150: Unity Ft. Josh Goertzen: Exploring Conversations On Race In America, Being A Better Neighbor, Considering The Other, And How Distance Breeds Indifference
The racial divide in America reemerges into the spotlight again with the recent turn of events. It is becoming essential for us to move towards racial reconciliation to achieve unity as a people. Josh Goertzen brings this message of unity in this conversation with Marcus Thane Ringer as they explore the issue of race in America, being a better neighbor, and how distance breeds indifference. Josh is a 25-year-old pastor from Hutchinson, Kansas. Making the big move to urban California with his wife, Erika, he is passionate about bringing the Gospel to poor communities in the inner city. He sees beauty in diversity and believes that unity can be achieved by celebrating it as a gift from God and connecting with different people with love and compassion. As we struggle for social justice, we should never forget the greater ministry of reconciling ourselves to God and each other.
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150: Unity Ft. Josh Goertzen: Exploring Conversations On Race In America, Being A Better Neighbor, Considering The Other, And How Distance Breeds Indifference
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This is a new series that I’ve been stewing on and thinking through. It’s a series on racial divide on racial reconciliation, and on the social justice movement that is happening in our country, the uprising we are experiencing and facing in day-to-day life. I want to do a series of conversations with people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and points of view, to help further the conversation and engagement with this important time and issue that we have been facing. It’s not new. It’s been around for 400 years. Hopefully, this brings more awareness for each of us reading and hopefully more unity and equality. That is the goal of these episodes.
We’re starting out with a good friend of mine, Josh Goertzen. He is a 25-year-old pastor from Hutchinson, Kansas. For the last few years, Josh has served as a young adult pastor at his local church and started an outreach ministry that serves a marginalized area within his community. He and his wife, Erika, have made plans to move to Richmond, California in order to receive seminary education and experience with Inner City Ministry. Their desire is for Jesus to be known and loved in the Inner City by planting and multiplying church among the urban poor, where there’s no gospel presence.
That was a short snippet of what Josh is up to. Josh had been a lifelong friend. We had him on the show. Josh is a dear brother and a good friend. He’s had a powerful transformation in his own life. His perspective has been shaped and changed by these personal experiences he’s gone through. In this conversation, we get to dive into some of those experiences and how they’ve shaped and informed his worldview and his perspective on people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and how we have relationships with people who don’t look, talk or think like us. We get to dive into a lot of the different nuances within this.
I love so much of what he talks about. One of the big points that he brings up is that “Distance breeds indifference.” The more distance we are from something, the more it breeds indifference. He went on to say that relationships are key and we have to move towards people. He talks about the theme of being a better neighbor and moving toward minorities in relationships, not just to check the box, but to establish an actual friendship and relationship. There are a lot of beautiful things that he says. He’s a humble man and he’s also lived powerfully. The examples of what he shares are he lived that out in his own life and he’s cared for people, especially in hard places and of all backgrounds and ethnicities. He’s been a constant challenge to me simply by the life he’s lived, not by the words he said but in this, we get to share words. I pray and I hope that this conversation can be encouraging, challenging, thought-provoking, and then it can be a spark for further conversations within your own life and within your own community. That’s all I have. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this important conversation on race with my brother, Josh Goertzen.
Josh Goertzen, welcome back to the show.
It’s good to be back. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
We had a good time on the previous episode. As we’re coming in this conversation, what feels weird to you about being here right? What feels weird to you about this moment? Is there anything that feels surreal or weird?
I would say that we’re both newly married and I don’t think we’ve been in this basement since we’ve been married. It’s funny.
That is weird. It’s bizarre.
Is that what you’re thinking?
That’s part of it. There are a lot of things that are surreal. Seeing who we were in high school and seeing who we are now and all that has happened since and that we were both married, that we’re both going to have moved or moving into new places. There are a lot of wild things that life brings.
We’re both in the same phase of life. That’s funny. There are so much transition and change.
Can you give people a snapshot of what’s ahead in your life?
My wife and I have a huge heart for the Inner City Ministry. Our heart is in church planting. We want to church plant in an unreached area among the urban poor. We’re heading out to Richmond, California to go do some seminary, but also be a part of a small church that is in an Inner City area so we can be mentored and have an opportunity to learn and grow and also serve the community there. That is so we can be equipped to go to church plant someday. We’ll leave Kansas for the first time in my life and that will be exciting.
