and busy at best. Parts of the Maasai can be chocka, with little restriction on vehicle numbers and no discernible etiquette at sightings, and parts of Samburu can be horribly overrun with tourists. This has an impact on the environment too: parts of the bush look more like a city park than a wild reserve.

With so many unscrupulous visitors, animals bear the brunt of it and can behave ?unpredictably?. The good news is, Kenya is a big country. Just like you wouldn?t avoid Mallorca just because of Magaluf, or Mexico just because of Cancun?s Hotel Zone, you don?t need to avoid Kenya just because of its tourist spots. Talk to us and we?ll tiptoe you round anything unsavory.

"Walk a little slower, Daddy," said a child so small. "I'm following in your footsteps and I don't want to fall. Sometimes your steps are very fast, Sometimes they're hard to see; So walk a little slower, Daddy, For you are leading me. Someday when I'm all grown up, You're what I want to be; Then I will have a little child Who'll want to follow me. And I would want to lead just right, And know that I was true; So, walk a little slower, Daddy, For I must follow you."

Grandfathers are fathers who are grand, Restoring the sense that our most precious things Are those that do not change much over time. No love of childhood is more sublime, Demanding little, giving on demand, Far more inclined than most to grant the wings Allowing us to reach enchanted lands. Though grandfathers must serve as second fathers, Helping out with young and restless hearts, Each has all the patience wisdom brings, Remembering our passions more than others, Soothing us with old and well-honed arts.

Easy M edit er r an ean Zu cch in i Boat s by Jessica Cor din g Ingredients: 2 m ediu m zu cch in i, en ds t r im m ed an d h alved½ lb cook ed gr ou n d ch ick en ¼ cu p goat ch eese½ cu p r oast ed r ed pepper hum m us Directions: Lin e a bak in g sh eet w it h f oil. Pr eh eat oven t o 350 degr ees F.Usin g a m elon baller or spoon , scoop ou t zu cch in i f lesh . Cu t in t o h alf -in ch ch u n k s.In a lar ge bow l, com bin e zu cch in i, ch ick en , an d h u m m u s. Fold in goat ch eese.Even ly divide h u m m u s an d ch ick en m ixt u r e am on gst zu cch in i h alves. Bak e at 350 degr ees f or 20-25 m in u t es or u n t il t h e t ops ar e br ow n ed. Rem ove f r om oven an d ser ve. Makes 4 boats


A couple of weeks ago, Jason Strand, a teaching pastor at my church made the statement, ?You may have plans, but God has a purpose, and God knows best.?Since first hearing this comment, I cannot tell you the number of times it has come to mind and come up in various conversations. It seems all too many of us can relate to the idea that sometimes God?s purposes do not align with our plans. As I?ve considered this statement at length and how I have seen the truth of it play out in my own life, I was reminded of countless characters in the Bible we meet whose lives were interrupted by God?s greater purpose. Think of Abraham, Moses, Gideon, the disciples and the Apostle Paul among others. Abraham was living in the modern city of Ur of the Chaldeans when seemingly out of nowhere God called Him to leave everything he knew behind and move to a land God would later show him. After fleeing Egypt, Moses went to work as a shepherd. While tending the flocks one day, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine-press to keep it from the Midianites when an angel appeared, called him a great and mighty warrior, and charged him to deliver the Israelites from their oppression. The disciples too were living out their lives as fishermen, tradesmen, a tax collector, and zealot when Jesus invited them to trade in their current plans for a new life with Him.

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And the Apostle Paul, well who could forget his encounter on the road to Damascus? He was busy persecuting Christians only to be blinded and called by Jesus in a way that would forever alter the course of his life. You see, the thing is, though God called each person in a different way, every one of them had plans for their life that were seemingly interrupted by God?s greater purpose. We should be open to the same.

The truth is, when we faithfully follow God there will be times when He throws us a curve ball. When He interrupts our plans and asks us to change course. As such, we would be wise to regularly seek God and His continued direction for our lives. What He called us to yesterday may not be what He is calling us to today.

Hold your plans with an outstretched hand and open heart. Like so many faithful followers who have gone before, be open to changing your plans and trading them in for God?s greater purpose for your life. Proverbs 16:9 says, ?The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.? How is God directing your steps today? Will your follow even if His purpose is different than your current plans? Today, be open to being interrupted by God. Remember, you may have plans, but God has a purpose, and God knows best.

by Dan yelle Th om as A M ODERN DAY EXODUS

?I never understood how people could refuse to go to church and still believe that they were fully functioning in their Christianity? until I became that person.? We?ve all heard the conversations of the rising unchurched population ? one who neither belongs nor is connected to a church ? for years. It?s certainly not a small group of disgruntled Christians. By 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population attending church will be nearly half of what it was in 1990. At the focus of the conversation is usually my generation, the millennials. In 2015, only 27% of millennials attended religious services on a regular basis 1. Unsurprisingly, what is forgotten in the un-churched conversation is the nuanced experience of Black Church and Christendom. There?s church and there?s being churched. It can only be understood by being experienced. From Conservative Baptist to Full Gospel; from COGIC to PAW, the Black church is, still, a cornerstone of our lived experience ? even for those who?ve left it behind.

