40 Days of Prayerful Resistance

A few weeks ago at 1:30am, a woman screamed "somebody please help me" in the middle of my block. It was loud and desperate. I got up to see a man from our 2nd Floor window grabbing her violently. I put on my pants, grabbed my keys and ran out into the street while my wife called 9-1-1. As I made eye contact with the man, he moved away quickly and I spoke directly to the lady. The police are coming I told her to bring her comfort, I’m not going anywhere.

Then I realized, the police are coming and I’m not leaving. That could be very bad for me.

Tamir Rice didn't even get to speak before he was shot. Michael Brown was standing in the street just like I am. If I reach into my pocket to get my phone, will I end up like Amadou Diallo?

I could be killed while my wife watched from upstairs and my daughter could be awakened by the gunshots that killed her father. And all of this because I was perceived to be a threat, instead of the one who called for help.

I put my hands up and with my arms wide said, "thank you so much for coming,” terrified that 9 white men arrived. I updated them on the situation and then went back inside.

As I reflect on it now, I ask myself:

How do I receive and live out of the love of God and not the fear of man?

How do I see every person as someone made in the image of God, even when they don't perceive me that way?

How do I pray for my enemies and seek a justice that frees the oppressed and the oppressor?

I believe that I must cultivate a #PrayerfulResistance so that my inner life with God sustains my external activity - especially my activism. I believe that all followers of Jesus must develop a spiritual resilience that allows us to push back against the darkness with the marvelous light we have and know. We must do this even when experience, anecdotes, statistics, and history say otherwise.

Since Jesus ascended into heaven, His followers have been in a state of bold, prayerful resistance. Jesus told them to wait and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Women and men who sat, ate, prayed and waited in that upper room resisted fear of ridicule, rejection and death. They sought to be citizens of the Kingdom of God before they were citizens of this world.

The Acts Church prayerfully resisted racism, classism and sexism in Acts 6 as ethnic minority widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of food. In Acts 10, God reorients Peter's heart to make space for gentiles in it because non-Jews through Christ now had access to Yahweh too.

During Jesus' ministry, Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector sat beside one another at His feet. Zealots were known to confront, even assassinate tax collecting Jews who worked for oppressive Roman Empire. Now, they shared a common mission. Luke the Physician and Mark, a historian had no business with fishmongers like Peter, James, John and Andrew. But now, they were united by their Father's business. And women like Mary, Martha and Mary the Mother of Jesus were just as integral as the men surrounding Jesus. Not to mention the "gluttons" and "drunkards" that regularly called Jesus company who are now filled with the spirit and not excessive food and wine! This was a diverse, reconciled group of people resistant to the order of the day because they were reoriented by an encounter with the Risen King!

Since the Fall, racism, sexism, political strife, bigotry, fear and violence opposed the kingdom of God. Whether for comfort, culture or control the urge for the Church to build walls between "us" and "them" has been at odds with the Kingdom of God.

And since the Fall, God used faithful followers to reflect His light in the darkness.

The question is who will take that light now? God asks in Isaiah 6, "who will go for us?" and He asks that today as well.

Who will preach a Gospel that is Good News for the rich and the poor? Who will plead the case of the undocumented, unborn, the widow and the orphan? Who will care for the sick, disabled and incarcerated? Who will give food to the hungry and clothes to the naked? Who will stand to steward creation and against those trying to destroy?

Isaiah answered, "send me!". But only after he confessed, could he be cleansed by God. And only after he had been cleansed, could he be sent.

Conviction of sin and the righteousness of Christ followed by sincere confession of personal and collective sin is where our activism must begin. I am not the messiah and neither is anyone else on this planet. Therefore, just like Isaiah the prophet was guilty of having unclean lips when his occupation was to speak truth, I desire to end injustice but participate in the system I want to stop. My action, inaction, ignorance or apathy keeps patterns of sin and exploitation in place. Only out of God’s love, forgiveness and His sanctifying presence can we press forward in bold humility - not prideful confrontation.

That is why we are hosting "Pray and Worship Like and Activist". We must come to God with all of we are - the joy, pain, sadness, anger, delight, frustration and hurt. We must remember who we are in light of Christ so that we can live into the words of Romans 12. "

All are welcome to come to these nights of prayer, worship and intercession. Click here to RSVP!

With the above in mind, in scripture we see a pattern of God transforming us consistently, not just mountaintop experiences to get us to the next valley; but His presence in with us on the mountain, in the valley and in between. There must be disciplines that I can practice to orient myself around the love of God and not fear of what might happen to me as an African-American male.