Born and raised in Hutchinson, Kansas. Have you ever lived outside of Hutchinson?
I was born in Salina, but I moved here when I was eleven months old. I’m in Kansas my whole life. That’s all I know.
You have been able to travel and have some. You’ve had experiences but it’s the first time living in a different environment.
I’ve lived in South-Central Los Angeles for 2 or 3 months but besides that, I’ve always lived in Kansas.
That’s a huge milestone to be moving to a new city for the first time. This is a substantial long-term move.
We’re going to move out there for around maybe 3 or 4 years, then hopefully look to plant a church, but a lot of that is in God’s hands. I haven’t gotten a lot of time to think about it because we’ve been busy, but when I think about it, it is pretty wild.
Before we get to the topic, what is it that helps you in the midst of change in such a massive shift, many moving pieces, a completely different environment, people, and community? What have you found helpful in facing change well?
It’s easy to get stressed out. There were a lot of moving pieces, leaving people and relationships, the new life coming, school and all these things. What always helps me is understanding the ‘why’ of things. It helps me and focuses me. To me, waking up understanding why I’m waking up in the morning, why I breathe, and why I do what I do. To understand the purpose of why we’re moving to California, and why we’re leaving behind people that are precious to us because that’s hard. I don’t want to say goodbye to these people, but I have to put that ‘why’ in front of us. That’s something that’s been helping me living off of conviction.It is inexcusable for us, Christians, to distance ourselves from our minority brothers and sisters. Click To Tweet
The purpose is huge. That is a thing that allows us to live with integrity in our identity of who God’s called us to be regardless of the environment. If we have that ‘why’ that we’re able to align with every morning, that’s what gives us the consistency of the drive and motivation that’s internal, not external. It allows us to live more consistently in alignment and attached to where God is leading us. That’s a sweet word. We find ourselves in an interesting time in America. We’ve had a pandemic going on. We’ve had quarantines and shutdowns everywhere. We’ve also had somewhat of a revolution and uprising, highlighting the racial divide in America. Coming into this time, the church that I’m part of in Denver United, they’ve done a great job of entering and engaging the conversation early. I want to do my part. I want to engage in this conversation, learn, listen and talk to people. I want to engage with what’s going on and try to do it better. This is a part of it.
This is the first of a series of conversations on racial reconciliation. What does that look like? What is needed? What do we need to listen? What do we need to hear from? How do we need to think about these approaches? I by no means haven’t figured out. I never will, but I want to learn. That posture is helpful. I know as you already stated, a lot of your heart and calling is to urban ministry, the places that people have been dealt a harder hand. It is a different experience than you and I have faced. I’m curious when this transformation in your own life started? I know you mentioned that for several years, I’ve changed your perspective a lot. Can you paint a picture of how that’s changed your perspective as a whole, but also in related to this issue?
I echo what you said about learning and hopefully, what I say comes across in a humble way and I’m searching for some of the answers here. I’m wanting to be humble and come alongside people and learn as well. I’m 25, so I don’t have all my ducks in a row by any means, but I do have some unique experiences that God’s given to me. Long story short, I ended up in South-Central Los Angeles at an Inner-City church there helping out with a kid’s summer camp called Love LA. South Central is next to Compton. Maybe that might help some of you understand where that’s at. Dr. Dre, NWA are all from South Central, the Rodney King riots happened in South Central. I knew it was in Inner City Ministry, but I’d never been outside of the context of a suburban area. I didn’t have a category for that in my mind. I remember pulling up in this city and I walked in the grocery store. For the first time in my whole life, I was a minority. I looked around and I was the only white guy out of probably a couple of 100 people in the whole store.
One of the cash register ladies came up to me and she was looking out for me. She asked me if I was lost. I’m thinking, “I think I am lost.” For the first time, I was thinking in my mind, “I’m a white guy here and I felt like I had to represent all white people.” I was immediately being introspective of how I was acting my body posture, what I was saying. I had never, ever in my life had that even ever crossed my mind. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and I didn’t know why I felt uncomfortable. It was that summer fleshing out some of these things in this community that changed my perspective and changed my life. Especially as I began to hear people’s stories and this is something that is huge.
