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Show Me

I think every Christian leader (pastor, teachers, council member, committees, and so on), maybe every leader, should be open to hearing people challenge them and say, “show me,” for example, “show me the evidence in the Bible that Jesus was without sin.” “Show me in Christian history how and why pastors wear white robes.” “Show me the argument from Christian faith for why we should be opening Room 9/13 for a heat respite.” Part of our freedom in Christ is we can challenge leaders without feeling like our eternal salvation is at risk. No leader is doing any favors by saying, “because I said so” or “we’ve always done it that way.” (Not a good idea for parents either!) If we encourage passive acceptance of teachings and practices, all we should expect is passivity and lack of creativity when facing challenges.

The Church is facing tremendous challenges today! How do we help people understand the earth-shaking, humanity-transforming ramifications of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection? How do we communicate God’s Word in a way that people experience both Law (that exposes our slavery to idols) and Gospel (that sets us free)? How do we gather in community in ways that demonstrates the life-changing power of Christ? We need every Christian (not just leaders, but you too!) to be engaged in asking questions, creatively responding to the challenges we face. We say that we are forgiven, renewed, transformed by the power of Jesus and shouldn’t be surprised when people say, “Show me.”

One of the challenges we face is being willing to tell our history as Christians honestly without sugar coating our failures and weaknesses. It is easy to become defensive when some one criticizes, for example, “I came to worship but no one spoke to me.” Rather than say, “Oh, we’re a very welcoming church,” we can respond, “I’m sad to hear that. Would you give St. John’s another try?” When someone says, “Show me you are welcoming,” it isn’t a time for excuses but action.

We have not just individual failures to be honest about, but systemic ones too. St John’s is a part of the ELCA, which is still the whitest denomination in the USA. Please don’t get defensive! There’s nothing wrong with being white, but the neighborhood around St. John’s is 63% Latino. We are planted in this place, yet St John’s doesn’t reflect the neighborhood. Someone from the neighborhood who occasionally attends said to me, “I never thought about coming here. I always heard that’s the ‘white-people’s church.’” Once again, please don’t get defensive and say, “Oh! That’s not true! We host Vida Nueva and Emmanuel!” Instead, we’re called to listen, reflect and act—to “show” that St John’s is an inter-cultural congregation. (I prefer ‘inter-cultural’ as the term rather than multi-cultural, since ‘multi-cultural’ could just mean cultures sit side-by-side in their own bubbles. ‘Inter-cultural’ means there is interaction, deep relationships of knowing and caring for each other.) It takes time and energy to build any relationship—to learn someone’s name, to pick up the phone and call, to make time to get together—and it takes more for inter-cultural relationships. We can’t just say Jesus calls us to value relationships with others—we have to show it.

God’s people cried out for generations, “Show us you care, O God!” and God sent Jesus! Now, we who follow Jesus are asked to show Him in our words and actions.

Learning how to show Christ,

Pastor Peter


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