Thursday, November 10, 2011

St. John's Epistle for November 10, 2011

Dear church members and friends of St. John's,

You will be challenged and energized by the sermon for Stewardship Dedication Sunday, which is this Sunday, November 13. The text 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and the sermon title is Wield the Power of Life and Death: Stewardship of the Tongue. While we tend to focus on money on Stewardship Dedication Sunday, stewardship is actually a broad topic. It includes all members of our body, even and especially our tongue. This Sunday put your pledge card in the offering plate after the sermon and enjoy a BBQ lunch after the service if your culture allows you to eat BBQ. Whether to eat BBQ was a big cultural issue in New Testament times. We don't argue about BBQ here but we have other cultural differences.

One of the greatest strengths of our congregation is also one of our greatest challenges and that is our diversity. St. John's is an incredibly diverse group of people. There are almost as many cultures represented as there are people in our congregation. We have obvious cultural diversity in that some people are from various African nations and others from the United States. Beyond that, even the people from the United States are a very diverse group. Talk to our people who are from the United States and you find they are from all corners of this vast continent: East and West and North and South. Each of these regions of the United States has a different culture.

Beyond the cultural diversity of the different places we come from are the cultural diversities of the different churches we come from. We come from many denominations who have different emphasis in belief or practice. We come from different size churches in terms of membership. Some of us grew up in very small congregations and some in very large congregations and size differences make for very different styles of being a church. In addition, we have different political ideas and loyalties. Then consider the different ages of the members from young children to 90+ years of age. Each different age group has their own world view and idea of what a church should be and the proper way for a minister to relate to them and their peers. All of these differences and more add up to a group of people who are even more diverse than we ordinarily perceive with our eyes.

Throw a pastor into this diverse mix. Keep in mind the pastor has his own culture, age and experience of church to bring to bear upon each circumstance. Serving as pastor of our diverse congregation is stimulating to say the least. I consider it a great honor to serve as pastor of St. John's and do my best to live up to the challenge. I try to be sensitive to each person's needs according to their culture, age, religious background, previous church experience and expectations from that experience, political philosophy, level of faith development, understanding of God and humanity, educational level and culture of origin. Yet I am certain I will say and do things that may not fit with your cultural expectations of a pastor. I'm not planning to, but I feel certain it has happened in the past and it may happen again and the last thing I would want to do is embarrass you in front of your peers by making you have to explain my offensive behavior. If you tell me the most common things my culture does or doesn't do that offend your culture, I will try my very best to not act in those ways.

Communication is extremely important in such a diverse congregation as ours. Yet I sometimes sense our communication system is broken. Certain members only talk to their cultural peers about what the pastor has done to insult their culture. I apologize. I'm sorry. I had no intention of breaking your cultural norms. You get the picture of the challenge facing the Session as we lead this congregation. Yet, the Christian church has a history of adapting to a multitude of cultures over many generations. Our Christian faith was born in the midst of a cultural diversity that rivals anything we experience in Houston and at St. John's. The Holy Spirit is clearly able to operate effectively in an environment of cultural diversity. The New Testament and history of the church illustrate Christianity's ability to deal with diverse cultures and peoples. The question for you is whether you are able to operate in such an environment. With God's help, I feel like I am up to the challenge. How about you?

Pastor Jon

The Rev. Dr. Jonathan L. Burnham
St. John's Presbyterian Church
5020 West Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 77035
Phone 713-723-6262 |

St. John's Presbyterian Church
5020 West Bellfort / Houston, TX 77035
T. 713.723.6262 / F. 713.723-4015 / Email:
Worship Service: Sunday, 10:30 am / Sunday School: 9:00 am