Power is part of every area of our lives. Whether it is romantic relationships, family interactions, work dynamics, or church connections, most of us spend our lives attempting to acquire and leverage power. 

We seek positions of authority in order to influence people, control resources, and direct information. We pursue decision-making positions to have some control over issues that affect our everyday living. There are experts who say that we all need power to live into our full potential.   

Power Comes with Responsibility

Effective leaders know and understand that with power comes responsibility. During these recent months of disruption and uncertainty, you continue to take on more responsibility than ever before. You are leading without the help of a roadmap. Your decisions are not only affecting the mission of the church but are impacting the safety and well-being of the people around you.  

On good days you understand the weight of this responsibility. But, there are days you want to use your power to put people in their place, or at least help them see the error of their ways.  So, as a leader, how do you use your power to assist people to live into their full potential? How do you empower them to become who God created them to be?

What is Power?

Some people would say that “power is your ability to control the activities of other individuals.” Although there is some truth in that statement, I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got closer to a healthy understanding of power when he said, “Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose.”

Some people would say that good leadership is “the ability to inspire people to follow your instructions without exercising any form of force.” Again, there is some truth in that statement, but I believe Brené Brown gets closer to defining a good leader when she says,

“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”

-Brené Brown

However you might say it, you and I, as followers of Jesus, have the responsibility to use our power, authority, and influence to assist the people around us to live into their God-given potential. It is by sharing your power and influence that helps you become more who God created you to be. So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends?

To answer these questions, there are a couple of things to remember:

You Have a Purpose & Power

You have been given a purpose and the power to live into that purpose.  

  •  In The Acts of the Apostles, in response to a question about power, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be my witnesses… (1:8).
  •  As a Jesus follower, your purpose is to be who God created you to be, a witness to God’s love.
  • You live out your purpose in a relationship with the people entrusted to your care. You extend the love you have received with family and friends, colleagues and neighbors, those who need special care, to strangers and, yes, even to enemies.  
  • You are given power to live into your purpose and to assist others in living into their purpose. Even when you think you are not equipped to love as you have been loved, you have been given power to do so.
  • How are you using your power to develop God’s love in the people around you? 

Different Types of Power

There are different types of power in leadership. Keeping in mind your purpose, to witness to God’s love, there is:

Power over

This power can be seen in parenting or in the classroom, as well as in the workplace and in the church. There is a place for the parent or teacher to have authority. This power is used effectively when exercised in relationships grounded in love (trust and compassion). 

But when this power is seen in the workplace or in the church, it is usually because the person of authority feels threatened or is afraid of losing power. It is difficult to develop healthy relationships of trust when you feel you must control every situation, decision, or person you encounter.

When you focus on having and keeping power, you seek to protect it. You leverage fear and intimidation to keep it. There is little trust and lots of manipulation. Vulnerability and empathy are seen as weaknesses, disagreements are seen as negative, and being nice becomes the major mode of operation. At this point, you have lost sight of your purpose of loving as you have been loved.

To use this power might help you succeed in the short-term, but over the long run you become a detriment to your purpose and you lose any positive influence you could have with the people around you. You might feel you are courageous to face the resistance you receive, but there is little or no courageous leadership when you lead by exercising power over people.

Power With and Power To

This power can be seen in the workplace and in the church, as well as at home and at school. In each context, those in authority know that power is not theirs to keep, so they seek to share it with the people around them. 

Whether at work, in the church, as a parent, or a teacher, you come alongside others as a mentor and you learn and grow together. You model the characteristics of vulnerability and empathy. When fear and uncertainty are present, you lead with transparency and grace. You leverage love and connection as ways of bringing people together to accomplish your purpose.

When you focus upon others, whether it be your children, colleagues, or friends, you create a climate for discovering, learning, and developing. You focus upon the needs, desires, and values of the people entrusted to you. You love them as you have been loved. You seek to serve rather than be served. You empower people to live into their strengths and talents and you benefit from their exercise of power. You love people because the development of people is your purpose. 

To use this power helps you become a person of positive influence. Bob Goff says it this way, “God doesn’t give us influence so we can lead people better. He gives it so we can love people more.” Courageous leadership is rooted in your love and care for people as you share power with them and love them. 

Power Within

This power is about developing your own sense of agency, as well as instilling within others their sense of agency. In the words of Martin Luther King, “I can achieve purpose and effect change.” 

When you lead from within, you genuinely love people. Your care and concern are not about dominating them but loving them. You depend on empathy, rather than showing your strength. You choose respect over friendship and want truth and transparency. You work for the good of the people entrusted to you. 

Your power to influence comes from within. As you learn that the power is not about you, you begin to understand that your character is important. You learn that it is not only what you say, but how you say it that makes the difference. As you lead from within, you discover that courageous leadership is clear and direct in communication. Because you are centered upon the love of God deep within, you become more credible, competent, and persuasive as a leader. 

To use this power helps you empower others to live into their potential. So, you become more the leader you were created to be by “recognizing the potential in people and ideas,” and sharing your power, as you come alongside them to love them.  

Your Next Step 

So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends? As you assess your leadership, what do you need to change? In what areas do you need to grow?    

To become the leader God has created you to be:

  • Think of two people who have been influential in you living into your potential. What did they do to assist you? Now, give God thanks for them and for their love and care for you.
  • Think of two or three persons who have been given to you to lead. How are you assisting them in developing their potential? What help do you need to assist them? Now, give God thanks for them. Ask God for the power to love them as God has loved you.
  • What step will you take to become the leader God has created you to be? You have been given the power and you have the courage, what step will you take?

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community. 

Remember, you have received power to be the leader needed at this time. Love as you have been loved.

How are you doing today? To say the least, you have been through a lot this year. I don’t need to rehash all the events that have changed your ways of living over the past several months, I know that each of us has struggled in our own ways. Whether it has been with the changes in worship, gathering in groups, learning new technology, caring for family while balancing work, illness, anxiety, depression, or any number of other changes, we have each had our challenges.  

Today, I want us to shift our perspective.  

Because we use so much of our brain space worrying about what is coming next, grieving over what once was, and struggling with anxiety in the present, we often forget how much we have accomplished. Whether family, friends, neighbors, church members, you have had a tremendous impact upon the people entrusted to you. Even when it didn’t feel like you were making a difference, you were successfully navigating some huge obstacles.

So, give me a few minutes of your time today. If you are willing, I want you to stop and focus upon yourself.  You have given much of yourself, as well as time, looking after and caring for others. Now it is time for a little self-care.    

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Think about something you have accomplished over the past seven months? Take a deep breath and be honest with yourself. 

Feels good doesn’t it? What challenges did you have to overcome? What have you learned that can be used in the future or is helpful now?  

