Podcast Episode 02: Flood Edition

by Hans on August 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

After getting home from sending teams out and about, Dale was kind enough to let me blabber about what’s been going on in Louisiana. It is just one person’s perspective and one church’s work, but we want people to know what it’s like from that perspective and that church.

Last week, Dale talked a lot. This week, it was my turn. It was a bit cathartic to talk about these things. Perhaps it will be for you to hear them.

Also, I got the year wrong for Louisiana’s flood. I said mid to lat 80s. It was 1983. Forgive me, I was confused and probably a little tired.

Helping People Pick Up The Pieces

by Hans on August 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

In 2005 South Louisiana faced Hurricane Katrina. For Baton Rouge and surrounding areas, reports are the damage here is significantly worse than that. In 2005 our church helped out by serving the work crews who were using LSU as a relief center—serving the servants, if you will.

Now, the people who we’d usually be sending out to help are themselves trying to get their homes back together.

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I wanted to take a few moments (not many—families to help) and try and share what’s going on from the lens of a pastor in Baton Rouge.

These are snippets of text messages and emails I’ve received.

–They have been waiting for an adjuster to come They’ve given up and just started doing the demo. Everyone is confused about what to do and now it’s just the two of them.

–It’s an 84 year old lady who got 4′. I’m there right now with her daughter and son in law doing some heavy lifting but I have other stops to make. Any help would be great, they don’t have to finish the whole unloading/gutting job. . . . No flood insurance.

–Son . . . lost everything in the flood and could used some demo help if possible.

–I’m at my neighbor’s house . . . and we are in dire need of assistance they are flooded and we need help.

–We need clothes for her daughter Lucy size 2T/3T and size 5 diapers . Her husband may need essential clothes and shoes. Their home was not considered a flood zone so they have no flood insurance.

–I have 2ft of water in my house. Will need help with clean up. Will need cleaning supplies. Will take any replacement items such as furniture or clothing for my husband and I.

–Clean up and gut house from flood ASAP.

–We need to demo the entire downstairs of our home. My husband is there now trying to rip stuff out. I am 6 1/2 months pregnant so I am trying to stay away until it is safe.

–Parents have total loss for their home.

These are just a small amount of needs that have come at me and others from different sources. From our church alone, there are over twenty-five people who have flooded. When you include all of the people who people at our church know, that list gets almost unthinkable. People’s parents, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and many others are affected. We are still in demolition/air out mode on a lot of houses but needs keep coming in.

As a church, we are housing Red Cross workers who are working throughout Baton Rouge. Yesterday morning we sent out over 100 folks from our different ministries to thirteen different sites for demo. This morning we had a smaller crew and went out to about ten sites for more demo. As the water recedes many people have to get back to work it gets harder to send folks out. So as the demand for help rises, the supply of help decreases. At the same time, new needs arise and people who were helping in one place are now getting pulled in another. Keeping up is difficult.

It’s hard to say to people, “We don’t have people right now, but we sure are trying.”

Yesterday I heard on Red Cross worker say, “I’m headed to this part of town.” The other worker replied with, “We aren’t in that part of town anymore.” Things change moment to moment.

For those wanting info:

  • Our website will still be the best portal for communicating needs. If you are out of town, we will gladly take your money (no joke). There are immediate needs and long term needs. Though we can’t help thousands and thousands, we are small and we try to be agile.
  • We are sending out teams as soon as we get them, with 9am meetings each mornings and 5:30pm meetings to send out who is able.
  • Many are just heading out and helping wherever they can. Keep doing it if you can.

I told our team leaders who are out and about that, though they feel the stress and the need to be everywhere, they are making significant differences in people’s lives. They are serving. They are giving of themselves. It is good to do that.

To all of you, keep praying for us. Louisiana is a great place and has some of the best people.

When Brothers Podcast

by Hans on August 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

My younger (and better) brother, Dale, wanted to start a podcast with me. I said, “Sure.” We bought microphones. Then he decided to drive to Baton Rouge with his family for fun. This was recorded late Thursday night in my office. We have work to do to make it make any sense, but I had fun. Listen below and try not to fall asleep.