It’s important to put on someone else’s lens and understand where they’re coming from and the experiences they’ve had because distance breeds indifference. I grew up and I went to a predominantly white school in a white neighborhood at a white church, and that’s how it was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. That was demographic. The distance bred indifference because I didn’t know and I didn’t care. Out of sight, out of mind type thing. When I was placed in this community, I started to love these people and they loved me and they served me. It was incredibly humbling. That was the start of me realizing some of the racial injustices in our country.
I want to touch on a few things there. That experience of being a minority for the first time is powerful and it is true. Most people have probably experienced that in the moments. There are times where you are in an environment where you are the minority. It could even be something as simple as an environment you’re not used to. If you’ve never been to a Country Club or been on a golf course, you’re like, “I don’t belong here. How do I fit in? What do I do?” You’re self-conscious. You’re examining everything you do. It could be any type of environment, but especially when you were clearly different-looking than those around you. Even the last place I lived in Glendale, I was a minority in Glendale. It was the Armenian community. I heard more non-English than English walking down the road and that was a beautiful experience for me. I’m like, “I am an anomaly in some ways.” Recognizing those times when we are those experiences and realizing that for some people that is more of an everyday experience.
The second thing is that distance breeds indifference, it is so true. I’ve looked at even demographically cities, Hutchinson, Kansas versus LA or Denver. The difference in those environments is that one, you have more distance and the other, it’s in your face. There’s something about it being in your face where you can’t hide from it that forces you to face it and understand what’s going on. There’s more comfortable when you have distance because you don’t have to face it as much, but it does breed indifference because of the comfort. It’s time we got uncomfortable.
It’s a biblical command because when Philippians 2 says, “Look out for the interest of others,” that’s what humility is. Humility is looking out for the interest of others and regarding them more important than yourself. We don’t have an option to be indifferent. There is some ignorance in play there. Sometimes people don’t know and they don’t know. I understand that to an extent, but we have to move towards people. We see that throughout the Bible, “Jesus is moving towards people.” I was reading the story about the leper. Jesus healed ten lepers by saying, “You’re clean now.” He didn’t touch them. In one of the instances, He went and touched a leper and that would have shocked people. That example of Christ of moving towards people in humility, as Christians, we don’t have an option, but we have to move towards people and hear and listen to them. I don’t think we can make the excuse of, “I’ve never experienced that,” and put distance between ourselves and our minority brothers and sisters. I don’t think that’s an option and it’s acceptable as Christians to do.
Speaking of action from this point, was it about years ago with Love LA?
From this experience that was transformational in itself, it wasn’t a one-time hit. It caused the action. It led to a complete shift in your life and also continuous action towards that. What’s been that action or give us some of the stories since then?
After Love LA ended, I was wrecked and devastated that I had to leave this community because God put a great love in my heart. I came back to Hutchinson and talked with my pastor. We ended up starting a similar kids camp, which turned into a year-round program and a weekend program and a kid’s camp. My wife and I got married and moved into an area of poverty in our city. We started to have real friendships with people who didn’t look like us, whether it was socioeconomically or ethnically. We started to have relationships with people and hear their stories. One of the guys who serve with us on our team is a black man and a UPS driver. Listening to his stories of the racial comments he gets all the time. People write them up and say, “He stole our package,” just because he’s black or they’ll even put the N-word in a write-up. That is incredible things that are happening every day but I wouldn’t know that if he wasn’t my friend and I didn’t ask him. If he wasn’t burdened and didn’t talk to me about it like, “Pray for me. This was going on.” Relationships are key.We must strive for unity, not uniformity. Click To Tweet
If it wasn’t for that, I know I wouldn’t care because it would be out of sight and out of mind. Sharing these stories, having relationships with kids that are immigrated from Mexico or black kids hanging out in our house, we care for them and thinking about them in their future. These young, black men about wearing hoodies, the haircut they have, and all these things that people will naturally stereotype them. These are things that we all have to think about as people who are leading ministries with these kids because we care about them and we don’t want them to get shot honestly. It’s sad. All that to say, if we didn’t have relationships with them, we wouldn’t care. I don’t think I would care.