It is okay to feel good about it. You have made some substantial accomplishments, but it doesn’t have to be anything big. Just think about what you have done. Did you learn to cook something you haven’t cooked before, start a new exercise routine, or take up water coloring? Maybe it was keeping your children fed and clothed as you navigated the chaos of becoming an at-home teacher. When you set boundaries, either with work or in your personal life, you accomplished something significant.   

So be kind to yourself and take notice of some of the small things you have accomplished, because when you build on those things, you can put your life and leadership into perspective. Some days it is easy to forget just how strong and impactful you have been.  

What Does Love Look Like?

Are you willing to give me a few more minutes? If you are, consider these things: 

Reflect upon times when you experienced love over the past seven months. When were you vulnerable and empathetic? Where did you take people seriously, even when you felt it was difficult to do? When did you listen to and make a place for people with whom you disagree? Whether it was with family, friends, church members, or strangers, where did you provide a caring and safe place for people to become who God had created them to be? 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for loving people through me and thank you for loving me through those same people. Amen” 

Reflect on Joy

Reflect upon times when you experienced joy. 

Over the past seven months, what has made you stop to remember God’s goodness and to give God thanks? What was taking place when you realized your interaction with people was a response of gratitude for God’s grace? When did you feel at one with God and the people around you? 

Think about a time when you laughed so hard you cried, a time you were amazed by God’s presence, and a moment you wanted to capture and to hold. Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. 

Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for the deep joy you have planted in my heart. Help me be so joyful that the people around me experience your joy in and through me. Amen.” 

You’re Generous

Reflect upon the moments you experienced generosity.

When did you give someone the benefit of your doubt? When did you show God’s kindness and goodness to people entrusted to your care whether they deserved it or not? When did you say to yourself, “I know he is doing the best he can.” Or “How can I help her take the next step?” 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you caring for people in and through me. Help me to be open to receive your kindness and goodness through them.  Amen”

Courageous Action

 Reflect upon the situations where you experienced courage. 

What risks did you take? When did you have to be vulnerable? What empowered you to make decisions and lead through difficult situations? Who were the people that came alongside you to encourage you? 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for giving me the strengths and skills to lead with courage. By your grace, give me the courage to assist others to live and lead courageously. Amen.” 

Look at What You’ve Done!

As a leader, you have accomplished more than you have given yourself credit for accomplishing. You have been gifted to lead at this time in history. People are looking to you to be the leader they can trust, a leader of compassion, a leader who is stable, and a leader who offers genuine hope.

You can and will lead through this present crisis. At the moment, we are in the middle of a mess. But because you have taken the time to reflect upon what God has done in and through you, you are able to step and out to lead with courage and grace.

Take Action

Are you still with me? Here is the last thing I’m asking you to do.

Call, text, email a trusted friend or colleague and tell them what you have accomplished. Give them the opportunity to celebrate with you. At your best, you cannot be who God created you to be alone.  Remember, it is okay to feel good, so celebrate.

If you don’t have someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing, then call, text, or email me.  It would be my pleasure to celebrate your accomplishments with you.

Grateful for You

I am grateful for you and your leadership. You have accomplished much. Now is the time to stop and catch your breath before stepping back into the mess. 

Just remember, you will get through this by staying focused upon the God who has gifted you. Keep focused on how God has already used you to make a significant difference in the lives of the people entrusted to your care.

Don’t forget, when Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

O God, thank you for my friends and colleagues. Thank you for the ways you have enriched my life in and through them.  By your grace, embrace them through me so we can be the leaders you need us to be at this time in history. I offer them to you in the name of Jesus. Amen

Where are you experiencing joy in your leadership? You might think, that is a strange question. Do leadership and joy even go together? Why not? Joy is about being connected to meaning and purpose and to feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment. So, why wouldn’t joy and leadership be connected? 

There is no way to be a courageous and effective leader if you are not a happy leader. It is hard to be happy if you are tangled up in doing things that you don’t truly enjoy. Take leading through the past several months for example.

Where has leadership been a joy? 

It is not easy. In fact, for the most part, it has been discouraging. At the end of some days, you sighed as said to yourself, “I’m glad that is over,” and on other days you said, “I didn’t sign up for this.”  

There have been times when you did not have a clear vision of your purpose. Your mind was distracted by frustration and your heart covered in negativity. Yet, you have continued to move forward. 

Having joy in your work is not all about your satisfaction. As a leader, your joy affects the attitudes and motivations of the people entrusted to your care. It affects how you reach out and receive people, how you invite others to join you in the movement of God, how you practice your faith, and how you engage others in your community.

How to Bring Joy

It is easy for any leader, especially those in the church, to focus on what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. It is during this time of multiple pandemics and of chaos and confusion, you have the opportunity to refocus upon the meaning and purpose of leadership. 

How do you bring joy into the lives of the people who are tired, acting out of frustration, and ready to go back to the way things were?

Psalm 30 gives us insight into the source of joy needed for effective and courageous leadership. David writes, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,so that my soul may praise you and not be silent” (Psalm 30:11-12). 

David on Joy

When we meet David in this Psalm, he is no longer popular. He is facing opposition. He has lost his health and his emotional well-being.  He speaks of his soul being in Sheol, a dead place of deep darkness. He is weeping all night long. Today we might say he was depressed. It is like he is living in the midst of a pandemic, facing the opposition of racism, trying to make sense of family and work, and feels like he wants to give up. 

But there is one thing he has not lost: his praise of God. When he feels he can’t go on any longer, he turns to God in praise, 

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning

-Psalm 30:4-5

David is so caught up in praising God that his depressed situation becomes a demonstration of joy. You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.”

Joy-filled Leadership

Could it be that joy-filled leadership is rooted in praising God? I don’t know how you define it, but I think of praise as remembering God’s goodness and reciting God’s greatness.  What would happen, if in the midst of what you are facing right now at this moment, you stopped, remembered God’s goodness, and gave God thanks? What would happen, if in your leadership, you remembered God’s goodness, and acted in gratitude as you engaged and interacted with the people entrusted to you? 

Joy is built into the fabric of all creation. Genesis says that joy was first in line when God created everything. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and God saw that it was good.”  The writer of Job says, The morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy.” Joy couldn’t watch God’s creation and keep silent. From the beginning, God intended joy to be fundamental in your life. If this is true, then it is time to lead with joy. 

Joy-filled Questions

So, let’s try something. The following questions are just for you and your reflection.  This is not a test but a reminder of the roots of your joy that feeds your leadership. Here are the questions:

When was the last time you…

  • gave God the gift of your laughter?
  • experienced the sheer beauty of God?
  • were amazed speechless in God’s presence?
  • prayed a song instead of singing it?
  • sang your prayer instead of praying it? 

