I’m a lucky man. I’m almost sixty years old and God keeps putting adventures in front of me.
Early Saturday morning I drove around a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. It isn’t a rich neighborhood. You can tell. Lots of vacant lots, a drug deal on one of the corners, a prostitute making her way home, pot holed streets, a fair amount of litter. Every time I turned a corner I saw something that assaulted my suburban eyes. And I asked God to allow me to observe and not make judgment. There’s so much about the urban neighborhood I don’t understand. But God is allowing me to learn. And it’s important for me to learn. God is there.
He’s also in the burbs where the streets get fixed, the litter is gathered, and where the prostitutes and the drug deals are more clandestine. A strong tax base can take care of potholes and garbage but is still incapable of dealing with sin.
I was on my way Saturday morning to a seminar at Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. Pastor Cy Fields talked to our BUILD group about the Black Church, the neighborhood, and the challenges and hopes of being a pastor within that particular milieu.
I walked away with mixed feelings and many blessings.
Cy Fields blessed us by being honest. Honest about the role of the church in that community. Honest about the challenges. Honest about his hopes. Honest about the difficulties. Honest about the God ordained role the church he pastors plays in the neighborhood.
Somewhere during the morning the word ‘prophetic’ came up in the conversation. And that word is stuck in my head.
Prophets aren’t well liked by and large. Prophets show people the reality of life and calls them to a God driven transformation. Further, prophets often get chased, whipped, beaten, robbed, ridiculed, ignored and killed. That’s probably the reason for the short lines at the job fair for potential prophets in training.
Prophetic voices try to challenge the status quo. The problem is that we like the staus quo. In fact we are the very definition of the status quo. Who wants to have their world rocked? We expend a great deal of time and energy maintaining what we have even though it’s not serving us very well.
Sometime on Saturday morning two conflicting thoughts roared through my mind. One of those thoughts I’m not very proud of. It’s the one that says ‘get out of there. You don’t have to do this. You’re an aging white man.. You don’t belong. You’re trying to revitalize a fading idealism. You’ve done enough. Pass the torch to a new generation.’ I don’t like this thought because I think age doesn’t mean much, that I belong wherever God has invited me to go, and that the trouble with many of my peers is that they have forgotten any notion of idealism and traded it for an unsettling blahness.
And then there’s that other thought that I can’t shake. It’s says ‘learn as much as you can, let God mold your heart, and then go and be a prophetic voice amongst the hundreds and hundreds of comfortable people you know who need their world shaken up. Help the church be the church. Build a bridge between the burbs and the city. Hep people learn from each other.’
I’m prouder of that thought even though it probably the more problematic of the two. But it feels more like God doesn’t it? It has a ‘prophetic’ tinge to it.
Now here’s the problem. I like to be liked. Stirring the pot, saying things people don’t want to hear, and challenging the status quo puts you on the ‘do not invite him to the party list’. So what do I do?
What would you do?
I believe the enemy of my heart wants me to sit the next couple of decades out and die with unlived dreams.
Doesn’t sound right.
I’d rather miss a few parties and follow the more prophetic path. It sounds like a lot more fun.