Before we get to what causes people not to care or to care about this topic at hand, and even the racial divide we see and experience, what has having diversity in your personal relationships giving you? I wrote about this in a blog post, we’re drawn towards uniformity. We think that uniformity is the way. It needs to all look the same way. I remember as a kid, I was like, “If everyone could be like me, it would be a place.” It’s foolish, childish and ignorant but I want everyone to be like me because I was the best. I quickly came to realize that was foolish, but that doesn’t necessarily change, molds or shifts into new things. Then we ended up becoming friends with people that share interests that look, act or talk like us. We live in communities, go to church or work in a place with people that are like us. We have this natural disposition towards uniformity because it’s easier. It’s easier and more comfortable. It feels more fluid and makes us feel better. It confirms what we already believe or what we think is right.
There are a lot of factors that play, but the only way that we can be together as a people is through unity, not uniformity. Unity amidst diversity is only possible through love. That’s the only way. We had to say different is better than sameness. I’m curious with you personally, in addition to what you’ve already mentioned as you’ve been on this journey, what have you found from having diversity in your personal relationships of people that look way different, talk different, from different places, or think differently than you?
That’s something that is easily overlooked is this beauty of diversity within relationships. When I say we’re going to do Inner City Ministry, some people think that my mindset is to go and we’re going be the savior of the inner city. That’s not the case by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, one thing I’ve learned living in the community that I live in is we have benefited massively from other people, loving and caring for us. People look out for my wife and me. They care about us in this community. We’ve learned about loyalty, compassion, relationships and hanging with people. From where I come from, people give up a little more easily on people and they write them off. I’ve learned about grace and patience. I talked to some of these people and the things they deal with for so long, they’re gracious. Even some of my black brothers and sisters who have been bearing with these issues have now come to light for so long and they’re tired and exhausted and yet, they’re giving grace to people who are realizing how serious this is. They’ve had to live it their whole lives.
There’s beauty and diversity because we get to see so much more about the character of God revealed as God has given these people to be image-bearers of himself. Different cultures reflect different parts of that. You go to Brazil, people are wild down there and there’s no time schedule but they’re incredibly warm, generous and familial in the way they are. Every culture has beautiful things that reflect the character of God that we can praise and also things that aren’t. When we look at our own, we have to acknowledge what’s good and what’s not good. As you said, the beauty of the gospel is it brings people together because of the love of Christ. Because of that, we get to enjoy the spectrum of the character of God that’s bared in us because we’re image-bearers of him. It’s a beautiful thing. I appreciate you saying that because we are the benefactors when we step into a diverse relationship.
I would say that I still interpret or view things in the Bible from a white American lens. That’s how I read it because that’s my culture that’s where I grew up in and that’s what I like. Imagine it’s hard to put it in a different lens. The only way we can do that is partly by visiting those places and living there and being among them in different environments or having relationships with someone. Having someone over for dinner, having a conversation, learning about their life, their experiences, and understanding what it’s like to live in their shoes. The way that the revolution, and it’s another social justice movement, hopefully, this is the most significant one. It’s bringing to light this issue that is not new and has been there for 400 years, and that more of us like myself are becoming aware finally. There’s still a large divide even in that. What do you see is creating maybe disbelief or unbelief, especially in white brothers and sisters like you and me?
One huge thing is that whole proximity thing. When you’re close in relationship with people, you’ll see it more. As you have a close relationship and love someone and you care about, “I don’t want my black brother or sister to be shot because they’re wearing their hood up at night.” I wear my hood up all the time. I love having my hood up and I’ve never once thought about that. I’m not quite sure how to word this, but we became so polarizing as a country. I’ll speak to believers because I care about this. We’re quick to make things with black and white. When I started doing this work, I have people started calling me like, “You’re a social justice warrior or whatever,” all those types of things. I’m thinking like, “What? Come look at what we do.” We’re quick to write people off into one camp or the other. I know this is something you’re big on, and it’s important. You have to be comfortable living in the tension. Just because someone goes to a protest doesn’t mean they’re far left-liberal, and they believe that we should eradicate the police department. That doesn’t mean they think all white people are racist. That’s not at all helpful. We become so polarized and we make assumptions about each other that we’re not willing to stop and listen to each other to progress these types of issues. We want to write people off.
It’s sad because that prevents any progress in this area. What’s sad about it is people suffer and we lose a platform for the gospel to speak into people’s lives because we think it’s all right and left in America. I don’t know if you watch CNN or Fox News, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not helpful. It can become an idol. If you see someone saying that racism is an issue and you automatically think they’re a Democrat, politics is an idol in your life. That’s a biblical thing. It’s not about right and left. We have to free ourselves from America in a lot of ways.