Joy is energized by the praise of God. So, as you face the unprecedented demands of leadership, what have you lost? Have you lost your joy, or have you lost your sense of praise? Without praise, your joy at best, is incomplete. 

Five Behaviors for Joy-Filled Leaders

Because joy is rooted in praise and praise is directly related to God, then you will understand and focus upon these five behaviors:   

1. Strengths

Joy-filled leaders know their strengths.  

Although they do not ignore their weaknesses, they primarily focus upon their strengths and the strengths of the people entrusted to their care. Are people around you involved in ministry that match their abilities and interests? What would bring them joy in their work in and through your church? Know the strengths of people in your congregation and let them experience the joy of becoming who God has gifted them to be.

2. Health 

Joy-filled leaders know how to care for themselves as well as others. 

They know their limitations and understand that stress is a part of life. They give themselves time and space to replenish the energy needed to stay focused upon their goal and the health of the people entrusted to their care. Healthiness is contagious. I remember a children’s book titled, “How Full Is Your Bucket?” This little book lays out this concept of health very well. You can choose to fill other’s “buckets” with positive energy, or you can choose to take energy from their buckets. Your healthiness and the healthiness of others will fuel the joy needed to be effective in ministry.  

3. Presence

Joy-filled leaders are engaged in the lives of the people entrusted to them. 

They are authentic and hopeful as they assist others to be engaged with one another and with the community. One way to become more present or engaged is to ask, the people with whom you are in ministry, these questions: What do you like about the church? What needs to change?  What makes you proud about your church? What does it look like when we are at our best as a church? Being present by listening to others and by taking their responses seriously will bring a sense of joy to you and to them.

4. Relationships

Joy-filled leaders develop relationships with the people entrusted to them and the community in which they serve. 

At the same time, they are looking for the connections with the systems needed to help the people around them become all God has created them to be. People experience joy in their connection with others. So, developing trust and respect, in the midst of differences, provides a healthy environment for relationships.

5. Purpose

Joy-filled leaders know their purpose. 

Your sense of purpose is an important element of their resilience, happiness, and faithfulness. Because you are focused upon your purpose, you learn to adapt as you navigate the obstacles and barriers in the way of accomplishing your purpose. 

Plant Seeds of Joy

Where are you finding joy in your leadership? Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do, are in harmony.” 

So, where will you plant the seed of joy this week? Why not take a few minutes at the end of this day, reflect upon God’s goodness through the day, and then offer words of praise and thanksgiving? Then, tomorrow, invite someone, family member, friend, or colleague to reflect with you upon God’s goodness and together offer words of praise and thanksgiving. You cannot command joy, but you can plant praise. “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.” 

When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

All leaders experience moments of frustration. Whether it is from not knowing how to handle a certain crisis or from unreasonable expectations, we all experience frustration from time to time. When perspectives clash, conversations grow tense, and people become annoyed, frustration levels rise. 

As a leader, you don’t want to be the source of frustration, but the political climate, differing opinions, and general weariness can lead you to wish you could lash out and say exactly what you are thinking.

Frustrations are a Part of Life

As you know, frustration is a part of life.  There are simple frustrations. I can get frustrated when I go to the grocery store, pull into the parking lot, and several spaces have grocery carts in them. I immediately say to myself, “How tough is it to return a grocery cart to the place it belongs? How rude to push the cart into an empty parking space and drive off.” Through my frustration I have learned that I do not like to be inconvenienced.

There are more complicated frustrations. I get frustrated when, during a pandemic, people want to politicize wearing a mask, or during a time for learning and conversation about racism, people get defensive and dismissive. How difficult is it to “love your neighbor as yourself?” It is frustrating to think that people who call themselves followers of Jesus have difficulty showing their love and care for the people around them. Through my frustration I have learned I have little tolerance for those who have little tolerance.

What Frustrates You? 

You might think my examples are silly, but it is important as a leader to know what frustrates you and what you do to frustrate others. When you experience frustration, it is a time to stop and ask yourself “why am I frustrated?”. Once you understand your frustrations, you can gain a greater understanding of your frustrating behavior. It is only in facing your frustrations that you can begin to change your behavior.

I’m sure you don’t frustrate people intentionally, but here are several behaviors that frustrate the people you love and serve:

Lack of integrity 

It can be as simple as not following through on what you say you will do. You are only as good as your word. There is nothing more frustrating than someone saying one thing and doing another. A sure path to frustration, mistrust, and disrespect is not backing up your promises with action.

Indecisive decision making

People thrive on action and progress. They are frustrated when they can’t move forward because you can’t make a decision. Trust your judgement. You have the education and experience to make the necessary decisions. You frustrate people when you can’t make up your mind.

Lack of vulnerability

You frustrate people when you have the attitude that you know more than anyone else. When you have to be right by making other people wrong, you shut down conversations and damage relationships. The people avoid discussing anything important with you. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Keep an open mind and heart. Take the ideas, thoughts and perspective of others as seriously as you want them to take yours. 

Blaming others for your mistakes

You are also frustrating when you refuse to be accountable or responsible for your mistakes. You damage relationships, undermine trust, and make people angry. People become fearful of being blamed. They stay in the background and often refuse to participate. Learn to take the blame and give the credit.

Self-preservation

When you are looking out only for yourself, you are not only a source of frustration, but you are perceived as self-centered and untrustworthy. You are in leadership to love and serve the people entrusted to your care.

Constant complaining

It is frustrating to work with people who are always complaining. Things do go wrong, and everyone complains occasionally, but non stop griping sucks all the energy and enthusiasm out of any group. Keep in mind that people follow your lead. Your attitude is contagious.

Now that you know how you might frustrate others, let’s look at how you can lead with courage and confidence. All leaders experience frustration, but you can lead by being a calm presence and by responding with care and kindness. Below are five characteristics of effective leaders in regard to controlling frustration. I am sure you already use some of these ideas and techniques.

Attributes of Effective Leaders

As an effective leader, you control your frustration, because you are:

Self-aware

You pause and reflect. You are aware of your emotions as well as the emotions of others. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, you think through what needs to be said. Then, even if you need to express anger, you can do so calmly and reasonably. Controlling your emotions is a part of effective leadership, especially in the midst of change.

Aware of others

Things never happen in a vacuum. When you know the context of a frustrating behavior or a frustrating situation, you can resolve it. The more closely you observe the people around you and their intentions, the more you understand them and the bigger picture.

Curious

You ask questions for clarity and dig deeper for understanding. You know that you can find a solution to any frustration by tracing it back to its source. You don’t settle for superficial explanations but keep digging to find the underlying cause.