Romans 12:1-2 says, Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

After the disciples were filled with the Spirit, they went out on mission in power and boldness. They were blessed and sent to the ends of the Earth with the Good News and the presence of God. But somehow, 2000 years later I long to be filled with strategy, techniques and Christian material, not Holy Spirit and power. I am often blessed and sent to my favorite places for brunch and motivation for another long week of work at Sunday services. I am not equipped to cast out demons, heal the sick, and preach the Good News of Jesus for all people. In the words of leadership at New Life Fellowship Church, the Christian faith is personal, never private. Sadly, I often Jesus into personal assistant whose specialty is self-help, not the Son of God who is the Redeemer of all Creation.

So, would you Fast on Fridays with us and replace your meals with prayer, time in scripture, and intercession for the powerful and powerless. Our cultural Christianity revolves around pursuing comfort and avoiding suffering. America tells us that whatever we want should have and that is not the way of the Kingdom. Our resistance isn't running off of one prayer meeting or rally, but constant encounters with Jesus in prayer, scripture, and worship. The discipline of fasting and prayer shapes us so that when things are the most difficult, we still make our homes in Christ. Specifically, while pursuing justice, spiritual disciplines allow us to constantly see ourselves, our neighbors and enemies as people made in His image to flourish, work, rule and create. God responded with healing and miracles in scripture and we believe He will respond to us!

All are welcome to fast and pray alongside us using this framework. Click here!

As aforementioned, the disciples did not pursue God in isolation; instead they were part of a vibrant, diverse, reconciled community. And, though I feel unseen and unheard by White American Evangelicalism, I am seen, heard, felt and loved by my Father in Heaven. In His kingdom I am not invisible, marginalized or left out. Every color, creed, and background has access through Jesus Christ - including African Americans. But, in moments of deep pain, I need to be reminded of God’s love for people of color and those on the margins of power and privilege. And I know that I’m not the only one.

That's why we're hosting "Moving from Christian Clique to Covenant Community". Following Jesus on the straight and narrow is difficult especially since we are prone to wander. It was never His intention for us to do it alone. It is impossible to live the Christian life separate from other disciples. Additionally, it is unbiblical to live the Christian life apart from the poor, suffering and marginalized. Some Christians like to say, "it's just me and Jesus" as a point of pride; but if Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane desired for the Apostles to stay with Him, surely we need encouragement and fellowship as well.

We are to live in beloved, reconciled community pursuing justice, loving mercy, and growing ever closer to God and one another in Love through Christ Jesus by the power of Holy Spirit. And in our culture that is increasingly difficult to do - even if we are in small groups or part of churches. American Christianity is shaped by is a long list of things "not to talk about" and injustices like segregation, redlining and economic inequality leave many congregations disconnected from one another, non-Christians, and anyone who doesn't check certain political, ethnic or social boxes. Thankfully, we have the Bible to show us what following Christ in community truly looks like.

This evening is for church leaders, small group leaders, and Christians interested in reflecting a more authentic witness of Christ in our churches, campuses, fellowship and communities. Click here to RSVP!

Finally, I saw Isaiah 6, Acts 1-4, and 2Corinthians coming together. After I encounter the Risen Jesus in prayer and worship and confess Him as Messiah and Redeemer, I can be sent out full of the Spirit to preach the Gospel; and do mighty works in His name, for His Glory and my benefit. This is not an individual mission or special project for some people but the Great Commission for all Christians - including me!

But I am not perfect, I make mistakes. And so do other Christians that I am in relationship with. Thus, with any collection of broken people, there must be commitment to reconciliation and discipleship for the long-term. Following Jesus and stewarding the ministry of reconciliation given to me requires discipline in solitude and community so that my heart and mind can be more like that of Christ. Practically, I must build not just a day or a month around the resurrection of Jesus; I must construct my very life around Him. This is where our "Sustainable Activism Workshop" will provide the tools necessary for you and your community to develop daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual disciplines that are personal and corporate so that our actions, especially our activism, flow out of a deep inner and communal life with Jesus.

This event is open to all! We would especially like to welcome those who are passionate about seeking justice for the least of these in our world. CLICK HERE TO RSVP

Looking at Acts 1-4, after prayer, worship, fasting, and seeking Christ in solitude and covenant community, our devotion becomes a sign of the Kingdom of God for the world to see. Thus, we will walk, pray, worship, and break bread as a community committed to bringing down dividing walls of hostility just as Jesus did. He lived that we might have life and have life abundantly. That abundance includes the undocumented, unborn, and the poor as well as those who are empty but perceived rich because of privilege and physical resources. That abundance includes water, air and all of creation. There is no person or place too far for God's love and redemption. So, we invite you to be a sign with us of the Kingdom of God.

It is my sincere hope that you will join us for any and all portions of this #PrayerfulResistance. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact nycurbanproject@gmail.com.

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