Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Brad Sargent on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Brad’s local city newspaper is The Marin IJ (The Marin Independent Journal). Here is Brad Sargent on the Good News, in which he entitles – Easter and Accessibility for All.

THE GOOD NEWS
If you distilled into one question the essence in most of my lifelong spiritual quests, this is it: “How could we create an ’intercultural world’ where each person and group is valued – even while we cannot automatically accept everything as good (since there is such a thing as evil, after all)?”

I’ve discovered one ironic truth about the magnetism of such a pursuit, and it’s two-pronged: Some of our best lessons shape by what repulses us, and some by what attracts us; either can move us forward in our journey. I’ve experienced both in my search for a world where differences become appreciated because they express the complex image of our Creator.

I know what it’s like to be excluded for being different – skinny, smarty, geeky, gawky. I never did fit the standard expectations, and all-too-frequent experiences of being marginalized pushed me toward a fierce defense of human dignity. I advocate the importance of accepting people right where they are instead of rejecting them because they aren’t where I or we or society thinks they should be.

Other experiences pulled me toward connected convictions. Cultural diversity fascinated me early on, and by second grade I declared archaeology as my future career. I made friends with some members of almost every social group during high school, and have always had at least a few international friends during most of my adult life. Those different from myself help me to grow.

I’ve sought to practice bridge-building toward the intercultural world I’ve hoped for, and I delight when I serendipitously discover it elsewhere – which I did at recent Easter services. At a friend’s church, I met a multicultural and multiracial mix of singles, couples, and children. This included natives, immigrants, and students who hail from homelands on any of five continents.

This reminded me how the power in Christ’s Easter-time resurrection from the dead, after redeeming us from our sin and our selfishness, completes a Christmas-time promise God made. Delivered by an angel to a group of everyday workers … shepherds … this global message was designed for fulfillment to all:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11, New International Version)

What is that “good news of great joy”? In part, accessibility for people from all places, races, and spaces to relate with our Creator through Jesus Christ. Through Him, there is the possibility of intercultural common ground that transcends all possible human barriers of inherent characteristics and culture, political and economic systems, position and privilege or its lack.

This zone can neither be created by legislation, nor stopped thereby. We can hope for it and help form it along the way – even with all our flaws, because God-empowered personal and cultural transformation can bring it about. Now, that’s a good-news message I can get behind and don’t mind putting forward!

Brad’s business card proclaims him as a “Superhero Sidekick” who helps people identify, validate, amplify, and activate their superpowers – and, hopefully, not distribute their supercrud on others. He pays the bills through freelance editing, but his passions are spiritual formation and “intercultural systems design.” In 2010 he will complete a 15-year-long project: an original curriculum on interpreting and integrating issues of personhood, cultures, futures, and organizational systems. This will be useful for church planting, social entrepreneurship, and church leadership transitions. Brad lives in Northern California, where the local newspaper is the Marin IJ.


13 Responses to Brad Sargent on The Good News

  1. Pingback: “Easter and Accessibility for All” on Dream Awakener « futuristguy

  2. jrwoodward says:

    Brad,

    I love the personal nature of your entry, because it shows how your story interacts with God’s. And I absolutely love the last two paragraphs, where you paint a picture of the kind of community that Jesus has made possible and within that remind us of our own brokenness, the power of God and the hope that can be more realized in our midst.

  3. brad says:

    Thanks for your kind comments, JR. My friend Andrew noted a few years back that I have a “heart for those who are marginalized,” and it’s so ingrained now that it seems to be the default setting for my thoughts on social transformation.

    And here I think even farther back to a seed Dan Allender planted at a conference 15 years ago, while speaking directly to men and women who have experienced alienation from both church and society. His statement was so surprising, that the essence of his comment branded into my brain: “When a society is in disarray, God often uses those who have previously been marginalized to lead the way forward. You know what it is to be excluded from the center, and yet to obey God. And when that day comes for you, we will stand behind you, and rejoice that you go before us and lead us.”

    It’s a good thing that the Good News is for all people, because the world and church are in such disarray, that surely some highly unexpected leaders will be called forth from the edges to lead us all forward. That aspect of the Kingdom economy seems so … counterintuitive, I guess … to what we expect, and perhaps even to what we desire. And yet, a previously sidelined heart can still be activated in unexpected ways by a Spirit-captivated imagination. And that imaginational process becomes, I believe, the basis of much hope and even more perseverance.