Listening

You know how to let people speak without letting your emotions get in the way. You give the other person the opportunity to say what they need to say. It can be hard to do when you want to interrupt, to defend yourself or just walk away. You stop and listen. You let them vent and get it out of their system so, together, you can start working toward a solution.

Responding and not reacting

It is easy to make a “mountain out of a molehill.” You control your own frustrations so that you don’t add to an already rising frustration level. Once you have responded with calm and coolness, it is easier to keep frustrations under control. You are vulnerable and transparent. You focus on the parts of the frustration that are in your control or influence. You don’t make false promises of change. 

Managing Frustration

Controlling frustration is a demanding skill. We admire the people who can keep their cool in tense situations. It takes practice. And sometimes it feels more like on the job training.

So, this week, try an experiment. 

Connect with a trusted friend and talk about what frustrates you. Then ask this question, “What do I do that is annoying or frustrating to others?” Practice listening. Don’t be defensive. This is not an easy exercise. Even if you get frustrated you will become a better person and a more effective leader.

Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tom Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation in the midst of your frustration. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

I’ll be frustrated if you don’t!

How are you feeling today? How are you caring for yourself and for the people entrusted to your care? You don’t need me to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a variety of unprecedented health-related, financial, and emotional difficulties. There were enough stressors and anxiety before the pandemic, but fear and anxiety about the virus and what might happen are being multiplied several times over. 

As a leader, amid the stress, you are expected to assist people to find some normalcy. 

Lead with Courage & Compassion

Here are some things to keep in mind as you lead with courage and compassion:

  • Personal stress is created by feeling disconnected and isolated, as well as by a fear of getting sick during the pandemic.
  • Financial stress is driven from a loss of income due to reduced hours or being laid off from work, as well as from not receiving offerings on Sunday mornings.
  • Family stress is generated by the need to balance learning how to work at home while caring for children 24 hours a day, assisting with educational needs and household responsibilities, as well as trying to go back to work while the children are at home.
  • Cultural stress is fueled by a concern over the changes occurring in local communities and as well as in the church. Will our favorite restaurants survive the pandemic? Will I be able to return to my gym? Will my church bounce back from the financial hardships created by the pandemic?
  • Cumulative stress encompasses all the above as well as social media and other media experiences. 

Acknowledge Current Reality

Keep in mind, whether real or perceived, these stressors can make living through the time of a pandemic a traumatic event. Your awareness of these stressors will help you respond appropriately to the actions and reactions of the people around you.         

As a leader, as well as for yourself personally, it’s important that you keep yourself healthy. When you are healthy, you are more self-aware and better able to respond with care and compassion. During these uncertain times, you have the opportunity to model for others as you care for yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind for your own health. 

Focus on What You Can Control

During times of uncertainty, you might feel you have no control over what is happening. Keep focused upon the things you can control. Things like:

  • Having a positive attitude.
  • Following CDC health recommendations.
  • Washing your hands
  • Wearing a mask
  • Maintaining social distancing practices in your daily life.
  • Turning off the news before it increases your level of stress and anxiety.
  • Limiting your social media consumption.
  • Acting with kindness and grace (be Christian)
  • Having fun and experiencing joy
  • Focusing your energy on these items instead of factors that are out of your control will help you regain a sense of empowerment. 

Encourage the People Entrusted to Your Care

As a leader, your to-do list is already long. Consider how you might incorporate one of the following in your daily or weekly rhythm as a way to encourage the people entrusted to your care. These things will help people shift their focus from themselves to the people they love and care for.

Practice Gratitude

  • Start each day with a reflection of thankfulness. It will help you stay aware of the good things that are happening in your life during the pandemic. Use the Read, Reflect, Respond, Return pattern.

Establish a Routine

  • The pandemic has disrupted most daily routines and has made it harder to remain productive. Setting a routine is important. It is not too late to set one. It will take some initiative, but once you have started, stick with it as much as you can. Allow yourself flexibility to adjust as needed based on things that come up during your day. This will help you stay productive, even if your productivity level doesn’t remain consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

Give Yourself A Break

  • Literally, breaks are a way to help be more productive. Active breaks continue to stimulate your brain. They also help you stay focused when you are tired or losing interest in what you are doing.

Exercise

  •  Times of high stress and anxiety can negatively impact your motivation to be active. Brief physical exercise can boost your energy, stimulate your thinking, and lower your emotional stress levels.

Stay Connected

  • Social distancing can make you feel more disconnected to the people in your life. Look for ways to stay connected to friends and family. It is just as important to Zoom with people who bring you joy as it is to Zoom those important meetings. 

What’s Your Next Step?

As you read through that list, was there one action that you found yourself saying, “I can do that.” or “I want to do that.” Start with one small step. Along the way, remember that you’re modeling for others what it means to be a healthy leader. An all or nothing approach will lead to failure. Take one step.

So, to get started, what one activity or practice will you start this week? If you are already doing some of these things, which one will you continue and invite others to join? As you continue to nurture your body and soul, you’re becoming the leader God has created you to be for this time and place in history.

If you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, strengthening your relationships within your congregation, increasing your connections to the surrounding community as you lead a movement of Jesus followers.

How are you doing? Your body is telling you that it is summertime. It is time to relax. But your heart and mind are telling you that there is more work to be done before resting. Over the past several months you have adapted to the changes brought about by a pandemic, balanced work responsibilities at home with family members, and tried to make sense of the recurring evil of racism. You have been leading people into a world that is nothing like the world they are living behind.  

On one hand, you want things to go back to “normal” or at least like they were before the pandemic. On the other hand, like no other time in history, you have the opportunity to shape the lives of men, women, and children as they step into the future. God has gifted you to lead at this point and time in history. It is time to seize the moment. 

Navigating Pandemics 

Just as you have navigated and adapted in response to COVID-19, you have the opportunity to identify and address another pandemic. Racism is a disease that threatens the lives and dignity of so many of our sisters and brothers. It’s complicated. It’s woven into the politics of our government, the policies of our schools, the practices of our public safety systems, and the polity of our churches. The truth is racism is woven into everything we hold near and dear.  It continues to raise its head and poison all we do. The time has come when doing nothing is no longer an option. 

I am grateful that you have joined me on this journey. If you are willing, walk with me a little further. You have been created to lead in the midst of these uncertain times. 

Sankofa

Austin Channing Brown in her book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness, tells the story of when she was a student in college, going on a trip called Sankofa. It was a three-day journey exploring Black history in partnership with classmates. There were about twenty pairs of students, mostly comprising one Black and one White student. They left Chicago and traveled all night to arrive at a plantation in Louisiana. 