What’s funny is on both sides you see people saying something along the lines of, “This issue isn’t political, but the left always does this.” It’s like, “You made it political.” How can we completely remove any politics from this? Let’s remove left-right. If you mentioned either side, you’re already political. Remove that from the equation and say, “What is this issue? This is a human issue and there’s injustice between humans.” That’s as simple as it is. Who cares about what the left or the right thing? I don’t give a rip.
As believers, we’re not of this world. We are kingdom-minded. We have a different currency and perspective and we work out of sacrifice, love, and humility. Those things have to be marked in the way we view these issues. It cannot be right and left. That cannot be our framework of thinking. It’s sad because sometimes we’ll see it as racism, it’s like, “You hate cop or you hate police officers.” Police officers are incredible and they’re needed. That’s how our minds work, we’re like, “You’re this or you’re this. I’m not listening to you if you’re not what I am.”
It goes back to what’s easier versus what’s more challenging? What’s comfortable versus uncomfortable? What’s comfortable is, “Here are my stance, corner and my side of the fence. Anything that comes up that isn’t on that side, I’m going to discard it. I don’t even think about it. I don’t even engage with it because I’ve got good answers to prove my side versus that side.” That isn’t helpful for you or for anyone else. It’s confirmation bias and entrenched in your belief system. That’s based on a political agenda that is fed to you by what you consume. My wife and I talked about this in the show, but I don’t consume much information on the news’ political standing. It could be almost to a fault.
There was one morning where the people I was staying with, they had Fox News on. I overheard ten minutes of it while I was trying to read. I was shocked at how divisive the rhetoric was. It doesn’t matter which side of the venture on, it’s addicting. It’s an addicting news cycle that feeds you rhetoric that you can go to war with others on. What good does that do? What good does watching either of those ever do for you? It produces more anxiety, worry, anger, fear, and division. None of that is helpful. I challenge anyone reading to sit down with a journalist and say, “What good is coming from me consuming these news channels? Is this adding or subtracting from my life? Is this creating stronger or hurting relationships?”
Is this producing biblical fruits? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are our consumption. Is it producing that in our lives? Is it producing empathy? Is it producing love? Is it producing sacrifice? I worry about that because as a conservative evangelical Christian, my fear is that we’re losing a platform. We’re unwilling to look outside of ourselves and love those around us and bear the burdens of people and not ask them to justify all their painful experiences in their life. My heart and desires are for conservative evangelical Christians to love those around them. It sounds crazy because you read the Bible and to be biblically minded. Sometimes it takes, “I’m not watching the news for a month because I need to detox from the noise in my head and to understand who Jesus was, how He acted, what the Epistles have to say about these issues?” The Bible speaks and the Bible doesn’t fall way conservative and the Bible doesn’t fall way left or way liberal. It’s because the political system is a manmade faulty system that’s trying to come up with morals based on whatever they think morals are and whatever they think that is. God has been kind to give us his word and it’s clear.
The funny thing is we don’t need one side to win, we need both sides. We need to be conservative and progressive. We need both of those things. If we don’t have both of those things, then we are not following the way of Jesus and what Jesus does. At times, He went away and rested. At times, He left the crowds and went into inclusion. Other times, He turned tables over. He tried to blow up the whole system. He tried to prove people wrong. We need every part of the spectrum because that is what God is. He’s not a side of the fence. He’s everything. As humans, we like to pick what we’re comfortable with. The other thing to point out here is the same is true with social media. If you look at social media and news channels, I would say that both of them are designed for addiction to the best of their ability. They’re addicting people to their platforms, all of them. We need to take an honest look at our consumption of all of these platforms, whatever you’re consuming and say, “Is this helping me or hurting me? Is this uniting me? Is this producing unity in relationships or division?”
Social media is huge. Social media is the culture. You can’t follow the culture. If you do, you’re going to get swayed and lost and your convictions are going to be an inch deep and it’s unhelpful. You have to ground yourself in God’s word. I agree with you, the news culture and social media are all jumbled. It causes us to assume things and not to love people and move towards them. There are things you have to stay informed with, but you have to have a gospel filter.