Four Thoughts from a (White) Baton Rouge Pastor

by Hans on July 11, 2016 in Ministry, Pastoring

I’m grateful for my church. Though we, a largely-white congregation in a largely-white part of Baton Rouge, have many things to learn about how the gospel can bring racial healing in our church, we have been trying to better unite with and support the work of our African-American brothers and sisters in the city. One of our strongest relationships is with Pastor Donald Hunter at New Beginning Baptist Church (in the middle, below, during one of our partnered workdays [credit: The Advocate]).

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Thus, when in the middle of the week when Baton Rouge was trying to process the death of Alton Sterling, Donald came over and recorded a message that we played on Sunday for our services that then launched into a prayer time for our city. I was grateful that we did not have to ask, “Hey, who knows any of the African-American pastors in town?”

I am not an expert on the racial tensions in the city. I have watched the events of the past week and prayed for Baton Rouge, for St. Paul, and for Dallas. I have tried to make sense of the protests, night after night. I ache for Baton Rouge, but not as much as Christ does or has. What I bring are these four thoughts.

YES, WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO BRINGING RECONCILIATION IN OUR CITY AND CHURCHES

I remember being an LSU student and seeing where the black students spent time in the quad and the white students spent time (it wasn’t often together). I remember hearing older folks that I know flippantly using a derogatory word for “black” as if it wasn’t a big deal. “Oh, that’s just what we say, it doesn’t mean anything.” I disagree (but, unfortunately [and to my shame], remained awkwardly silent, only enabling the behavior). Words always mean something (Prov 18:21). I recall numerous times being told stories and hearing something like, “I saw this guy, you know, a big black guy . . .” as if that detail were helpful or necessary in the telling of the story. I don’t recall being told many stories where someone says, “I saw this guy, you know, a big white guy,” or “a big asian guy.” A teacher in one of my communication studies classes I had at LSU highlighted that the word “articulate” is often used to describe black people, as if the one using the word is surprised that a black person could speak articulately.

Yes, we have a problem.

The city is divided over race in many ways. Not in every way, but in many. Even the census data, when color-coded for demographics, reveals the divide. Compare that to Baton Rouge’s homicide map (2012-2014) and tell me if you see a correlation. We may not even recognize it, but the racial divide in Baton Rouge—our geography, our language, and even our churches—exists. Events like last week do not bring new issues to the surface, they just surface the issues. And the issues are numerous.

OUR LANGUAGE REVEALS WE MISUNDERSTAND GRACE

It becomes so easy processing these things to simply say, “Let’s wait until we get all the facts,” or, “Man, that guy was a criminal.” I agree, let’s get facts; and, yes, he did have a criminal history. But as a Christian, those responses can be so callous. Can we have room in our hearts for both incredible sorrow and prayers for justice? Can we long for racial reconciliation in our city and support law enforcement? Can we admit there are broken parts of our city and talk about how we contribute to its brokenness? Can we be broken for families that have been shattered due to violence? Can we, at the same time, hurt for police officers who one week ago were not known by the nation for shooting black men or, in the case of the five in Dallas, were still alive?

Christians, of all people, should understand that, if not for grace, we would stand condemned. The case against us for our condemnation is large, and yet Christ forgave—wholly and completely. That should change how we react, it should help us to feel. Christians will never hear Jesus say to us, “Well, if only this part of your life would’ve been better.” That’s works-based, and it is wrong. As a church, can we grieve over death because it is evidence that sin still exists in our very broken world? I hope and believe we can.

LISTENING IS A GOOD SKILL TO LEARN

Bryan Loritts is a pastor that I listen to in times like this. About two years ago he wrote a blog post entitled “It’s Time to Listen” over on Christianity Today. Part of his post has stuck with me, and I’ll share it here:

If you sense exasperation from we African-Americans over yet another news story of a black man slain at the hands of a white man, this is a wonderful opportunity to grab some coffee and seek to understand our hearts. I need my white brothers to know how I felt as I sat in the preaching classes in Bible college and seminary not once hearing examples of great African-American preachers. I need you to know how I felt when I was forced face down on the hard asphalt of Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, all because I was nineteen and driving my pastor’s Lexus, a year after the 1993 Rodney King riots. I need you to ask how I felt when I walked into a Target recently behind a white woman who took one look at me and pulled her purse tightly to her.

