In light George Floyd’s death and the conversations happening around race nationwide, Mike Mage discusses how creatives can pave the way to a more inclusive and loving Church. We also lay out how the Healthy Church Growth Podcast will be more intentionally inclusive and aware moving forward.
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. My name is Mike, and today is going to be a little different. I don’t know how we should actually come in and talk about this. I don’t know how I need to address this. I’m going to do the best I can. And I’m going to try and do as minimal editing as I can. Because I want this to be a little uncomfortable. I want you to know how uncomfortable I am. I’m sure you are too. Then I wish we weren’t. I hope you’re doing all right in this time. I really do. And it’s crazy that Justin and I had this idea to start this podcast about healthy church growth and team culture and a little bit of leadership but also like a little bit of creative practical tips for those in the church and We had that idea so long ago, it was the fall of 2017. And we recorded some things. We did a few rounds of interviews. And it just, you know, never really got off the ground. And we get back together in the fall of 2019. Really the winner end of 2019. And so we’re going to do this. Let’s do this. Come on, let’s do this. We still believe in this. So still great. Let’s give this a go. And so 2020 rolls around. And we have all these interviews sort of banked up. Literally, right. The moment that we were releasing them is right as the moment that at least for America, for the US that the Coronavirus hits, the pandemic hits, things start getting shut down, lockdown happens. And we are doing a podcast of a healthy church growth. And so you know, there’s a saying that says Like, if you will Want to if you want to make God laugh, go ahead and make plans. And that’s kind of what happened a little bit, or at least it’s kind of it feels like it happened and pandemic rolls on. Churches looks weird. Church feels weird. We all go to online platforms and the way we knew of doing Church has changed, now has changed and we’re in a totally different landscape than we ever were before. And you add on top of that, all of the disruption that is happening in our culture and community now, in regards to racial tensions, there’s protests. There’s people getting hurt. people’s livelihoods being called into question, anger and resentment and outrage at a scale that I don’t feel like I’ve ever seen in my life, and I feel like We need to talk about that. And we as healthy church growth, want to be a part of that conversation. And I tried to write out something that I was gonna say about this. It’s just really difficult. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a person of color right now. Really ever, in this country that I felt like, has given me every opportunity to succeed, then it’s really just been up to me to work as hard as I can to obey all the rules to follow the steps one by one. Man, I feel like this system is worked out great for me. But I am a white male, that a predominantly white church in a predominantly white area. And that’s been my experience for most of my life. You know, I remember in 2014 I just made the decision before Thanksgiving of 2014 to not be a part of believe anymore is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. My son was born my first son Caleb was born in 2014, June of 2014. And from the moment he was born as probably a couple months before that, I knew that I couldn’t do that thing anymore. That about bellary if I couldn’t do bellary anymore, I’d that’s not the data I wanted to be. And things get right sized very quickly. When you have a kid for Thanksgiving, my family and my wife’s family. We’ve known each other for 20 years or so. And we actually vacation together a couple times which is super cool. I just went over a lot of people who can say that about their in laws, that they can all vacation together the family and their in laws and get along really well. And so we did that this was the second year in a row that we had done that, but I remember watching protests about Michael Brown
And the anger, the pain. That was a real thing. That’s that’s one of the first times that I remember thinking, wow, this is different. And I remember, but I feel like it was the same week. Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy in a park somewhere in Ohio, who’s playing and he had a toy gun that he pointed at an officer. And the officer shot him. And I said nothing. I remember having a conversation in the kitchen with my mom about all of this. That we were having lunch and I remember talking about and how crazy it was. And we were in Blue Ridge in so just north of Atlanta. And at the time, I had just moved home from Atlanta moved back to Tampa with my wife and my son. But we had just moved from Atlanta and there was so many Black Lives Matters, protests and walks and blocking I 75 in after I remember us talking about how messed up it was. But then I said nothing. I, I did nothing. And I don’t know why. And that’s really hard to wrap my head around. Why didn’t we say anything? Maybe it was out of fear. Maybe it was out of ignorance. Maybe it was out of apathy. But I can’t do that. Now. Know that this issue is complex in me even saying that is an understatement of the century. Truly, he was 12 years old. My son is six. I know for a fact that if my son, a toy gun, something that is very clearly a toy at a police man, he would not be shot. Why? I was talking with Justin and Hannah, who’s one of our project managers about I feel like we should say something. That’s what I said to them. Justin just said this is so out of my area of expertise. But I want to help and I want to do anything I can what can we do to help? What can we do? I think that we can encourage. I know that there are protests that turn violent and destructive. I know there are chaos makers, but there always has been. I’m not even talking about the ratio protests. I think that the chaos makers have always been around me chaos was in the beginning. God put order to chaos. He put peace to chaos. And then there’s always seems to be this pole. back to that. When the way of God, the way of Jesus is one of peace, one of restoration, reconciliation, Grace, mercy, love. That’s what we can do. I think there’s a lot of different ways I mean, for me as a as a white person, as a white male, I have had to understand where I have been given preferential treatment. Even in like how I wake up in the morning. I do not have to worry. I’ve never worried about being unjustly arrested, or worse. Never. It’s our responsibility, all of us to make every life matter, including people of color. Listen, you can listen, you can let people of color lead, have them lead. You can diversify your ministry. So after the George Floyd, shooting, and protests really begin to break out my pastor Matthew Hartsfield