It is keeping it where it is. There’s a post by James Clare, I am a big fan of his writing, but he’s speaking of relationships in this, but it’s true in general with any current events. He says, “A hidden danger in modern relationships is you can only date or marry a complete human with flaws, but you can follow people on social media and the top 1% of looks, smart, wealth, etc., without seeing their flaws and compare your relationship to them. Don’t judge the whole by one part.” That’s the key. Do not judge the whole of the social justice movement on one part you see online. Do not judge the whole of one side of the argument by one video you see online. These are all snippets that are 1% of the story but we take it for the whole story.
You see a riot, which is terrible and wrong. I understand people are hurting, but looting is wrong. It’s a sin. Don’t steal. It is what it is, but because you see someone looting, it doesn’t disregard the actual pain and the systemic racism that exists. I get frustrated as I only see people saying, “Looting is wrong, so everything going on doesn’t matter because you’re looting.” It’s like, “What?”
I can understand how you get to that place.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that way of thinking.
I’m not even going to claim to understand. I can empathize with someone who is looting because if I have with my whole life under oppression and it’s gone unnoticed by those who are oppressing. We’ve already been through several social justice movements of no gain, small gain if any, I will be fed up too. I would be saying, “The peaceful protest, those don’t lead to any change. What am I going to do? I’m going to make a peaceful protest, not peaceful anymore because it’s not changing.” I get that. We can empathize with that. That’s a human way of thinking that we would all fall into in the right situation. No one is above that. To recognize that’s a logical place to be as much as the other side of the logical place to be too. The question I always love saying is like, “What would Jesus do in these situations?”
That’s a good question and I think we should ask that thing. I honestly think Jesus would go around and love people as he did and proclaim the Kingdom because that’s what he did. I do think it’s clear that the gospel is the only hope. We do live in a fallen world and I can’t expect our government to pass a law that’s going to end this. I hate that, but that’s where we live in. We can progress and we should progress but until Jesus comes back, His kingdom has perfect justice and He will reign with justice. The gospel has given us the ability because of God’s sacrificial love for us and his Holy Spirit that lives in us. He’s completely changed us and given us another biblical worldview to live by as changed people to become reconcilers. We’ve seen the greatest reconciliation that’s ever happened. We’ve been reconciled to God because of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross.
Now, we live in the world as reconcilers, meaning we share the gospel with people, but there’s a sub-point to that in which The Ministry of Reconciliation that we’ve received, we can reconcile people that crosses racial boundaries. Jesus would do that. There’s a line where we can’t make pursuing justice more important than The Ministry of Reconciliation, reconciling people to God. We can’t make justice more important than us Christians because it’s not the sole reason we’re here. It’s a part of it. The main reason is to make disciples. Justice can never be more important than making disciples, but justice is a huge part of making disciples. It’s standing up for God’s kingdom and it’s living out his values that he’s given us. I’m not sure if that answers the question exactly but Jesus would pursue that because that’s what he did.
He pursued the Kingdom. He preached the gospel and repentance, but he also crossed boundaries that people were in awe of. Whether it was a religious boundary or a prostitute woman crawls on her knees and washes Jesus’ feet and all the Pharisees that are thinking, “What are you doing?” Whether he was touching a leper who couldn’t touch anyone, whether it was going to Samaria, this ethnic boundary that people wouldn’t cross, he went there. He did do those things and he did blow up stereotypes that people had in their preconceived notions of what a Christian should do. He did that. All while he did that, his main purpose was to reconcile people to God. While we pursue to reconcile people to God, through the gospel, while we’re doing that, we’re caring for the downcast, marginalized, and injustice because it’s what God values. It’s a whole package. I think that’s what Jesus would do.
I would even add that justice and caring for the oppressed comes in order before the other. God can do whatever he wants, but are people change by words? No, they’re changed by what you do. They’re changed by the life you live, acts of service, love, and grace that are done. Jesus did demonstrate that. He didn’t go to someone and say, “This is what you need to do.” He went there and transformed them and then told them. He went there and cared and loved for them like the woman at the well, in Samaria. By Him going there and engaging with her, he’s showing, “I love you despite this racial divide that we’re in. I love you. I’m going to show you that I love you because I already know you,” which is even more scandalous. In the Christian context, we often think about sharing the gospel as the number one priority. If all you’re doing is words, but you’re not living that out and loving the people with it, you’re going to come back empty-handed. I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else here. We have to be people who live lives that demonstrate that the words can then back up.
