My Speaking Calendar – Q1 of 2017

My Speaking Calendar – Q1 of 2017

Friends – As many of you know, I spend most of my days serving the fine people of the The Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis as a staff pastor.  As an extension of that work, I regularly get opportunities to enter into other spaces for the purpose of teaching, training, and the like. This year, I’m hoping to do a better job of publicizing these in the hopes that you all, new and old friends, might be able to check out a few. I’ll update and re-share this post as dates are added (or dropped), and I’ll post another list for Q2. 

I’d love to see new and old friends at any of these events! Can’t make any of them? I’d love your prayers that I might be able to teach & preach in ways that would encourage, inspire, and give hope!

Peace!

Edrin

P.S.  I’d love the chance to speak to your church, nonprofit, or other organizational gatherings. Email me at edrin.williams@gmail.com for information on how to make that possible!

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2 Plants

2 Plants

Now & Later

2 potted plants.

One is in full bloom. The other is only recently planted.

Many people will extol the beauty of one and denigrate the other. Other people will see that they’re both beautiful in their own way. They’re just in very different stages of growth.

I look at the one on the left and imagine that, at some point, it looked like the one on the right. I look at the one on the right and smile because with patience and care, it can one day bloom as fully as the one on the left. 

Think about your life. Think about the lives of those around you. Think about the institutions and organizations that you belong to. Are they the plant on the left or the one on the right? Or both?

What’s true about these two plants is true of much of life. At our best, we see that. We get that…and we experience the richness of life because of it! 

Grace & Peace!

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Sin & Broken Hearts

Sin & Broken Hearts
A few years ago, I recall counseling a young couple through a very difficult situation that left one of them deeply heartbroken and the other, in many ways, crippled by their own actions. Journeying with them caused me think differently about the effects of sin. In churches, especially American evangelical churches, our general understanding of sin is individual and personal – one person’s actions that impact their relationship with God. More and more, I’m realizing that sin is also a communal thing. When one sins, it affects everyone in significant ways. Although significant, the effects are not always immediately visible. Because of that, we maintain that sin is between God and the individual. That is an insufficient understanding of sin. Sin kills. Sin destroys community and relationship. Sin leaves behind a trail of broken hearts. Sin gets in the way of God’s will being lived out in us and through us.
 
God. others. self. community. Can you see how many are affected by the sins of even one?
 There is good news, though. Just as so many and so much can be affected by the sins of just one, there is redemption available to many that is attributable to one. It was the Apostle Paul who wrote that God’s grace and the gift came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, and overflows to many. (Romans 5:15)
 
So what am I saying? I’m suggesting, at once, at least two things:
  1. Sin is debilitating and needs to be taken much more seriously because of the havoc that it wreaks. Minimizing it is like playing with fire.
  2. We need not feel hopeless about sin, because redemption is available in Jesus Christ.
May God bring both of these truths to our remembrance daily and use them to shape us into his likeness!
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Known By Our…Love?

Known By Our…Love?

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Have you ever heard a song that triggered all sorts of conflicting emotions inside of you?

 

You know those songs, right? Maybe it’s an old love song that represents a season of your life that you’d much rather forget. When you hear that song, for something like 94% of your being, the instinct is to quickly find another song. Try as you might to ignore it, though, there’s a small part of you, the other 6%, that sighs and reminisces for just a moment. Don’t you just hate when that happen? Maybe it’s just me.

There are other songs that cause smiles to quickly cover our faces, with their upbeat tempo and catchy lines.  It’s a beautiful thing. Even so, that happy feeling can be tempered in a moment and without warning as you wrestle with the hope of that song when compared to the difficulties of real life. Music can cause great inner turmoil! Such was the case a few days ago when I heard what could only be described as a classic Christian folk tune called, They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love. Check out the lyrics…

 They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

 We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
 
We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

Hearing the song – its lyrics, upbeat tempo, and Kingdom-focus made me smile. The idea of unity in the Spirit. The idea of a people walking hand in hand to spread the Good News. The idea that, somehow…someday, the term Christian would be synonymous with great love caused warm feelings of joy to well up within me. Almost immediately, though, I began to think about the innumerable ways that we’ve fallen short of this desirable outcome. The truth is that Christians, especially in this country, are known for anything but love. It’s because of the ways that we treat each other and the ways in which we engage those outside of our faith. If you think about it long enough, it can become depressing.  We’ve greatly missed the mark!

 

Even so, God is faithful and offers reminders of the possibilities that can encourage us to keep going despite the uphill nature of the journey. A few weeks ago, one of my former youth ministry kids lost his mother after an extended illness. This young man had  been an integral part of my early youth ministry years here in Minneapolis. Over the years, there were countless bible studies, lunches, missions trips, BBQ’s at our house, conversations about every imaginable topic, graduations and so much more. I had walked alongside this kid as a big brother and spiritual mentor for years. We had not talked as regularly for about year, but hearing about the death of his mother meant that there was yet another season that would need to journeyed together. That’s what you do for the people you love.