She writes, “We had come prepared to witness the harsh realities of slavery, but the real revelation was how ignorant and self-congratulatory our guides from the plantation could be. For the entire tour, we were told about ‘happy slaves’ who sang in the fields, who worked under better conditions than most other slaves, and whose fingers never bled despite the massive amounts of cotton they picked. The guides’ presentations were filled with misconceptions and inaccuracies, and at the conclusion of the tour, they even gave us the chance to pick some cotton ourselves. Black students. Picking cotton.” 

What’s Your Response?

Two groups of students had experienced the same tour, but each group had a different response or reaction. The Black students were angry, but the white students were confused. As they climbed onto the bus to journey to the next destination, the conversation quickly moved beyond superficial niceties. 

The students took turns speaking into a microphone at the front of the bus. The Black students were livid at the romanticism displayed at the plantation. The white students listened politely and seemed unmoved at the weight of the information they had received.  

Brown writes, “They responded with questions like ‘What about the Holocaust or the potato famine? Don’t most people groups have some trauma in their history?’ We did our best to correct the misconceptions, but the tour had driven a wedge in the group.” 

The History of Lynching

The next stop on the journey was a museum with only one exhibit: a history of lynching. Brown tells the story, “Every wall was filled with photographs of dark-skinned human beings swinging by their necks. A mother and son hanging over a bridge. Burned bodies swinging over dying fires. White children staring in wide-eyed wonder while their parents proudly point to the mutilated body behind them. 

The cruel smiles of white faces testifying to the joy of the occasion. We came across newspaper stories that advertised lynchings as community events. In another case we saw a postcard. On the front was a photo of a mutilated man still hanging from a rope. On the other side, a handwritten note: “Sorry we missed you at the barbecue.” 

Brown says that when they climbed back on the bus all that could be heard were sniffles. She says the emotion was thick. She writes, “It was as if no time had passed between the generation in the pictures and the one sitting on that bus. It was all so real.” 

What’s Your Response? – Take 2

The first students to break the silence were white. “I didn’t know this even happened.” “It’s not my fault; I wasn’t there.” They reached for anything that would distance themselves from the pain and anger of the moment; anything to ward off the guilt and shame, the shock and devastation. 

The Black students had passed beyond any need to appear polite. They shared personal stories of pain. Stories of lynchings that had happened in their own families. 

Brown writes, “A tall Black woman, a senior that year, peered at us all as she spoke evenly, almost disarmingly in the heat of the moment. ‘I just want to say that I’m having a hard time even being mad at you white people anymore. I think I’ve just been convinced that white people are innately evil. You can’t help it. You steal and kill; you enslave and lynch. You are just evil.’ 

Then she handed the microphone back to the next person and calmly took her seat. The white students didn’t appreciate her words, but the Black students on the bus could have kissed her feet. She had done what social convention and respectability politics said not to do, she had spoken her truth even if it meant hurting the feelings of every white person on that bus.” 

Doing Nothing is No Longer An Option

The tension intensified among the students. The White students defended their family histories while the Black students tried to express what it felt like to stare at their history in the photos from the museum. 

Just as the bus pulled into the parking lot for lunch, another white student stood to speak. But instead of her variation on “Please don’t make me responsible for this,” she took a deep breath and gave in to the emotion of it all. “I don’t know what to do with what I’ve learned,” she said. “I can’t fix your pain, and I can’t take it away, but I can see it. And I can work for the rest of my life to make sure your children don’t have to experience the pain of racism.” 

Brown writes, “And then she said nine words that I’ve never forgotten: ‘Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.’” 

The Fabric of Racism

This story illustrates several characteristics of the racism woven into the fabric of our culture.  Because of space and time, I want to mention only two in which I know I have been involved. 

Whitewashing

One way we continue to perpetuate racism is by romanticizing, or “whitewashing” our history. Over the past several weeks I have tried to remember what I was taught in high school regarding racial injustices like slavery, voter suppression, or gerrymandering. 

To be fair, I might have had teachers who talked about lynchings, the dignity of human beings, and civil rights for all people.  But I don’t remember ever having those conversations. It was not until I was a junior in college, when my history professor said, “You need to know the difference between the truth of history and the “whitewashed” versions we perpetuate.”

Romanticizing History

One of those “romanticized” versions of history come around Confederate monuments. Most of those moments were built in periods of racial conflict. For example, when Jim Crow laws were being introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries or during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. I agree the monuments are part of our history, but let’s be honest. They were not built as memorials but as means of intimidating Black Americans and reaffirming white supremacy. 

Jane Elliot says, “Human beings created racism. Anything you create you can destroy. We can destroy racism.” Like no other time in our history, we have the opportunity to address and put an end to the evil of racism. The question is, “Will we?” The time has come when doing nothing is no longer an option.

Denying the Truth of Racism

Another way we continue to perpetuate racism is by denying the truth of racism. Too often we try to distance ourselves from the pain and anger by pleading ignorance. We try to shield ourselves from the guilt, shame, shock and devastation by telling ourselves we would never do such things.  

We can say, “I didn’t know this even happened,” or “It’s not my fault; I wasn’t there.” You truly might not know. But not knowing is not an excuse. Jane Elliott says, “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.” 

When Did You Learn?

I was in college before I learned of the Tulsa Massacre (known then as the Tulsa Race Riots), the Thibodaux massacre, and the Atlanta Massacre. Three major events in the history of our country that were not in my high school history books. 

We are still living in the culture of those events. My college history professor discussed the injustice and devastation created by white supremacy which fed into the civil rights demonstrations in the days of my childhood. What I was learning from the public news media and what I was learning in my history courses did not match. 

Lynching

One of the places we plead ignorance is regarding the public killings of Black men and women.  In our history, we have called these killings, lynchings. It is a term for a punishment without a trial. 

Did you know that we have no federal laws against lynching? There were 200 anti-lynching bills introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century. Between 1890 and 1952, seven Presidents petitioned Congress to end lynching. 

Between 1920 and 1940, the House of Representatives passed three strong anti-lynching measures. Protection against lynching was the minimum and most basic of Federal responsibilities. Despite repeated requests by civil rights groups, Presidents, and House of Representatives, the Senate failed to enact anti-lynching legislation. 

Public Lynchings Today

I heard this mentioned in a recent conversation. The response was, “Do we need such laws today? We don’t have public lynchings today?” Yes, we do. 

We have watched the twenty-first century lynchings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, LaQuan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, to name only a few. 

Black Lives Matter

Their deaths were not by hanging but were public killings of Black human beings. The act of lynching is rooted in the idea that Black people are less important than White people, that Black people are more violent than White people, and that Black people are not as advanced as White people. Pleading ignorance is not a response. Black Lives Matter. The time has come when doing nothing is no longer an option. 

Austin Channing Brown writes, “Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It’s not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation?” 

