My forehead was hot and a little scratchy. But, that's what normally happens when I wear a Santa Claus hat. I took it off and threw it on the dash of the church minivan as I motioned for two of the teenage guys that I disciple to hop in. We were just leaving our church's Christmas party; it was dark, and they both needed a ride home. As we headed down Cranston Street, the guys talked about the food we’d eaten and the games we’d played. We came to a stoplight. That's when I saw them and knew what I had to do.
There is a constant call within the northeastern part of the United States for laborers to move to the area and join the battle to see the region re-awakened to the power of the Gospel. Church planting ministries regularly recruit and promote vision tours in an attempt to get more missionaries to the shores of the proverbial Babylon that is the New England states, plus New York and perhaps New Jersey.
I am still unsure of how I got the invitation, but I did. It was a small gathering of local Boston pastors and seminary professors – and me.
We were all together to share a breakfast and hear Dr. John M. Perkins share an exhortation. (For those unfamiliar with Dr. Perkins, he is a long-time pastor, a writer, an evangelical leader for racial reconciliation and the co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association.) Despite the fact that he was in his early 80s at the time, he encouraged all of us in the room with passion and zeal for the mission of God.
The early years of ministry are difficult for everyone. Oftentimes during those first days, a lack of experience coupled with a youthful zeal leads to a myriad of mistakes. However innocent blunders are not the only faulty moves that young leaders make. Too often, young men and women fail due to character struggles with pride. Consequently, the pains of formation and the uncertainty of what is new causes many young leaders to quit.
Ministry in the urban context comes with its own set of challenges. Among them are the objections to Christianity that run deep within inner-city communities of color. As I pastor in a neighborhood made up largely of ethnic minorities, it is not uncommon for me to hear someone dismiss the Christian faith purely because it is perceived to be “the white man’s religion, meant to oppress ethnic minorities.” It is important to note that this characterization of Christianity is not completely unfounded.