The situation as someone in a leadership position as a pastor should. And he read the verse from revelation revelation seven nine. That just said, After this I saw a vast crowd to great to count from every nation and tribe and people in language, standing in front of the throne and before the lamb. The kingdom of God is a diverse kingdom. For us to pray, on earth as it is in heaven, we have to understand that the kingdom is one of every color, every nation, every tongue, it’s all of us. So why can we get that? There are some churches that do this better than others. Sometimes demographics play a large role into this Where you are locationally I get that. But I’ve had to look at our own ministry, my own ministry that I had up in my worship ministry. And I think if you’re a leader in ministry, you have the opportunity, especially with your volunteer teams, to reflect the type of community you want to see. You get a chance to do that as a leader, as someone who has an impact and an influence on your ministry team on your church or on your community. You have the opportunity right now to be a reflection of the diversity that is found in the kingdom of God. I’ve been have had to have a good look at healthy church growth this podcast. In this past episode we did with my sister Melissa minor, the experience Director at bay hope church. She was the first woman we had on the podcast 13 episodes in an hour I remember remarking Wow, that that seems rough. That test and we have had zero people of color. I honestly I haven’t even tried. But I feel like that’s that’s where a lot of white people are. We haven’t even tried and that’s convicting. So, from this point moving forward, we are going to do our very best intentionally to try and gain a diverse perspective, from not just male, female. But from all walks of life. To try and get a more diverse, more faceted, more nuance. Honestly, more fascinating look at the kingdom of God, not just the one that we might be accustomed to. That’s our promise moving forward. That’s our goal moving forward. And I’m just gonna leave you with one last thing here. I was reading in my reading plan so I, I started a reading plan. It’s always at the beginning of the year, or, you know, I don’t know that’s not true. I started a reading plan. And it’s always like a Bible in the year kind of thing. And instead of doing the full Bible in a year, I did the Old Testament in a year in the New Testament in here, and it’s from the the guys that the Bible project. And if you are not, in any way, shape or form aware of the Bible project I asked you to just check them out. There are amazing, amazing to Mackey. JOHN Collins in their whole team, they’re incredible. They have sincerely shaped my theology over the past two years. And I I just happened to be in Proverbs. But I also happen to be in James. And I did not realize that James took so much of his work from Proverbs, so much of his letter came from Proverbs. And in the same reading, this is what I had back to back. And we try not to belabor the the the metaphor of healthy growth. Our tagline is healthy things grow and growth means life. And even though we could relate that to plants, and we could relate that to, you know,
trees and all that kind of stuff a lot. We try not to do that as much. Just because that’s that’s pretty low hanging fruit, no pun intended, I promise. But this was, I thought that this was this was really great. In Proverbs 22 eight this is those who plant in justice will harvest disaster and their reign of terror will come to an end. And then look, I mean, I’m talking like five minutes later. I was in James three at the end of James three James 318. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. To plant something you must be intentional. We did not get to this point, unintentionally and that is a hard pill to swallow. I have not been intentionally trying to plant seeds of peace and of justice in a righteousness and have therefore been planting seeds of interest Justice, harvesting disaster in pain. My prayer for you today, whenever you’re listening to this is that you find those seeds of peace. And you plant them wherever you can find them on social media, in your conversations with your children, in your ministry teams, and your creative team, with your pastor, we just can’t be apathetic anymore. I think we can be quick to love, show grace, as much as possible, do those countercultural things that Jesus implores us to do? And at some point, I think anger is okay. I do. I think to express anger, the way that Jesus did in the temple Fine, and I feel like I see that all the time on Facebook and social media. Well, Jesus turned over the money tables. He absolutely did. And then a couple of days later, he gave his life for every single person. Jesus did not stay angry. Thank you so much for joining us. And I can’t wait for these conversations that we will continue to have the more diverse conversations we plan to have. Because the kingdom is a diverse one. We love you, healthy church growth audience and we would love for as many of you to be with us, because we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.