Being prophetic in leadership and preaching is challenging but it can also be transforming. Take the case of the once racially segregated churches in South Carolina, USA. One of the Baptist Churches there appointed a new preacher, who though very uneducated, understood the gospel. Most pastors would recoil at his preaching method. For his first sermon he simply flipped the bible open and started preaching the words his finger landed on, Paul’s words to the Galatians that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. In 1950’s southern USA where churches were racially segregated the application was obvious, at least to the preacher. There shouldn’t be black churches and white churches, there should just be churches made up of black and white.
The deacons weren’t so appreciative of this message and demanded that their new preacher preach something different! The preacher did do something different – he fired the deacons and kept on preaching his message of racial unity. Many people left the church. His already small congregation became even smaller, dwindling to just four people. But then it started to grow, bit by bit, until it included people of all races. One congregation member was a lecturer in English Literature at the university of Southern Carolina who would drive 70 miles to listen to this uneducated preacher. His reason? “Because that mean preaches the gospel.”
Source: Reported in Tony Campolo, You Can Make a Difference
All of us have heard of Desmond Tutu, but few of us will know who Trevor Huddleston is. Yet without Trevor Huddleston there may have been no anti-apartheid leader named Tutu.
Asked by the BBC to identify the defining moment in his life Desmond Tutu spoke of the day he and his mother were walking down the street. Tutu was nine years old. A tall white man dressed in a black suit came towards them. In the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. But this day, before a young Tutu and his mother could step off the sidewalk the white man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her!
The white man was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican priest who was bitterly opposed to apartheid. It changed Tutu’s life. When his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the sidewalk because he was a man of God Tutu found his calling. “When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God” said Tutu.
Huddleston later became a mentor to Desmond Tutu and his commitment to the equality of all human beings due to their creation in God’s image a key driver in Tutu’s opposition to apartheid.
Source: This story has been widely reported including by Tutu himself in a 2003 interview with the BBC and in Tutu’s Nobel Prize ceremony.
The daughter of comedian Groucho Marx was once denied admittance to an exclusive country club swimming pool with her friends because she and her family were not members. Realising what had happened, embarrassed officials sent the Marx family an apology and an application to join. Groucho declined the invitation with the comment, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
Someone still tried to smooth over the incident by persuading the comedian to allow an application to be submitted for membership. The country club was embarrassed further when the application was denied. The reason? The Marx family was Jewish and the club was “restricted.”
True to form, Groucho wrote back: “My wife is not Jewish. Can she go swimming and let our daughter wade up to her waist?”
Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. A Hindu, Ghandi nevertheless admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, “Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”
Ghandi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Apparently Ghandi’s rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practising law in South Africa. He had become attracted to the Christian faith, had studied the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and was seriously exploring becoming a Christian. And so he decided to attend a church service. As he came up the steps of the large church where he intended to go, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door. “Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” the man asked Ghandi in a belligerent tone of voice.
Ghandi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.”
The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for Kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”
From that moment, Ghandi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church.
Source: information reported at pursuingchrist.com
David Suzuki is one of the world’s best known campaigners for the environment. He is a respected and regarded citizen of his homeland Canada. Many people are unaware however of the painful memories Suzuki has from childhood.
On December 7, 1941 the Japanese airforce bombed Pearl Harbour and so Japan entered the Second World War. People of Japanese descent were immediately suspect in Canada. Within nine days of the bombing they were required to register with the authorities as “enemy aliens”. Their property was confiscated, their bank accounts were frozen and they were told they would have to leave their homes.
David Suzuki was five years old at the time, and his parents were second generation Canadians…of Japanese descent. By the time David turned he, his mother and his sisters were sent to an internment camp in British Columbia. His father was sent to work on a road gang, rejoining his family in the camp a year later. The conditions were filthy and cramped.
Toward the end of the war the internees were given a choice. The Canadian government would pay for them to move to Japan, or they could remain in Canada, on condition that they lived east of the Rocky Mountains. Japanese-Canadians were no longer welcome in the Suzuki’s hometown of Vancouver. David’s family chose to remain in Canada, destitute and in poverty.
The entire episode left a terrible legacy in David Suzuki’s life. Proud to be Canadian he began to despise his Japanese descent and his Asian appearance. For years as a teenager he saved money for an operation to enlarge his eyes and dye his hair. He refused to walk down the street with his parents because he felt ashamed of them. His father drummed into him that to do well with white people he would have to be twice as good as them.
Even today Suzuki struggles with the past. He says “The terrible burden I’ve had all my life is that I seem to be constantly trying to reaffirm to Canadians that I’m a worthwhile human being. It’s really ridiculous to be 64 years old and still feel that you’ve got to prove to them that you’re not somebody who should be locked up.”
Source: Information reported in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend Magazine, April 8, 2000