In the parlance of the urban street culture, to say that a person has street cred is a designation of acceptance of that person as one whom you can trust to be authentically who he/she is, and whom one can trust and with whom you can identify. Let me hi-jack that designation, and say that those of us who profess to be the followers of Christ should be considered authentic and believable in whatever culture we live our daily lives—should have street cred. Let me tell you a story out of my own past.

After World War II, my own father, a gifted mechanical engineer, completed his wartime commitment to the United States Merchant Marine, and came home to West Palm Beach to find a peacetime employment in that field. He became the resident maintenance engineer for one of the elegant winter resort hotels in Palm Beach, which had been closed during war. There was a lot to do to bring that hotel and its properties up to the standard of excellence they required. I had, by then, become a college student, and was looking for summer employment, and my dad took me on as a ‘go-fer’ for his maintenance crew. Here’s where it gets interesting. No one on that crew knew that I was his son. I called him “chief” since he had been a chief engineer in the maritime service. I was just a college kid with a summer job.

One morning while we were doing some major plumbing work at the hotel’s beach club, and during a coffee break, my dad came by the check on our progress and on the welfare of the crew, and to have a cup of coffee with us. That crew were a good-natured, positive, and totally irreligious bunch. When dad had left, one of the guys said: “Mr. Henderson is really a nice guy, and good to work for.” Another commented: “Yeah, and I hear that he is a Christian, whatever that is.” The first guy responded” “Well I don’t know what a Christian is, but if I were ever to become one I would want to be like Mr. Henderson.” Bingo! Street cred. My dad did his work with excellence, with concern for his workers, and with high ethics. He was a transparently authentic person.

Let me add, that I grew up with him, and in my adult years have come to appreciate more and more what a model he always was. Dad was very modest and self-effacing. He was quite economical with words—he wasn’t always talking about his profound faith. But he “walked the talk,” and at home, at work, and in the Christian community he was looked upon as an example of Christian integrity. When he did talk, people tended to listen and to take him seriously. I saw him early each morning, cup of coffee in hand and Bible in his lap refining that walk of faith. (It wasn’t until I was an adult that he told me of his prayers for me from my earliest years.)

We are observing a distressing episode today of those claiming to be ‘evangelical Christians’, while at the same time bastardizing that once-noble-designation. They come across as strident, prejudiced against other religions, races, sexual behaviors, as well as espousing loveless behavior toward the homeless, the immigrants, the sick, and the stranger, and so become the antithesis of the teachings of Jesus. They are totally without street cred as the followers of Christ.

I go back to that coffee break that morning in Palm Beach, and that honest and good natured workman who saw something in my dad that got his attention. Street cred. “… that men may see your good works and glorify God.” My dad has been my model in these years since, and my prayer is that I will be such an authentic model of the life of Christ to others, as he was to all who knew him.

Stay tuned, send comments, and pass the word along to others who might profit by my ramblings.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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