However, as much as I am an African-American, I am even more so a follower of Jesus Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior demands that I subjugate my cultural hermeneutic to my gospel hermeneutic. In other words, my Jesus-ness must trump my blackness. As Dr. Tony Evans says, “Black is only beautiful when it is biblical.” This is at odds with the teaching of liberation theology, where you had black theologians like Dr. James Cone who wrote that the gospel is essentially for the oppressed and not the oppressor. Not true. If I understand the gospel right, Jesus died for Michael Brown and Darren Wilson (his shooter); slaves and slave masters; the lynched and the lynch mob. My new gospel hermeneutic, therefore, leaves no place for hatred, bitterness or unforgiveness.

In these times the church must listen. Everyone wants to be heard, and subjects like race are ones that we don’t often try and listen to. There are many in the African-American community who love Jesus deeply and have an entirely different experience than my own—than many of the folks who read this blog. Is it too much to ask them what life is like?

WE SHOULD NEVER LOSE HOPE IN WHAT JESUS CAN DO

The doomsday folks look at this and say, “What is this world coming to?” But for the Christian, I hope we never lose hope in what Jesus can do in our world—and the world that is to come. Truly, the gospel message is the only message that can bring the necessary redemption. It doesn’t say of any one people group, “They are superior. Be like them.” No, instead it says, “None of you are right, but God will become like you so you can become like Him.” Paul speaks of this Jew/Gentile relationships in Ephesians 2.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:13-22)

Last week I was taking my six-year-old to camp. I was trying to tell him of what has gone on in the city that week, and how it was a sad time. When I told him that there are people in our city who don’t like others for the color of their skin, or where they live, or some other reason, he replied with, “That. . . That doesn’t even matter to me.”

If I could bottle up that perspective and spread it around my whole family, then my whole neighborhood, then the whole world, I would. But, for now, we watch and we pray and we work for Jesus to be more fully known.

Three Reasons for Numerous Preachers

by Hans on June 27, 2016 in Preaching

As of yesterday I have preached a total of one time in a total of seven Sundays. That’s a lot of time to be gone. I did a quick count and, at the halfway point of the year, I have preached 16 of 26 Sundays. For me, that is probably an all-time low. My first 52 weeks at the Oaks I preached about 48 Sundays.

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(This is how I usually feel when I’m preaching.)

Some of these Sundays were unavoidable (like Sundays I am at seminary or Sundays I might be out of town with family). However, a number of the Sundays I was in town, at the services, but not preaching. In fact, of the past six Sundays I didn’t preach I was in town for three of them. So I wanted to take a moment and explain why I believe multiple voices from the pulpit are so important.

Book Review: Lead Like Jesus Revisited

by Hans on June 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

At times, my degree program has us write book reviews. I grabbed a recently-released version of Lead Like Jesus because I don’t normally wade in the waters of crossover leadership books. The review is a little (ok, a lot) longer than my normal blog posts, so only read if you REALLY want to.

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Following up on ten years of research and leadership coaching since publishing Lead Like Jesus (2006), Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges incorporated the insights of Phyllis Hendry in publishing Lead Like Jesus Revisited. Blanchard, who has authored The One Minute Manager and dozens of books and articles on leadership, also co-founded Lead Like Jesus, a leadership and management training organization, with Phil Hodges. Phyllis Hendry is the current president and CEO of Lead Like Jesus. In the ten years after publishing Lead Like Jesus, Blanchard became more certain that “the most important thing in leadership is the leader; the most important part of the leader is his or her heart; and the most important connection to a leader’s heart is God” (xi). Lead Like Jesus Revisited employs a similar structure as the previous work but “[digs] deeper into what it means to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ and to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37-39).” It also “[explores] how our formal and informal influence on others can encourage them to develop a closer relationship with God and help them see the love He has for them—the love so beautifully demonstrated through His Son, Jesus” (xiii).