That adds to the love and the relationship side of the words. What gives these words power no doubt is the Holy Spirit. He is the one who saves, opens eyes, enlightens, and brings people together. Unity is found in the Holy Spirit, but he works through love, joy and peace. The fruits of the spirit and those fruits of the spirit are only found within relationships. I recorded four lessons that I was sending off to someone. They were doing a kid’s camp and they asked me to record lessons, I did it and I hated it. I was like, “That was weird because I don’t know those people.” They felt powerless. They felt empty words because when I do it in our neighborhood with all the kids that we get together, I know them, I love them. I know their families I’ve been in their home. They’ve been in my home and I’m speaking to them. It’s different if that makes sense because there was a relationship there.
Gospel effectiveness, there needs to be a relationship and importance, a relationship filled with grace. That’s honestly what I’ve learned from stepping into these communities. That goes back to what we were talking about. I’ve been impacted that sermons aren’t enough. They’re needed, but they’re not enough. There need to be these relationships. That’s what impacted me in my life. I can think of a handful of sermons and I’m grateful for the sermons that have impacted my life but I can think of a lot of people and defining moments of my relationship with them that was pivotal in my life.
That’s a great point for anyone reading and for myself to think about is, “What’s impacted you the most in your life? Who has impacted it? What source of information is it?” As you said, a sermon podcasts, social media posts whatever maybe, if we sit with that for even one minute, we’ll recognize quickly, “How is this person because of their love, the time they spent, the energy they poured out for me or their sacrifice of money?” Whatever it may be, that’s what makes an impact. I know that’s true for my life. Since we’re two white dudes, let’s talk to white brothers and sisters. What encouragement do we have for white brothers and sisters in this moment of in some ways racial reconciliation? How can we further this brings this about? How can we be helpful and not hurtful in this time?
One way is moving towards minorities in the relationship, and not to make yourself feel better, not to check the box of, “I’m not being a racist because I have a black friend.” That’s not the point. The point is to share life, to love and to have an actual friend that you care for. Not just about these injustice things but about everything. You care about their family and how they’re doing. You hang out with them, you have a game night with them. You go over to their house for dinner, they come to your house for dinner. It’s a normal friendship. Develop something like that. Reading is helpful. It causes introspection and you don’t have to believe every single thing you read because there are a lot of helpful things and not a lot of helpful things.
Even within the Christian world, you have to be discerning about what you read but reading is helpful. Being willing to step inside a culture that’s not how you grew up or what’s comfortable to you, and be willing to see the beauty in it, that’s important as well. I would be cautious of stepping into some of these relationships, especially right now. Don’t become a friend of a minority to make yourself feel better. Stepping to those relationships to love and share the love of Christ and to receive. I’ve said it because I’ve received so much and I’m grateful for the relationships that God has brought into my life and how dependent I know I am on these people and what they’ve meant to me. That’s two helpful things.
Work hard to not let CNN, Fox News, Facebook, Instagram, or the culture to shape how you think, but let the Holy Spirit through his word, shape your mind and give you a biblical worldview and perspective on how you should live your life. That’s hard and that takes work, but it’s good to work. At the end of the day, it produces fruits of the spirit in our lives. We know when we’re venting about something that we saw on the news. You look at the Bible and you’re like, “Where in the spectrum is that?” Some of those things can be helpful and there are things we can start doing.The only way we can be together as a people is through unity in diversity. Click To Tweet
You can live within the tension and you can have a category for someone who acknowledges that there’s racism that respects police officers. Be thankful for their work that understands some need to go. There needs to be better screening, that doesn’t think we need to eradicate the police department. That people can believe that racism exists and not be far left and believe in abortion. Work to have a category and work to listen to people. It’s helpful. I see God working and I’m encouraged by what God is doing. I’m on the journey too. I’m trying to learn here and be a better neighbor. As the Bible says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” A lot of this comes down to that and to put it in biblical language, loving your neighbor, caring about them, looking out for the interests of others, and not yourself.
