So I step out of the United Terminal @ Chicago O Hare and encounter two black gentlemen, one much older, looking for the same shuttle. I ask if they are headed to the Hyatt Regency… “yes”… Covenant conference? “yes” and then the elder black gentleman says to me… “I’m John Perkins“. I hung on his sleeve the whole way as we discussed race, politics, race politics, and the gospel. He is a great man. Now I’m right to give the man reverence because he paid the price; he’s no armchair thinker; he was himself beaten in rural Mississippi, his brother shot and killed by a police officer there, and he himself left to CA swearing never to return. In time, God would call him back to the very roots he turned his back on… back to Mississippi, but this time as a Christian agent of reconciliation and healing. Thus would begin what we know today as CCDA (and numerous other agencies, including Harambee in CA, the Perkins Center @ Seattle Pacific U, et al).
He reminds me of J.I.Packer, another octogenarian with a still-sharp mind. He spoke about:
- How his mother passed of nutrition deficiency – basically, starvation. When he meets her in heaven he wonders what she will say: “You did good in life, but… What did you do for mothers like me?”
- Reflections on megachurches – wow, this one was powerful… ECC – we need to plant a new style of church… in neighborhoods / communities of need. The average church in rural America is 100 or less. Don’t just move these people from the neighborhood TO the megachurches… Don’t make the church too slick. GO TO THE COMMUNITIES. We can teach them the art, in fact, the local church is the birthplace of art. When it comes to educating our children, How can we mobilize grass-roots education for our neighborhood children?
- THis is a Strategic moment for the ECC –because at the roots, we weren’t “cursed with the racism of the South” (hence, a smaller and newer ECC presence in places like TX). Today this is blooming into a new prophetic engagement that the ECC has from the beginning. I am so proud to say that the ECC stood by Perkins since the 70’s
- Raising indigenous leaders – more important thoughts: Not just gentrification… The hard part is not getting a black man out of the village in Africa into the States to get a PhD – but getting the black man back into the village – raising indigenous leaders – not just gentrification, white coat specialists coming in… but the home people coming back…
- When will we come to truly accept: “We hold these truths to be self-evident”
- There is “A crisis of prophetic voice”… “Our greed has closed off that prophetic voice” – he is targeting capitalism here..
- He spoke strongly on issues of anti-immigrant sentiment
The pub conversation afterwards was lively, pregnant, stimulating. Over brews with church planters, pastors, and community developers from the South Bronx, Kansas, West Coast, inner-city Chicago (holla @davidswanson ) – guys from all ethnic backgrounds we hashed out the implications of Perkin’s talk – everything from how we identify either with the blackness of being or the privileged experience; James Cone’s Black Liberation Theology was debated alongside the prevalent LT’s from Latin America, gentrification, the cultural elites of NYC, Tim Keller, and we even squeezed in the Yankees. Stimulating and loved every minute of it. #thisisSabbathing