Reflections on Marriage

As the Executive Director of the Hope Center and in my personal views, the definition of marriage has been illegitimately relegated to the State and Federal Court systems of our Country. If you stand for the separation of Church and State – than you must conclude that marriage is a Church Institution not a State institution.

Marriage has been originated, designed and defined by God and instituted through the relationship He authored (Genesis 2:18-25). The biblical view of sex can also be argued that it too, is an institution authored by God (Genesis 3 and 4) but that will be in another blog. We, as the Body of Christ must strengthen our God given position on the sanctity of marriage. Too many Christians in leadership have abdicated biblical truth to comply with the immoral malaise of our American culture. They (some Christian Leaders of influence) have refused to take the stance of Peter and John who declared “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey man rather than God.” –Acts 4:19

This link is to an article from Christianity Today that encourages us about the state of Marriage among Believers even at the demise of prominent Christian leaders who adhere to what is cultural instead of what is biblical. –Marvin Daniels

Reflections on Baltimore

photo courtesy of beaumontenterprise.com

A prayer vigil in Baltimore outside of city hall. Photo courtesy of beaumontenterprise.com

Last week, events in Baltimore brought new energy to a national conversation that has been ongoing for months. As a matter of fact, just days ago I was meeting with a pastor at a local Panera Bread, and as our meeting wrapped up I joined in on such a conversation concerning the violent events and protests in the city of Baltimore.  The reactions were vast from this group of white males. Some asked: “Why would people destroy property; injure others, or react so harshly?” Others wondered about the practice of injustice and abuses of authority among those who serve and protect. Still others said they believe the system works for everybody.

I watched emotions rise as each sought to defend his own position. After the group dismissed I got the attention of one of the men and we began to debrief from the discussion. I asked him, “How do you think white Americans would respond if the incidents around the nation were reversed? If the events that took place were perpetrated by African-American police officers upon white children, youth, young adults, and older adults?” His answer was insightful.

He stated, “Your question is not plausible. This could never happen in America. As a matter of fact, we do not have any historical evidence or examples of white people being suppressed or oppressed by any group in this country, besides ourselves. In order for this to truly occur, black people would have to be at the very core of power and authority in this country and that will not happen any time soon, if ever. I’m not trying to be a bigot here, just stating the facts. You see who runs Wall Street, Congress, Senate, the Legislative Branch, the mainstream media, and corporate America, and we are the majority population. So your question is not plausible because white America does not allow it to be possible.”

I responded by asking him if the white Americans he knows are legitimately engaging conversation, criticism and narratives pertaining to the past and current events relating to white police officers and black victims.

He responded, “Listen, white America feels better talking or writing about these issues. It keeps us from having to actually change anything.”

My response? “Hmmmm.”

Evangelistic Methods of a Drug Dealer

This is the second post in a series on developing urban student leadership. To read part one, click here.

When I was a youth pastor in Chicago I learned a lot about the neighborhood just by walking around. One day, early on in my time there, I ran into one of the local drug dealers on one of my walks. I knew this man was successful in recruiting young people to his operation. Children as young as six years old, all the way to teenagers, would pick up and deliver his product.

This man recognized me as the youth pastor from the corner church and greeted me politely. In response, I took the opportunity to ask him about his recruitment strategy. “You know Rev,” he said. “When the kids leave their homes in the morning to go to school they see me. And when they come home from school they see me. When they go to the store they see me. When they play in the park they see me. When they wait for the bus they see me. But when they want to see you, they got to go to your church.”

His statement was convicting. It changed my strategy for reaching children and youth. He gave me a new understanding of the power of presence.

Simply being present does many things. It demonstrates to kids that we’re interested in them. It shows them that they are important to us. It gives them an opportunity to see what we are like, not just to hear what they’re to be like. When we practice the power of presence in our students’ lives, we have the opportunity to tell them and show them how to live.

