Join us tomorrow, Friday, June 12, on PLI Facebook Live at 11 AM CDT for prayer and an insightful dialogue around racial reconciliation with Pastor Mark Teike, a longtime PLI mentor, teacher and trainer, and Dr. Frank Griffin, Bishop Charles Sims and Dr. Jane Sims, longtime friends and colleagues in Columbus, Indiana. Invite others to join you. (Follow PLI on Facebook so you can find us on Friday.)
Earlier this week, Gail and I discussed the issues of racial reconciliation with Mark in light of the death of Mr. George Floyd and the tragic events that have engulfed our country and ushered in this topic in households across the country.
Mark is one of the most humble, soft spoken, gifted communicators of the Word of God that we know. Here’s a sample of the conversation.
Long before the tragedy surrounding the death of George Floyd and the protests, you were deeply invested in racial reconciliation in Columbus.
I’ve been a pastor at St. Peter for 28 years. Many years ago I began to build relationships with some of the African American pastors here. I began to understand their journey better. I realized that what I thought I knew about the black experience was not accurate. Before that time, I would have thought: “There they go again.” Not empathetic. Judgemental. I had no clue what it was like to be black in America. The more I learned the more I wanted to bring the healing power of Jesus.
You’re a busy pastor. It would be easy for you not to take time for this.
Standing up for racial reconciliation and against injustice is the Jesus-thing to do. It’s a lifelong journey. We had a city wide demonstration at the courthouse last week. I cleared my calendar so I could be there.
Years ago, I heard John Keischnick, one of the founding leaders of PLI, teach that there are two questions every leader needs to answer. 1. What business are we in? 2. How’s business? Our business is people. People matter to God. When we see people being wounded, we have to step up! Jesus did. To not speak up and act is to say that things like this don’t matter.
Years ago you put racial reconciliation on the table at the church with a sermon you preached.
I shared my own journey. I was very transparent. I acknowledged how far I had to go and the racist roots where I had started. I admitted this is something I wouldn’t have spoken on a few years ago. I wrestle. You wrestle. You don’t have to beat yourself up. Let the Spirit work transformation in you.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.Proverbs 31:8-9
Where did your journey start?
I grew up in a racist environment. 45 years ago when I started dating Debbie, my wife, she called me out on it. “What’s up with that?” I liked her. She had a lot of influence on me. I started to change.
A Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast in Columbus accelerated your journey.
Several years after we moved to Columbus, the mayor decided to host a breakfast. He asked me to speak. In preparation for it, I interviewed leaders from the African American and Latino communities, as well as other minority groups. I just asked open ended questions. It opened my eyes. It broke my heart. Government can do some. Education can do some. But, it’s the body of Christ that can be the real difference makers. The Gospel changes lives.
You’ve been willing to use your position to help people listen.
Some years ago, the school board in our community was about to vote down making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a school holiday. All the board members were white. I went to the board meeting and simply said: “The African American experience on this is different than it is for us. We need to listen. Seek to understand.” It’s true for all of us. All of us in leadership positions in the white community need to listen and try to understand. I’ve tried to be the channel that opens doors.
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.Matthew 25:40
Bishop Charles Sims will be with you on PLI’s Morning Prayers tomorrow. He’s a good friend.
I’ve learned so much from Charles. 10 or 15 years ago, vandals had painted graffiti on the church when he arrived early Sunday morning. He was upset. He walked over to our church to see me. Some of our members joined their members. They cleaned the graffiti. They had a prayer vigil. We did a neighborhood walk together.
There’s a price to pay with speaking up?
We don’t have problems speaking up for the unborn but racism seems different. It runs deep. I can preach on adultery or white collar crime easily. Racism is different. It runs deep.
Help us understand.
Every black father I know, when their son turns 16 and gets his driver’s license gives him “the talk.” If you get stopped by the police, you do three things: 1. Keep your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. 2. Have your driver’s license in a visible place. 3. Ask permission before you move your hands. I don’t know of any white fathers that give the same talk.
Tell us about this statement on the attendance card in church.
Six or seven years ago I studied Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and then the Gospels. It was filled with life lessons, what we’ve called the heart of a disciple. It’s one of 12 characteristics for us. This is what it means to reflect the heart of Jesus.
Mark, there’s a number of leaders trying to figure out what to do, how to contribute to racial reconciliation. What would you suggest?
Educate yourself. Learn. It all depends where you’re starting from. Years ago, Bishop Sims gave me John Perkins’ book “One Blood.” Learn their journey. Search the Scriptures. Read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Find someone who will walk alongside you. Ask, “In light of everything going on, can you help me understand?” Remind yourself that it’s a journey. Not a sprint. Don’t be a jack hammer. Just don’t be silent.
It requires a courageous step?
At the end of the day, a leader has to ask, “Who do I fear…if I am to fear, love and trust in God? Who do I most want to please?” It will be OK.
Shortly after I arrived here 28 years ago, a man came to me and didn’t like something I had preached. He threatened: “What if I decide and some others decide to withhold our offerings?” I said: “Well, God loves a cheerful giver and it seems to me you might not be able to give cheerfully at our church. If that’s true, why don’t you find some other ministry where you could cheerfully give. God will work it out at our church.”
You see. We can’t cave. We need to love them. Respect them. Speak gently. But, I have to answer to God…and, of course, to the board.
You think about Jesus with the woman caught in adultery? It was a teaching, discipling moment. The woman at the well? It was a teaching, discipling moment. The parable of the Good Samaritan? Jesus rubbed some people the wrong way!
A man…fell into the hands of robbers. A priest…passed by… So, too a Levite. But a Samaritan…took pity on him…. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?Luke 10:30-37
…The one who had mercy on him. …Go and do likewise.
Thank you, Mark! Your humble, soft spoken, bold wisdom will be a blessing to many. And, thanks for joining us for PLI’s Morning Prayers tomorrow on Facebook Live at 11 AM CDT with your good friends and pastors Bishop Charles Sims and Dr. Jane Sims and Dr. Frank Griffin.
Please share this blog with other leaders that might be encouraged by Mark’s story.