Step Up and Lead

We are way past the time to educate ourselves and to address the complex, emotional, and significant evil of racism. It is time to step up and lead like you have never had to lead before. 

The time is right, the opportunity is now, for open conversation, education, and transformation. As a leader, you have the responsibility to do the hard work of questioning our history of racism and to name the reality and ramifications of our sin.

You can engage people in open conversation. The very conversations that once were held behind closed doors are now public conversations.   

Tell the Truth

By God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can survive honest discussions about slavery, discrimination, and mass incarceration. 

By the power of the Risen Christ, we can address the harmful politics of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and policies that disproportionately affect people of color. 

As courageous leaders, we can make a difference in dismantling the systemic racism that continues to inform the decision making in our governmental institutions as well as our schools and churches. As Christians, we can lament and mourn. You and I can be livid and enraged. We can be honest. We can tell the truth. Only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way out of here.

An Invitation

I am grateful that you have come this far with me on this journey. Because you are still with me means you are ready to put an end to racism. There is more to come in future blogs, but here is what you can do now:

  1.  Pray – Stay connected to God and grounded in who God has created you to be and who has created the people around you to be. We are all God’s beloved children.
  2.  Read – Racists are not stupid. Racists are ignorant. Two resources that have had a powerful impact upon me are, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown and How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi. There are many good resources for learning about racism and for becoming an antiracist. I have posted a list of resources in two blogs: “Overcoming Racism” and “Putting An End To Racism.
  3. Commit – Engage in a conversation with a Black man or woman. Develop a relationship of trust. Listen to what is said. Be honest with yourself and with them.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Ask him or her to help you become an antiracist.
  4.  Join a group conversation about racism and antiracism. Here is one way you can participate. 

We have come to the time when doing nothing is no longer an option. Let’s take another step toward putting an end to racism. 

How are you?

I’m not being perfunctory. I really want to know. You are leading during a time like no other time in history. You have been navigating a pandemic, balancing work responsibilities at home with family life, and now, trying to make sense of the recurring evil of racism.

If you tell me you are tired, I understand. You may want to tell me you are ready for things to go back to the way they were. I get it.  If you tell me that you feel helpless regarding making a difference in anything you are facing at the moment, I want you to stop, take a deep breath, and walk with me for a few minutes.

As a leader, you can change the world.

Like no other time in history, you have the opportunity to shape a future without racism. To fight this disease that threatens the lives and dignity of so many of our sisters and brothers, you must become the courageous leader God has gifted you to be. Antiracist work is hard and exhausting, but you have been created to lead for such a time as this.

If you are willing, walk with me a little further. I’m going to ask three questions. They are for you and your reflection. I don’t need to know the answers. All I ask is that you be honest with yourself.

 1. Are you a racist or an antiracist?

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, in his book How to Be an Antiracist, writes “A racist is someone who is supporting a racist policy by their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea. An antiracist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy by their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.” He says that “racist” and “antiracist” are labels like nametags. They are not permanent. They are placed and replaced based upon what you might be doing or not doing, supporting, or expressing at any given moment.   

What is interesting is, there is no “not racist” category. Not racist claims neutrality. The opposite of racist is antiracist. You either agree that some racial groups are better and should be on top of a scale of education, employment, opportunities, etc. or you are working for racial equality.  Here’s another choice: You either believe problems are rooted in groups of people or the problems are rooted in power and policies. You either allow racial inequities to persevere or you confront racial inequities. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.” In fact, “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.

Have you ever heard someone say, regarding recognizing the differences of people, “I’m color blind”?  This statement is related to the idea of being “not racist.” This sounds harsh, but color-blind individuals, by failing to see race, fail to see racism and fall into racist passivity. Saying “I don’t see color” or “I’m color blind” is a mask for racism.

Before you get angry and walk away, both the ideas of “not racist” and “I’m color blind” are interwoven into the fabric of our culture.  In 1896, United States Supreme Court Justice John Harlan proclaimed in the case that legalized Jim Crow segregation, “Our Constitution is color-blind. The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage.” A color-blind Constitution for a White-supremacist America.

2. Are you willing to struggle with your humanity and the humanity of others? 

Being a racist or an antiracist are not fixed identities. You can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next. What you say about race, in each moment, determines what you are not who you are. The movement from racist to antiracist is always going on. It requires knowledge and understanding.  It requires the intentional work of turning away from racism based upon biology, ethnicity, body, culture, behavior, color, and class. And beyond that, it means standing ready to fight at racism’s intersections with other bigotries.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi writes, “No one becomes a racist or antiracist. We can only strive to be one or the other. We can unknowingly strive to be a racist. We can knowingly strive to be an antiracist. Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”

Are you willing to enter the struggle? Many of us don’t want to be in the racist category because there is shame attached to it.  No one want to be labeled “racist.” But we don’t want to be in the antiracist category because there is so much work attached to it.

Here’s one of many challenges: we know how to be racist. We know how to pretend to be not racist. The question is, are you ready and willing to be antiracist?

If you are still with me, I know you are ready, have been ready, and are already working to be the courageous leader needed to navigate and lead through this time in history. Let’s take one more step.

3. Where did I learn this thinking or feeling?

Racism is complicated. It is woven into the politics and power of our government, the policies of our schools, the practices of our public safety systems, and the politics and practices of our churches. The truth is racism is woven into everything we hold near and dear.  One of the steps we must take to be antiracist is to recognize our own participation in racism and how we continue to perpetuate it.

I have one more question for your reflection. It is in relationship to different forms of racism.  As you read each form, ask yourself this question, “Where did I learn this thinking or feeling?” I will remind you of the question after each category.

 Biological Racist

  • One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value.

Biological racial difference is one of those widely held racist beliefs that few people realize they hold. They do not realize that those beliefs are rooted in racist ideas.

We often see and remember the race and not the individual. So, we place all people into certain and selected color-marked categories. He acted that way because he is Black. She acted that way because she is Asian.

Biological Antiracist

  • One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully the same in their biology and there are no genetic racial differences.

An antiracist treats and remembers individuals as individuals. “She acted that way, not because she is White but because she is racist.”

Here’s a Question to Consider:

  • When I think and feel that that non-white people are biologically inferior to white people, where did I learn this thinking or feeling?”

Bodily Racist

  • One who is perceiving certain bodies as more animal-like and violent than others.

The research reveals that Americans today see a Black body as larger, more threatening, more potentially harmful, and more likely to require force to control than a similarly sized White body.  No wonder a Black body had to be lynched by the thousands, deported by the tens of thousands, incarcerated by the millions, segregated by the tens of millions.

Over the years, we have taught ourselves and our children that the violence in America has a Black face. In fact, as far back as the 1600’s the Black body was demonized as being a beast and less than human.