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When I tell the young men at The Hope Center how they should respect young ladies, I also model that in how I treat my wife. They see our interactions because we spend time with the students. This gives credibility to my instruction so it’s not just rhetoric. Student leadership always begins with adult leadership. It must first be modeled.

We in the church are notorious for teaching people biblical truths without living them out before them. Sometimes it’s simply that we teach from a distance, as that drug dealer accused me of doing. Other times our actions negate our words. Authentic presence understands that

  • We are the mirrors into which young people look
  • We can’t take kids further than we ourselves have gone
  • Faith can be caught and transferred

Two years after my first encounter with our neighborhood drug dealer, he dropped into one of our evening programs where some of his would-be recruits were gathered. I walked over to him and said softly, “I took your advice.” He shook his head, obviously recalling our earlier conversation, and then walked out. My initial interaction with that man made me more committed to making sure youth see me and other adult Christian leaders as they board the bus, play in the park, go to the store and enter our churches. That’s the power of presence.

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Developing Urban Student Leadership – Part One

My oldest son Malachi recently celebrated his 21st birthday. When he was growing up, people would often call him “Little Marvin.” Anytime I heard someone use that nickname, I wondered whether it was good or bad. Was I teaching him everything he needed in order to be equipped for all that God has planned for his life? As he grew up imitating me, did that lead him and others closer to Christ and his purposes?

Marvin Angie Malachi

This is the essence of developing Christlike student leadership. Each generation has the responsibility of passing on essential character traits to the next generation. If we criticize the generation following us, we must take responsibility for the fact that they are reflecting what we taught them. Our charge is to produce a Christlike heritage in our children and youth.

This is especially challenging given today’s inclusive society and the pressures of urban youth culture. Many of our youth are forming more relationships on social media than with their neighbors. As a result of our teaching them about inclusiveness, many have created their own customized religions. I’ve heard teenagers refer to themselves as Buddhist Catholics or Christian Muslims. Even among those who attend churches, many are embracing non-Christian forms of worship and rituals.

How will we regain our distinctive traits as biblical Christians? What will we leave this generation to pass on to the one that succeeds them? How can we help them know God intimately, obey Christ willingly, serve others lovingly, and influence society strategically? How do we insure that our youth groups become more than warehouses of activities, so that young people develop into spiritual leaders of God’s kingdom?

Leadership must be modeled, cultivated and demonstrated. This month I want to focus on three concepts that develop students into student leaders:

  • The Power of Presence
  • An Appreciation for the Process
  • A Focus on the Product

Each of these three concepts has a role to play in Christian youth leadership development, and I’m looking forward to unpacking them this month and hearing your feedback. What practices or concepts have you found to be essential when working with young people and developing them into Christian men and women?

Workers Together for the Kingdom,

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September Ministry Update

Staff at CCDAAt the end of September, THe Hope Center staff participated in the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) annual conference in Raleigh, NC. The theme was Flourish, and the sessions, workshops and conversations centered on Jeremiah 28:4-7. The conference re-energized our vision, reconnected us with other ministry workers from all over the country and renewed our thoughts as we considered how to best honor God by establishing healthy communities where the vulnerable flourish.

This conference was a great way to end a busy and fruitful month. September is the start of our program year, which we celebrated with Leaders In Training and Outreach Bible Study kick-off parties.

LIT students and leaders had a great time at Lake Winnebago fishing, tubing, and swimming, and as the evening wrapped up THC staff member Kelli Johnson challenged the kids to continue growing as Christian leaders school, in their community and at The Hope Center.

At the OBS kick-off kids and their families enjoyed Family Night. Students played their all-time favorite relay races, earned points for the girls and boys teams, were introduced to their Bible study leaders, and made ice cream sundaes while their family members had the opportunity to observe a typical evening at OBS.

September also included lots of work on the Leadership House, a house on our property that will function as THC offices and home base for LIT.  Several groups came to serve us this month by painting, demoing and cleaning the Leadership House, as well as updating our landscaping. Visit our Facebook page to see photos of their work.