I did not have to respond alone, though. There was a tremendous outpouring of love and support from many others. It was another of those “beauty from ashes” moments that I’ve come to expect of God. On the day of his mom’s memorial, I found myself sitting at a table with this young man, 3 other of my friends who had mentored him, and several of his peers who had become like family in our youth ministry. We shared exaggerated stories, laughed a lot, wiped a tear or two, and enjoyed the classic Baptist church meal. You know what it was!

In those moments, which had the potential to be the hardest of this guy’s life to this point, I witnessed true Christian love. I saw what it was to surround someone who had nothing to give us in return and love them. I can imagine that Death was pissed off because his sting had not had the intended effect. It’s precisely those kinds of moments where we get to peel back the layers of this life and get a peek of the Kingdom of God breaking through. It’s a beautiful thing!

This week, I pray that you’ll encounter a song or two that give you new hope in the coming Kingdom. May these songs cause you to smile, wrestle, yearn for more of the Kingdom of God…or some transformative combination of the 3. As that happens, may you remember God’s faithfulness and continue to live and love in miraculous ways!

Grace & Peace!
Known By Love

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#GospelChallenge, Part 1

#GospelChallenge, Part 1

This summer, I took part in an amazing conference hosted by CRU Inner City. It was called the Creating Options Together Conference and took place here in Minneapolis.  The aim of the conference was,  “To come together to declare God’s glory, to lift up and empower the church, and to demonstrate the power of the gospel to create options for those in poverty…fresh options that address real needs.”  It was humbling to share a stage with noted leaders like Dr. John Perkins and Dr. Carl Ellis.  It was also  incredibly meaningful to spend time hearing from new leaders (new to me) like Pastor Adam Edgerly and the brilliant Karen Ellis.  I was a speaker and presenter, but I learned much more than I could have ever imagined!

I have realized over the last few years that I have some pretty unique and varied groups of friends and colleagues.  I also realized that they often don’t interact with each other.  That means that the conversations that I have with one group of friends doesn’t always get carried over to another group of friends. It happens sometimes, but it’s not guaranteed.  Additionally, I’m hardly ever present with friend group A and friend group B at the same time.  I’m constantly looking for ways to bridge that gap. Hopefully, this blog has been and continues to become one of those ways.

To that end, in my next few blog posts, I’ll share some of my messages from the Creating Options Together Conference 2014.  I hope that it sparks a dialogue between my different groups of friends and leads to some deeper connections.

The title of this particular talk was #GospelChallenge: Addressing Racial Strife as a Threat to Your Ministry.

Here’s Part 1 of 3…I’d love to hear your thoughts!


(July 2014 – Bethel University Underground)

Good Afternoon,

Friends, you may have noticed a social media trend over the last few months. I’m referring to something called the #GospelChallenge.  #GospelChallenge is where one person is “called out” by another and given 24 hours to record a personal video singing a gospel song. The videos were everywhere, and some of them were excellent!

Unfortunately, for every one singer with actual talent…There were 100’s upon 100’s of singers with voices that only their mothers could love…There were others with voices that were made for sign language or for a tightly sealed, soundproof shower…There were many others that gave new interpretation to the verse, “Jesus Wept!” As funny as some of these videos were and as inspiring as some the others were, I wasn’t invited here today to talk about THAT kind of gospel challenge but about another reality that we are called to be aware of and respond to IF we really desire to see the good news of Jesus Christ reach the inner city, take root, and bring about kingdom transformation.

Later this week, each of us will leave the comfort of this conference and head back into our communities, cities, and neighborhoods, and there, waiting on us, will be a troubling reality. Waiting for us in each of our cities is a challenge that is as old as this nation itself and is entrenched in the fabric of this great experiment that we call America.  I’m talking about racial strife, the struggle that exists in our past and even today, that makes it very difficult for people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds to connect, trust, and grow together. Friends, I wish that I could talk about this racial strife from a strictly historical & sociological perspective and say that this is an issue that exists strictly in society.  I wish that I could stand here and describe this as a situation where the Church is poised to step in and correct what is wrong, but the reality is that when it comes to racial strife, American society and the American church share matching scars. These are matching, ugly scars that cannot simply be ignored.

The reality is that when it comes to racial strife, the church, has “dirty hands,” and those dirty hands stand as a challenge to the Gospel.

At best, the church in America has been “impotent” when it comes to being an effective agent for healing racial strife. At its worst, the church in America has been an active accomplice, a tool, used to create and maintain racial strife and artificial racial divides. Even without looking too hard, the very people that we would seek to engage and minister to in urban communities, ESPECIALLY BLACK MEN, can see that the church has not always been a trustworthy institution.

So what exactly am  I talking about when I refer to our #GospelChallenge?

When I say that we have a #GospelChallenge, I’m saying that our history, even our present existence as the church, has become a stumbling block, an obstacle to the spread of the gospel among the lost and hurting in urban areas. I contend that we cannot simply ignore the church’s history and expect it to simply go away. Instead, I propose that must we repent of our brokenness and intentionally rededicate ourselves to the work of reconciliation. Doing so is a critical first step towards creating space for the healing of racial strife, and it must be a part of any Christ-centered strategy for seeing the Gospel reach every corner of every urban area in America.

Question: Would you agree that racial strife has been a “stumbling block” for the American Church? I’d love to hear your thoughts and explanations.  As always, feel free to disagree!

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