It is no secret that Black folks are more religious than the U.S. population as a whole. 87% of Black folks describe themselves as a person of faith2. Yet, the echo of the exiting footsteps of millennials from the Black church has grown from a mumble into a roar. Two weeks ago, I sought to find the why and asked my village. UNPLUGGED: THE CHURCH DISCONNECT Overwhelmingly, many Black Millennials simply don?t feel a connection to the church. They often don?t feel fulfilled by worship services, auxiliary ministries, and sermons that do not resonate with their spiritual needs. THE NEED FOR HUMAN LEADERSHIP ?My pastor never talked about his life or his dreams, he criticized women, gays, young people, and the community.? Many pastors have been taught to ?let me decrease and You [God] increase.? While this serves well to keep the ego in check, it is also a severance point. For us, there is a non-negotiable need to be deeply rooted and connected by shared experience. We desire leaders whose humanity authentically reflects our own. We can accept that you are flawed, but we cannot accept that you are fraudulent. Far too many pastors are relying on the emotionalism of the charismatic church tradition that has fallen on ears that are unwilling to hear. Leaders cannot provoke a praise or shout from Black Millennials with haughty judgment laden in sexism, classism, and homophobia. We need tools for survival in a world that seems to hate us. We don?t need the world?s hatred reinforced in the church. HUMAN LEADERSHIP IS NEEDED. WE CAN ACCEPT FLAWED, WE JUST CAN?T DEAL WITH FRAUD. OUTGROWING THE CHURCH ?As my faith and knowledge grew, ?church? didn?t feed me. There wasn?t much that I could relate to.? Black Millennials are also unwilling to commit themselves to a stagnant, stale church. Many of us feel disconnected from churches that have not grown and matured with us from our youth into our young adulthood

With many churches showing open hostility and disdain for the movements that matter to them, Black Millennials feel no need to connect to churches that do not support them or their needs. GOD WITH US, GOD WITHIN US The need for Black Millennials to see themselves goes beyond leaders humanizing themselves. Many of us are exiting our congregations because we don?t see ourselves in the biblical text or worship practices. Our sanctuaries are adorned with depictions of saints and a savior whose skin doesn?t look like our own. Our leaders are attempting to scapegoat racism as an issue of sin rather than skin. It is no wonder that we would rather exit than be indoctrinated with Respectable Christian Politics.


BLACK MILLENNIALS DESIRE DISRUPTION, NOT ASSIMILATION Respectable Christianity Politics is a set of requirements where sin must fall within respectable limits in order to be eligible for salvation and the right hand of fellowship within our churches. RCP has defined our acceptable dress code, style of worship, and even which sins we confess and address. Our preference for respectability over discipleship has led to an edging out at the cross for those who fall short of Christian exceptionalism. RCP reinforces the myth that Christian exceptionalism, as a person of color, is the cure for anti-blackness. It is not by accident that Evangelical Christianity traditionally associates black with death, sin, and evil while white is associated with purity, innocence, and holiness. It is not simply a ?difference of opinion? when opponents argue against the endarkenment of our Savior.

Many denominations of Christianity teach of the flesh (body) as inherently evil and wrought with iniquity, keeping us away from the perfect holiness of God. With that logic, black flesh becomes even more inherently evil than white flesh. As whiteness continues to be prized as the penultimate marker of civility, the desire to gain favor in the sight of White Gaze (define: white gaze) will remain? even in the faith.

THE COUNTRY CLUB OF CHRIST ?I?m not coming to church to ?social climb?, I have zero desire to be friends or kiss up to any Pastor or First Lady. Not interested in that at all.? The exodus continues as a relationship with Christ grows more elusive and exclusive. Today?s church can feel as if it requires an application and interview process before you can access corporate worship. There are so many restrictive requirements for performative Christianity that edge out many Black Millennials. ?I can?t do homophobia, misogyny, classism, and white supremacy guided as Christian doctrine.? Black Millennials are in a period of awakening that cannot be dimmed with ?that?s the Word!? We are far too educated (both by way of collegiate matriculation and informal learning) to overlook the glaring injustice of the world and reinforced oppressions in the church. We?re cringing at the shouts and praises gained at the expense of our LGBTQIA comrades. We wince at the outdated sexist remarks across the pulpit. Little by little, we?ve been shown that we must adopt an anti-them mentality to fit in with fellow parishioners. And we?re refusing to play that ball.

The Professional Pastors June Edition  

The Professional Pastors is a media broadcasting for clergy and Christian believers. Readers can explore blogs and content from Christian c...

The Professional Pastors June Edition  

The Professional Pastors is a media broadcasting for clergy and Christian believers. Readers can explore blogs and content from Christian c...