Pastoring Amid a Protest
Yesterday marked the twelfth day of protest in response to the news of Daniel Prude in Rochester, NY. Two weeks since the report went public, I have seen several responses.
I serve people in the church family who participated in the protests, work in local government, serve in law enforcement, and several individuals with varied perspectives in-between.
Pastoring during a pandemic added with a city amid protests has become complicated to navigate. Yet, I believe Jesus has uniquely positioned the Church and His followers to act motivated by the gospel to make a difference in the community around us.
In these last two weeks, I have had several conversations with not only the people from the church family I serve but other leaders and pastors outside of Rochester.
I want to share a few observations about pastoring through a protest, hopefully, to help you engage and minister through this polarized season.
We need a more robust vision of the gospel.
In Ephesians 1–3, Paul describes the impact of the good news of the gospel on the hearts of people. Ephesians 2:11–22 talks about the effects of how the walls built up of Jew and Gentiles get destroyed because of the peace of Jesus. Then Ephesians 4–6 carries out how we live out the gospel in everyday life. The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection calls us to kindness, compassion, speaking the truth in love, and putting away the old life.
When Jesus changes our hearts as individuals, a church, and ultimately a community, we go to the uncomfortable spaces to make peace and reconciliation. Yes, we pray for wisdom, and we act in building bridges. The gospel motivates us not just for difficult conversations, but to extend our circles. It starts at our dinner tables, game nights, picnics, and playgroups that can reflect heaven’s future reality. The gospel calls us to act guided by Jesus.
Never underestimate showing up.
I talked with a pastor this past week who went to a church gathering at the location of the Daniel Prude video and a law enforcement remembrance. Pastors and leaders have the call to show up in the polarized spaces. The work of peacemaking requires pastors and leaders to show up to the difficult places. It means ministering in areas where people disagree. Leaders and pastors stand in the gap, helping to bridge the divide.
The local church needs to embrace its role in providing critical conversation.
Esau McCaulley, who wrote the book Reading While Black, said something at a Rochester gathering a few years ago I will never forget, “If we had the conversations about race during the 2000s and George W. Bush’s presidency, we would be in a different place.” I think this statement highlights that most conversation on racism in the church comes out of crisis rather than times of peace.
As the Church, we are engaging conversations about race, justice, politics, law enforcement, and other current events. Each local faith community will have to navigate, entering, and continuing these discussions framed by the gospel.
In many ways, the pandemic offered a gift for churches to reimagine the content they offer. Last year, I began hosting a podcast called Why God Why. Throughout this time, we have brought several different perspectives that have provided insight into our current conversation.
To get you started, I want to share a few of those conversations pertinent to us today:
- Why are relationships so hard? / Zeb HoughWhy do I feel so fake? / Sam Acho
- Why is racism so prevalent? / Torrence Sparkman
- Why is the justice system so unjust? James Nobles
- Why are Democrats and Republicans so polarized? / Michael Wear?
- Why is everyone just starting to talk about racism? / Chloe and Zipporah Sparkman
- Why a hashtag is not enough to end racism? / Marvin Mumford
- Why should I listen to voices beyond my newsfeed? / Chief La’Ron Singletary
- Why is it so hard to grieve? / Ben Sternke
- Why is the church hesitant when it comes to racism? / Gavin Brown
- Why are inter-racial relationships so complicated / Heidi Baguma
- Why are we ignoring mental health? / Carl Binger and Joyce Wagner
Be more a priest and less a preacher to people.
Recently, Carey Nieuwhof interviewed Gordon MacDonald on his podcast, who said, “Be more a priest and less a preacher to people.” Priests create space for dialogues as opposed to a one-way conversation for preachers.
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I have had conversations with people participating in the protest, law enforcement, black individuals, city officials, and people amid anxiety. The people we serve need priests in this moment.
Pastors and leaders need to have these conversations and provide a priestly presence to minister. Our roles are to provide a non-anxious presence and represent Jesus in those moments to those the weight of these current events.
Become more FOR your city or town.
I’ve recommended it several times, but I think every church should read Know What You’re For by Jeff Henderson. Our current climate needs us to move from thoughts and prayers to real ministry to the community we serve. I have talked with many local leaders who feel the weight of this season, and many of their needs are super practical for the church to help. Pastors and leaders have an opportunity to serve and celebrate the community around them. Doing that can bring unity in more ways than we can imagine.
I’m sure there will be more discussions on the days ahead. I hope that you use this post to start a conversation within the churches you serve to minister to the people and community where God has placed you. For God to bring good, the church will need to rise up in new ways to become agents of peace.
Originally published at https://peterenglert.com.