When I hear my friend, DJ, talking about teaching his sons when they get their car, “This is what you need to do when you get pulled over.” I can’t imagine that it was my kid. I can’t imagine that and letting that impact you and grieve you and to continue to move towards people in love and not to lose the gospel and everything. The gospel is reconciliation us to God. In the end, we can’t expect God’s kingdom to be here until He comes back and it’s going to be broken. It’s going to be messy, but we can love our neighbors in the meantime and anticipate God coming to establish his perfect kingdom, where justice and peace reign and we can look forward to that. We live in the tension between the now and what’s to come. We are going to live out of Christ now.
What’s funny is that I got pulled over and did get a ticket. I was with my wife, and I sat there when we were waiting on the officer and I said, “I cannot imagine how different this would be if I was different skin color.” To be honest, it was the easiest ticket this guy ever gave and I’ve ever gotten. It was a two-second interaction. It would have been different if I was indifferent skin color, and that’s a real reality. Any person of color that you talked to will tell you that they’ve had conversations or had conversations given to every single one of them, and it’s something that we’ve never had to experience. That’s sad and humbling. I love what you shared there. Moving towards minorities in relationships, not just to check the box but to pursue actual friendship or relationship is the key to loving people well that aren’t uniform to how you think, look or act. Reading is helpful with both the sermon, stepping inside a culture for many years, being a better neighbor. That’s a great way to summarize. How can we be better neighbors to everyone?
The last thing that’s been on my mind is engaging in conversations in ways that are helpful. There’s a tendency we have to go with two sides of the fence, one to avoid all conversations, shutdown, do not engage. Two, to get engaged with everyone on those conversations. Both of those are losing strategies. If you looking at the example of Jesus, the woman at the well. When he got to the well, he sent the disciples ahead. It was Michael Todd who said in the sermon, “The disciples weren’t ready for that.” There’s a big reason why Jesus sent them to the city and get food. They’re not ready for him to be engaging with a Samaritan woman. They probably would have gotten away. They’re probably like, “Let’s get out of here.” They weren’t ready to receive that. They came back and they were shocked and even asked him because they were shocked they were like, “This is scandalous, we don’t even want to ask him about it.” They see the fruit of it and that’s the point. The Pharisees with Jesus, he didn’t even tell them the answer. They said, “By what authority?” Jesus was like, “Let me ask you a question. I’m going to tell you.” Jesus was clear about not engaging people that wouldn’t be helpful on. We do well with that as well. If someone’s not in a place to hear you out on this, how can you love them in a way that maybe opens up the conversation? How can you wait until an opportunity presents itself? Being mindful in engaging with this conversation, but not being afraid to enter into hard conversations because it will be hard. It will be messy. This has been fun and helpful. I pray that it is helpful because that’s our heart in it. We have no idea, we’re just trying to learn.
I hope people understand that when they’re reading this, there’s no way we can tie every loose end in this conversation and address everything. I hope you read with a sense of grace in a way.
With a curiosity that engages in further conversations from this because the point of this is to be a spark for more conversations and actions by ourselves and by those who read.
That would encourage me if that happened from this conversation.
If people want to follow along or even support you on your journey, I know you’re going full-on support, you’re an in-state missionary in a way. Where do people go? Where do they find the journey?
My name is Josh Goertzen. It’s a good way to look me up on Instagram. Send me a direct message if you want to know more about this topic. If you need helpful books or resources, and if you’d want to partner with us in this church planting ministry for the sake of Christ being known and loved in the Inner City, we would love to have your partnership. We know we can’t do this on our own and we love the church. We’re giving our lives to the church and we’ll continue to because Christ died for us. We’re a bunch of messed-up people but there’s beauty in that. I’m @JoshGoertzen on Instagram or JoshXGoertzen@Gmail.com. Reach out and I’d love to connect with you.
These are a series of conversations on race, divide, and reconciliation, and what our role is in that. Josh, thanks so much for coming on. It’s a pleasure to think through hard things with you. I love seeing what God’s done and what he’s going to do with you. It’s the sweetest.
Thanks. I appreciate you having me on.
Until next time, we hope you have an Up and Coming week because we’re out.
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About Josh Goertzen
Josh Goertzen is a 25-year-old pastor from Hutchinson Kansas. For the last 5 years, Josh has served as a young adult pastor at his local church and started an outreach ministry that serves a marginalized area within his community.
He and his wife Erika have recently made plans to move to Richmond, California in order to receive seminary education and experience with inner-city ministry.
Their desire is for Jesus to be known and loved in the inner city, by planting a multiplying church among the urban poor where there is no gospel presence.
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