Bodily Antiracist

  • “One who is humanizing, deracializing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior.”

The research reveals a stronger more prevalent correlation between violent crime and unemployment than violent crime and race. If Black people are violent demons, then the violent-crime levels would be relatively the same no matter where Black people live.  But Black upper-middle-income and middle-income neighborhoods tend to have less violent crime than low-income neighborhoods.  The research reveals that low-income neighborhoods struggle with unemployment and poverty and their typical by-product is violent crime.

Here’s a Question to Consider:

When I feel afraid of a Black man or woman or feel uneasy driving through a “Black” neighborhood,” where did I learn this thinking or feeling?”

There are other forms of racists like ethnicity, culture, behavior, class, gender, sexuality, etc. The question is, “where did I learn my thinking and feeling toward people who are different?”

I am grateful that you have been willing to walk with me to this point.  We will take another step in another blog. I am also grateful that you can see that your leadership is needed to grow a new generation of antiracists.

You can find more information about being an antiracist by reading the book How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi.  You can also find a list of resources on an earlier blog titled, “Overcoming Racism.”

Sara Thomas and I are leading a group discussion regarding racism and antiracism.  Click here to register your interest in participating.

We want leaders whom we can trust. In a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, what surfaced as the top characteristics people needed from their leaders were honesty, integrity, and respect.  These words describe the outcomes of strong relationships built on trust. 

We look for role models whose behavior we feel is worth emulating. Whether it is coaches, professors, co-workers, bosses, or pastors, we look for people we can trust to lead us through ordinary situations as well as times of learning, adventure, and uncertainty. We want leaders who take us seriously and who can adapt when everything is not ideal.

As a leader, you earn trust when you follow through on commitments. Then as trust grows, people feel more at ease in trusting you with bigger commitments and other areas of leadership. As you live out your trustworthiness, people learn to trust you.

Five Ways to Build Trust

Here are five ways you can build the trust people need from you as a leader.

1. Be dependable

Say what you mean and mean what you say. To increase trust within your relationships, it is absolutely necessary to follow through on what you say you can and will do.  Even with what seems small and simple, if people experience a lack of follow through, you are revealing that what you say cannot be trusted. So, follow through with what you say you will do. The truth is you are only as good as your word. 

You already know whether you follow through on your commitments like showing up on time or embellishing the truth. People will have difficulty trusting you if you can’t trust yourself. Trust gives birth to trust.

2. Be vulnerable

Vulnerability is an integral part of the trust-building process. Brené Brown writes, “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Vulnerability is the path to greater clarity in purpose and more meaningful relationships.

To be vulnerable, you need a healthy self-awareness in sharing your feelings and your experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.  It will be in risking vulnerability that you model for those who follow.

3. Be respectful

A basic level of respect is the common denominator in every trust relationship. The deeper and more intimate the relationship the more important your respect. If those who follow you feel you are condescending and not taking them seriously, you are undermining the trust you need to be a good leader.  

You must remember that every time you treat someone in a way that demeans them or violates that basic dignity, you harm your connection and make it more difficult for them to trust you.

4. Be generous

Extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. Assume the best of others. Give them the benefit of the doubt. When you are generous with others, they will be generous with you. When in doubt, seek to understand and be slow to judge.

Remember, people can only act upon what they know. Don’t hold them responsible for what they don’t know. Brene Brown writes, “Our relationship is only trusting if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors and then check in with me.” Be generous. Assume people are doing the best they can with what they know. 

5. Be receptive

Relationships flourish when people feel relatively equal. Most people understand that relationships involve a balance between giving and taking. They also understand that most of us give more than we take. Trust grows out of the balance of give and take. When you don’t let others give, even with your best intentions, you deny them part of this balance. Be willing to give others the opportunity to live into their strengths and to share their gifts.  

When you develop this balance of giving and receiving, trusting what people have to offer, then you are creating an environment of trust where people feel safe, valued, and appreciated.

Take Action

Do you want to be a leader that people can trust? Do you want to be an honest, dependable, integrated, and respectful leader? Of course, you do. So, below is one way you can check yourself regarding being a trusted leader.

Just know up front, this will not be easy.

  1. Choose five people with whom you live, work, or play. These five people need to be people who will give you honest feedback.
  2. Have them answer these questions for you:
    • Can you depend upon what I say to be true?
    • Do I follow through with what I say I will do?
    • Do I treat people with respect?
    • Do I honor and value the strengths and gifts of others?
    • Knowing what you know about me, are you able to be honest with me?
  1. Make time to have a conversation with each of the five persons using the questions in #2 as your subject.
  2. After your initial feedback conversation, ask each person to give you feedback over the next 6 weeks as you focus upon becoming the leader people can trust.

Because trust is one characteristic followers look for in their leaders and because our world, our communities, and our churches are looking for leaders who can be trusted, now is the time to earn the trust people want from you as their leader. 

You were created for such a time as this. Become the leader people want to follow.  Become the leader you were created to be.   

In April 1968, Jane Elliott was a third-grade teacher in the small town of Riceville, Iowa. On the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, she felt compelled to shift her lesson plans. She decided to teach her young white students about discrimination by telling the children that brown-eyed people were superior to their blue-eyed peers. She watched as the students turned on each other. Then, the next day, she reversed the script. 

The exercise highlighted the arbitrary and irrational basis of prejudice, an issue that we, in the United States, continue to grapple with more than five decades later. 

Race and Racism

In the early 1990’s, I invited Jane to come to Clarksburg, West Virginia where I served as pastor of the Duff Street United Methodist Church. We had invited community leaders, educators, health care administrators, pastors, and congregational leaders to come together for a diversity training workshop.  

There is much to be said about that training experience, but one of the statements Jane made changed my life. She said, “Many people don’t recognize that race is a social concept. Race isn’t biological. Race does not run in our DNA. Race is how somebody somewhere hundreds of years ago decided to categorize the human race.” 

In a recent interview, I heard her say, “There has been a big increase in racism in America over the past five years. We were making progress in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, even in the ’90s, and then a black man in the White House made a whole lot of white folks really angry, because that said plainly to everyone, ‘A black man can get there and do it, and do it well. Now if that’s true, then maybe my white skin doesn’t automatically make me superior.’ And it knocked the socks off everyone who believed in the rightness of whiteness.” 

I have heard her say, as well as, quoted as saying, “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.” If that is true, then maybe education will get us farther than “thoughts and prayers,” or “All lives matter,” or “police brutality,” or “black on black” crime. 