    For me, interacting with God’s story brought me to some small stages instead of one big platform. I actually started out my college studies in public administration – you know, one of those Boomers who wanted to change the world. After two years, I realized that I had contracted a surely-fatal allergy to bureaucracy, and feared I would die of Red Tape BureaucroShock. So I switched to linguistics. Best thing I could have done, ironically, because I learned important things about people and cultures through those studies. It’s led to deeper engagement, though with a smaller number of people. Ultimately, I wonder if, by helping others who were marginalized, they have made more constructive social impact than I could ever have done myself through governmental service …

    Anyway, perhaps the theme here is that accessibility for all means transformation for many. And that certainly is a Kingdom kind of good news!

  4. Sonja says:

    Brad,
    I like the way how you describe your ‘search for a world where differences become appreciated…express the complex image of our creator.
    Out of solidarity you know now what it is ‘like to be exclusive and never fit the standart expectations’ and how it ‘pushed you toward a fierce defence of HUMAN DIGNITY.And how the cry of the inward longing pressed you towards your social justice to ‘advocate the importance of accepting people right where they are’
    That is such a rich skill you have developed through the ages..

    The power of the easter message didn’t stop at the dark- empty lonely tomb a place where sin and guilt kept people in bondage, for He has overcome.
    I liked how you shared a message of hope where you described ‘the great news of joy’ to All People.

    Where do you draw the line between accepting and sharing the truth with other cultures without becoming a people pleaser in the end?

  5. brad says:

    Thanks for the comments, Sonja, and good question: Where to draw the line …? Aye … now, therein lies the rub! Or, perhaps more poignantly, the Rubicon.

    There’s definitely a balance point-of-no-return somewhere in there between only accepting people/cultures where they are, and only always challenging them to become more of what God designed for us to be. The first one’s syncretism (over-identification with the REAL of culture) and the second one’s legalism (over-identification with the IDEAL of Kingdom).

    Maybe we have two ears for good reason – one ear to listen to the local culture and the desires on the hearts of its people, and one ear to listen to God’s heart and His desire for a core of Kingdom Culture to be implanted in all local cultures. Hopefully we have a Spirit- and Word-led brain in between those two ears to process cultures/Kingdom in stereo to discern where the local culture is compatible with the Kingdom … after some remix, of course.

    And if we actively seek to please the One who provides redemption, advocates justice, and softens consciences, then we’ll work toward the balance. Of course, if we want to “obey” only the easier parts of supposedly following Christ, we’ll come off imbalanced in one direction or the other in the long run.

    Hmmm … just struck me: Perhaps there are three bad major options here: be inert (neither demand nor empower social change), have inertia (too sluggish to get over the threshold of change ourselves), or be annoying (demand social change without empowering it).

    So, there are some thoughts on drawing the line. Ultimately, if we don’t put our own lives on the line to live in line with what God clearly says is Christlike character, then we shouldn’t be lyin’ about expecting to help anyone else!

    Thanks for the solidarity, Sonja. Y’all rock on, on the Rock!

  6. andrew says:

    great to see brad speaking out in the papers. hope to see him in poland this july. brad rocks!

  7. len says:

    “common ground,” “open space” or creative commons.. whatever we call it, its part of the arrival of the kingdom where we lose the old identities, usually echoes of the shadow self, and find our common life in Christ. Keep on preaching it brad!

  8. sonja says:

    Thanks Brad for sharing more of your thoughts.

  9. Really enjoying this series of posts…thanks for doing it!

  10. Pingback: The Gift of Susan Boyle, and Going Beyond the Gifted to the Giver « futuristguy

  11. Jason the Elder says:

    Great thoughts, Brad. I’ve known you almost 10 years and that was by “accident.” You are what you wrote about it. I appreciate that. For those of us who have been marginalized or who have marginalized others, the true and fascinating story of Jesus on the cross for our good and his glory provides an open portal to the most inclusive community possible–the church. Down goes the walls of hostility and homogeneity.

  12. Scott Olson says:

    Brad,

    Thank you for sharing your insightful application of the good news… Part of the good news is that God lifts up the lowly and humble and rewards the faithful and obedient who love Him.

  13. brad says:

    Thanks again, JR, for the opportunity to participate in this very cool format for getting a multiperspective “spiritual MRI” on the meanings of the Good News, and for all who commented. I enjoyed writing this piece, and there is so much more to share, as one whose parents demonstrated many of the character qualities of what Jesus called, “people of peace.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.