Dear NCD Pastors and Church Leaders,
Yesterday, I had the heartbreaking honor to attend the memorial service for George Floyd in downtown Minneapolis. This service, which happened just a few blocks from our district office, was a chance to honor his life and mourn his senseless, unjust killing.
During the hours together with fellow mourners, I was struck by the deep pain that his family and our community feels at this time. Our hearts are heavy at the personal sorrow his family is experiencing and the broader injustice that his death has come to represent. In light of this, I want to encourage you to lead your congregations in lament as we “weep with those who weep” regarding the pain and heartbreak that so many are feeling right now. To help with this, our EFCA family has created a resource called A Time for Lament.
Through his memorial service, I have been reminded afresh that our NCD family of churches must continue to lean toward Bible-saturated conversations on race and ethnicity. Moreover, it is imperative that we pursue gospel-shaped progress in ministry among all people and labor together so that biblical justice would increasingly be known on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6).
I want to address a difficult tension you may be experiencing within your church leadership team. While all of us are heartbroken by the killing of George Floyd and the civil unrest that has followed, it is possible that leaders within your local church have differing perspectives on the path ahead (especially related to politics and possible solutions). The unity of our fellowships, based upon the life, death, resurrection and return of Jesus, can endure even in times as troubling as these. Let the gospel of Jesus Christ shape how your church leadership team listens, speaks, agrees and, at times, disagrees in the days ahead. In addition, when handled wisely and patiently, even serious differences on these matters can be a significant learning opportunity for all.
Earlier this week, leaders from EFCA Crisis Response came to the Twin Cities to meet with some of our NCD urban pastors. I was encouraged by their visit and am hopeful that they will be able to help our EFCA family of churches provide hope and mercy in the days ahead. One of things I love about this ministry is that they come first to listen, and then look for ways to make a lasting, long-term contribution. They are still mobilizing our EFCA family to serve in places like New Orleans and Houston, long after so many have moved on or forgotten about the trauma that happened in those places.
Many NCD congregations have reached out to our district staff to express a desire to help in some way. While it is too soon to send organized teams into the city to come alongside our NCD urban churches, can I encourage you to consider two things? First, and I say this with all sincerity, would you lead your church to pray for the ongoing gospel ministry of our NCD urban churches? These churches need fresh empowering from our God to move forward on mission in the places that have been most impacted by racial injustice and civil unrest. Second, would you keep your eyes open for opportunities in the months ahead to come alongside our NCD urban churches as they seek to bring gospel hope into the brokenness?
A final word. We know many of you are heart-weary and bone-tired. You are heartbroken by the injustice and unrest. You feel overwhelmed by crisis decision after crisis decision. As we have looked into the eyes of so many of our NCD church leaders, we have seen the toll this long difficult season has taken. Please remember you are not alone. If you need help, please reach out to us. Time and again, our NCD team and sister congregations have dropped everything to come running in support of NCD churches and church leaders who need it. Often, we emphasize our belief in the autonomy of the local church under the headship of Christ. I celebrate that truth…but can I remind you of another? We are “better together.” Churches and church leaders are brothers and sisters in Christ. We love one another because the gospel has brought us together. We can bear each other’s burdens because of the hope we have through the cross and resurrection. When one of us is struggling, there are many in our family who can come to provide comfort, support and love. So reach out if you need some help right now.
Let me end with a benediction from Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
District Superintendent | North Central District | EFCA