Thoughts on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: Part I

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All I ever wanted to be was a football coach. I saw coaches making a difference in my city. For many of us it was football or the streets.  Sports had the ability to capture our imagination, but not forever. The goal was to keep us in school long enough so that we might begin to want more.   Hopefully the education that had served as a means to an end (athletics) might grow into a vision of a life beyond sports. But we had to get there first. When I went away to college my only dream was to return home and coach my alma mater.   My whole life was defined by what I saw in my zip code. I knew no African-American lawyers, doctors, professors, missionaries, scholars, or scientists. If they existed, they didn’t live on my street.  Coaching was as far as my plausibility structure could stretch.

I thought about my former dreams as I began my journey through the Holy Land. How did I make it from Huntsville to Jerusalem? How did I end up doing the PhD that consumes my days and nights? I do not ask these questions because I believe that becoming a New Testament professor is a superior profession to teaching high school. By no means! It is about the things we were allowed to dream about in my neighborhood.  For most of my life Atlanta might as well have been the ends of the earth.Traveling was not something we thought seriously about. Because I never saw a professor it was hard for me to envision becoming one. Even in college, the only African-American professor I knew taught black history. It seemed as if the only thing we were qualified to speak about was our own past. Every math, science, history, english, and theology course I took served as a subtle claim regarding the limits of our callings.

The apostle John told his congregation that he wrote to them so that his joy might be complete. His happiness was tied to the happiness of his fellow believers. Being in Jerusalem is a joy. Having the opportunity to study the New Testament at St Andrews is a wonder. However that joy will find its fulfillment when these experiences and vocations become the common possession of the whole body of Christ. I want everyone to have the chance to come to Israel to pray where Jesus prayed and  to see the stories that shaped us come to life! I long to see the diversity of the body of Christ reflected in the totality of the christian enterprise including: teachers, professors,[1] missionaries,[2] doctors, and a host of other vocations.   The whole world needs the whole church to engage in the whole of the Christian mission.

 

[1] The best data I could gather says that only 3.6% of faculty at evangelical colleges and seminaries are minorities. See the Rah, Soong-Chan. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity. (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2009), 20.

[2] African-Americans only make up about 1% of cross-cultural missionaries. See here.


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