We are thankful for your  time and resources that allow us to participate in God’s work in this community. We will continue following Him as he reveals new opportunities to serve youth and families in our neighborhood, but we can’t do it without you. Will you pray for us this fall?

Join us in thanking God for:

  • The 8 new volunteers who joined our faithful group of OBS and LIT leaders
  • Opportunities to connect with new families, especially parents of OBS students
  • The Leadership House, which allows us to explore new outreach and discipleship opportunities as we discern how God is asking us to use the space.
  • For the many individuals and groups who are giving their time and resources to the Leadership House remodel

Join us in asking for:

  •  Lasting relationships with the students we serve and their families
  • God-honoring, thought-provoking discussion at our community forum
  • Renewed commitment to our mission and vision as we press forward in God’s work in our community

My Thoughts on Ferguson

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Dear THC Friends and Champions,

This August update was going to be about Kansas City students heading back to school. In just a few days, The Hope Center’s youth ministry programs will be launching for the 2014-2015 school year, and we need your prayers for our kick-off parties, volunteer training sessions, and new ministry initiatives.

However, on August 9, a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager named Michael Brown, launching the community of Ferguson into the national spotlight. Over the last three weeks story after story has unfolded in Ferguson.  These stories raise questions about race relations; the ongoing infractions against and killing of African-American males without recourse; police misconduct or brutality; and a nation deeply divided by these realities. These issues relate to our work at The Hope Center and I felt I could not send a ministry update without addressing this event.

I know many of you have a diversity of views pertaining to this situation and some of you may feel  removed from the reporting of it. However, I believe we can unite around this idea: great days are ahead of us in Kansas City. I feel confident that what took place in Ferguson will not be repeated here because our response can be and must be different. What an opportunity for the Church!

As a African-American male, husband of 24 years, father of five children (three sons), and the executive director of The Hope Center – as well as one who has encountered a plethora of injustices in both the evangelical and secular circles of society my response to the current events in Ferguson is multifaceted.

  • Racial Righteousness: As a Christian I do not look to culture to model a way to live together in oneness not sameness (1 Corinthians 12). Rather, the Church is responsible to set this standard.  The Church—regardless of race, economic status or political affiliation—has the great challenge and opportunity of modeling how people can live together and love one another as disciples of Jesus Christ (John 15).
  • Act justly: Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” This verse reminds Christians of the standard that God requires. Acting justly as a righteous people allows us to speak truth to power in our culture, and call out wrong regardless of skin color or economic context.  God is loving and just. Justice allows the sinful to become the children of God. When Saints are quiet in the midst of injustice we condone it.
  • Generation Next: Our youth are baffled by war, economic instability, poverty, neighborhood conflict and the contradiction they perceive in the phrase “to serve and protect.” Throughout 30 years of ministry my emphasis has been on teaching Christian young people how to make the connection between their Christian faith and life. What we believe should affect how we behave. Youth are often confused by the behavior of adults they observe acting in ways that contradict the things they claim to believe. At The Hope Center our desire is that the example set by THC staff and volunteers illuminate a clearer example to our students of how to live out our Christian beliefs. It is a challenging opportunity before us – to reach and develop world-class students who see the inherent value of people as God created them, and to serve and love those people toward a relationship with Christ.

Three things you can do now:

  1. Respond to us: Click here to indicate your interest in discussing this subject matter in a community fellowship forum, which I will lead at The Hope Center.
  2. Read more on this topic: Divided By Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith; Deep Justice in a Broken World by Chap Clark and Kara Powell; Oneness Embraced by Dr. Tony Evans.
  3. Pray for these requests: Peace and justice in Ferguson, MO; Comfort for families who are victims of gun violence; the church to regain their prophetic voice in the culture; The Hope Center’s efforts in reaching, equipping and empowering families and especially young men on the east side of Kansas City.

Thankful for your partnership,


Marvin Daniels
Executive Director
The Hope Center