Say Their Names

I have written too many articles in response to the unnecessary deaths of black brothers and sisters who were at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. The list of innocent Black lives needlessly killed grows each day,

  • Eric Garner
  • Terrence Crutcher
  • Alton Sterling
  • Philando Castile
  • Samuel DuBose
  • Trayvon Martin
  • Michael Brown
  • Freddie Gray
  • Tamir Rice
  • LaQuan McDonald
  • Sandra Bland
  • Walter Scott
  • Ahmaud Arbery
  • George Floyd

As you know, there are many more names. And I understand that there are special circumstances with each killing. But justice for crimes committed is dealt with in courtrooms and not on city streets.

Deep Rooted Attitudes

So, maybe a little education will help us get past some of the deep-rooted attitudes and views we hold regarding people who are not white. I don’t intend to quote statistics, but I do intend on presenting a challenge regarding racism.   

What I have to offer is not a quick fix.  In fact, it might take a couple of generations before racism is rooted out and gone. It is obvious that we are late in getting started. But we have to start somewhere.  So, here are 3 ways to start changing our culture regarding racism. 

1. Name Current Reality

Let’s be honest about our history. It’s not pretty, it hurts, but it’s true. We will never be free from our history until we are honest about our history. Denial is our pathology, but the truth will set us free. 

In August of 1619, a ship appeared on the horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia.  It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of this country has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed.  

It is time to recognize that in the same way that “slavery is a necessary evil” (Thomas Jefferson) as accepted in 1820, is the same as “separate but equal” as accepted in 1940. Choosing not to admit it and not condemn white nationalism is an overt act of racism in 2020. We have 400 years of history to face as we seek to reshape our future.

2. Focus on Educating Children

When you have a close relationship with a young person of color, make sure he/she knows how much you love them. Love and affirm the child and the relationship. Fredrick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” So, focus on children, adolescents, and young adults. Develop relationships of trust and become a mentor.  Encourage them to go to college where not everyone looks like them and shares their political, sociological, or religious views. Encourage them to study abroad or to participate in mission teams in other countries where they can experience the achievements and beauty of non-white cultures.

Here are books for younger children to read or for you to read to them. These books are inspirational and shape the minds, hearts, and imagination of all of us. These books help design a future without racism.

There are so many more books. Take time to educate your children. Teach them to be the leaders that will shape the future of the United States of America.  

2. Decolonize your bookshelf

Alley Henny offers four things to decolonize your bookshelf:

  • Add books written by black, brown, and indigenous people. For the next year, add at least one book from an author of color for every book written by a white person.
  • Purge books that are racist or written by problematic authors. The goal isn’t to run away from alternative viewpoints or ideas with which we disagree, but these should not be the dominant voices. There are some books that belong in university libraries and not in your personal collection.
  • Don’t pigeonhole authors of color. Black, brown, and indigenous people can do more than talk about race. Pick books from your favorite genre written by authors of color.
  • Don’t hold authors of color to a higher standard. Not every book written by a black, brown, or indigenous author will be great. That’s okay. Since you have mediocre books written by white authors, you can have some mediocre books from people of color too.

Books to read and add to your library:

Here is a list of books I have used in studies to help address racism:

Your Next Step

I know what I have shared is a bit overwhelming, but we have 400 years of history to learn, to face, and to overcome if we are to step into a future without racism. We have the responsibility and the ability to change things.

I have not given up hope, but I have decided writing words on a page or posting them on social media is not the answer.  So, I am asking you to join me in taking one step toward learning about and stopping racism in your community.

What is one thing you can and will do to learn about the racism in which you participate every day? If you say you are not participating in racism, I say you have some learning to do.  If you say you don’t know or have any ideas, I say I have given you more than enough options in the article.  If you say you don’t want to and that you are fine the way you are, I will say I am praying for you and for your soul.

It is past time to get started.  Now, will you join me? What one step will you take toward learning and stopping racism in your community?

Read Tim’s post from this weekend, Let Us Draw Our Breath

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” ends with Hamlet saying, “In this harsh world, draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.”

When this harsh world continues to give us tragic, racially charged, and unnecessary deaths of black sisters and brothers, it is way past time to speak up, regardless of how painful or uncomfortable it might be. The list of Black lives who have been needlessly killed grows each day. The killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, are more chapters of the pervasive culture of racism and white privilege in our country. 

We have been fighting the pandemic of racism and white supremacy my entire lifetime. Whether you and I understand it or not, we are complicit in the racism that is ravaging our communities, our public institutions, our churches, and our families. Racism is deeply embedded in our white identity. 

Draw Our Breath to Speak

Today, I draw my breath in pain to name and condemn white nationalism.

We have 400 years of history to face if we are going to change our future. 

As we draw our breath to speak, we have a Word upon which to stand. If we are to change our future, we must stand upon this Word.  

  • It is a Word that claims every human being, regardless of color, gender, nationality, is a child of God. This is not rhetoric. We are of one family and we are responsible for one another. 
  • It is a Word that claims the unconditional embrace of each and every family member in the face of discrimination and exclusion based upon color or gender.
  • It is a Word that declares God’s unapologetic advocacy of and standing with our sisters and brothers who are oppressed and marginalized.
  • It is a Word that cries for God’s inescapable justice against embedded hatred and habitual violence. Regardless of what we call it, hatred has no place in our human family. 

Draw Our Breath to Acknowledge Racism

Now, let us draw our breath and acknowledge that racism is sin and a direct assault on the Word upon which we stand. Let us confess and renounce our own complicity. Let us stand against all expressions of racism and white supremacy, beginning with the racial, cultural, and class disparities in our country, our state, and our church.  

If we are to face our history of racism and to shape our future without racism, let us draw our breath to examine our own attitudes and actions.  Let us draw our breath as we vote for governmental leaders. Let us draw our breath as we fight the disease that threatens our ideals and the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of too many of our family members. Let us draw our breath to love each other regardless of our differences.

Draw Our Breath as Jesus Followers

Let us draw our breath to be followers of Jesus, who taught us how to live in relationship with God and with one another. Let us draw our breath with transformed hearts as we yield to the righteousness and love of God.  

I have not given up hope, but I have decided writing words on a page or posting them on social media is not the answer.  So, I am asking you to join me in taking one step toward learning about and stopping racism in your community.

What is one thing you can and will do to learn about the racism in which you participate every day? If you say you are not participating in racism, I say you have some learning to do.  If you say you don’t know or have any ideas, email me. I can and will give you some things you can do. If you say you don’t want to and that you are fine the way you are, I will say I am praying for you and for your soul. 

In the meantime, let us draw our breath in prayer.  Let us pray for the Floyd family, for the Arbery family, and the Taylor family as well as the many families whose lives are tragically altered or whose fears have been heightened as a result of these inexcusable tragedies. 

Know that I draw my breath to pray for you, for our church, and for our future as followers of Jesus and as citizens of the United States of America.