We celebrated Black History month in February and it reminded me of one of my dear friends, and true civil rights heroes, who has significantly influenced my life: Dr. John M. Perkins. John is an episode and a remarkable change agent. He was born a share-cropper’s son in Mississippi, what with all of the racial tensions and displays of injustice so common in that region. His older brother, a World War II veteran, was shot and killed, for no reason, by a deputy sheriff. John himself would later be imprisoned and beaten by the law enforcement officers for his role in voter registration. And barely escaped with his life.

John now laughingly calls himself a “third grade drop-out” though he is the recipient, all these years later, of multiple honorary doctorates. To escape the violent injustice of Mississippi, John moved to California, where he did well in management in a grocery chain. It was there that his life took a crucial turn—he was led to a transforming faith in Jesus Christ, and carefully discipled into that newfound faith. He then came under the profound persuasion that he should move back to Mississippi in a ministry of evangelism, and community economic development, … which he did, moving to the town of Mendenhall, and developing a fruitful community among the black population.

It didn’t take long for this remarkable ministry to catch the attention, not only state-wide but nationwide. It was in this period that my wife and I met John when he was speaking to a collegiate conference at a state park in southern Mississippi. We bonded instantly, and that friendship has been strong between John and his wife Vera Mae, and my (late) wife Betty.

So, significant was the transformation in the Mendenhall community that the state created a John M.  Perkins day in his honor. John trained younger leaders to take over the Mendenhall ministry, and he moved back to a troubled neighborhood in Pasadena, California, to do community development. … Now to the point of this blog: I was in Pasadena on a ministry to a nearby theological school, and was staying with John. On the wall of his study were all kinds of honors, honorary doctorates, and picture of John in the Oval Office of the White House. Wow!

That evening we were out for supper, the two of us, and I asked him how he maintained his humility with all those accolades? He finished his mouthful of fish, and responded: “Bob, whether I am chopping cotton in Mississippi, or a guest in the White House, I am the glory of God.” What an awesome response from this unique person transformed into one of God’s new humanity.

Now, decades have passed. John and Vera Mae are getting fragile, as am I, but he remains such a model to me: wherever, however, I am to be a radiant display of the grace of God. This “third-grade drop-out” has also continued to write. (His latest is: One Blood) He has had a profound influence on my life, so I am happy to celebrate it with you on this blog.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments



As a pastor who sought to faithfully shepherd congregations through some difficult, even traumatic, times, … I find these day in this nation downright frightening. This should not be altogether surprising to anyone who has read the Biblical documents. In the opening chapters, there appears a sinister figure in the form of a serpent who casts doubt on God’s character and good design: the satan (Satan, or the devil). We see this negative lurking in the background through all the centuries, … it erupts more unmistakably in the birth of Jesus, an attempt to kill him, … but most unmistakably after Jesus’ baptism, when Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness, during which time Satan putting a deceptive spin on the facts seeks to lure Jesus away from his calling to be the Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world. What Jesus knows is his calling is to take upon himself the sins of the world, bear them on the cross, and so usher in God’s new creation, forgiveness of sin, and new life in the Spirit.

But Satan doesn’t disappear. The apostles remind us that the whole world lies in the wicked one. After Paul’s eloquent teaching on the awesome role of the church, in his letter to the Ephesians, … almost as if the closing passage is the whole reason for the letter, he will say: “Finally, brothers and sisters, put on the whole armor of God so that you may stand against the wiles of the devil…” The first piece of that armor is the girdle of truth (i.e., Jesus is the truth and his word is truth).

To my point of these being frightening times. I am old enough to remember, that in the very unique and culturally advanced nation of Germany, there emerged out of the beer halls of Munich a blowhard named Adolph Hitler, who within a very few years had persuaded that whole nation to follow him in creating an “Aryan pure” Germany to dominate the world. His agent for disseminating this effort was his propaganda chief, Josef Goebbels. Goebbels essentially brainwashed Germany with a whole alternative view of who they were, and so legitimized the holocaust and the extermination of millions of Jews. He brainwashed the most of the German church into remaining silent and allowing this to happen.

With this in my mind I find frightening our president’s unbelievable agency of disinformation under the genius one Brad Parscale who within minutes can post millions of text messages, tweets, and Facebook messages supporting the president’s actions, and discrediting those who challenge them. The scriptures teach that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. The vast scope of this disinformation agency of the president’s is truly frightening, and no follower of the life and teachings of Jesus can afford to be neutral in the face of such an assault of the darkness.

(My source is the account of the influence of Brad Parscale in the March issue of Atlantic monthly.)

Stay tuned, … and pray for deliverance from such darkness.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



To say that something/anything is mediocre is hardly a compliment. It indicates that it is beneath standard expectations. When it comes to Christ’s church, it is tragic. The church is to be the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. It is to be the body of Christ. It is to be the communal demonstration of God’s new creation, of God’s new humanity. It is to be the glory of God, the radiant display of God’s nature in a human community in I lifestyle, its relationships, and in its passion to communicate the love of God for this broken world. It has been called the missionary arm of the Holy Trinity.

That said, such an awesome and transformational community is far too rare in most people’s experience. It is far too convenient to attend worship services and appreciate them, to be somewhat anonymous in the community, to support the institution financially, but hardly to sense our responsibility to the mission of God in the realistic vicissitudes of the “Monday morning world.” There’s a little limerick that says it well: They do it every Sunday, they’ll be over it on Monday. It’s only a habit they’ve acquired.

We desperately (that word deliberately chosen) need to regain a wholesome and transformational ecclesiology (study and understanding of the church). We need to find a few others, a thoughtful group in our church to pursue this calling, and to help and challenge to cast off mediocrity (lukewarm-ness?) and to pursue excellence in our mutual lives of obedience to the mission of Christ for his church, and not be drawn away by difficulties, false teachings, and pathological personalities.

Whenever a Christian community forgets, displaces, or dilutes Christ’s own purpose for the church, the church becomes mediocre, returns to just another human community, to acceptable ‘chaos’.

It is not surprising that this takes place so commonly in our church scene when even theological seminaries frequently have no required courses in ecclesiology or missiology, so that church leadership becomes complicit in the ecclesiastical chaos. I’ve struggled with this for a long time, especially in the ten years of my career when I sought to be an encourager to faculty and students in fifteen seminaries. Out of that I wrote a couple of books which could be a resource to those provoked by this blog: Enchanted Community: Journey Into the Mystery of the Church, and Refounding the Church from the Underside (both over my name: Robert Thornton Henderson). A third in this series deals with the spiritual conflict involved in the battle to maintain the church’s integrity: The Church and the Relentless Darkness.

To be continued … If these occasional blogs are helpful to you, then pass the word along to your friends.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



It’s almost impossible to avoid the forthcoming presidential election, what with it dominating the news incessantly, with the episodes of political cowardice it the debates in Washington (along with a few heartening episodes of political courage). For me, I’ve just applied for an absentee ballot due to age and infirmity, and the reality of it all came home. Right away the application required that I identify myself as either a Republican or a Democrat (or whatever). But that doesn’t determine who I think is the most qualified to lead this nation in these turbulent times.

There’s always the escape option, like the guy who humorously declared that there were three things they never discussed in his church: sex, politics, and religion. The truth is that the Bible engages these three areas of our human sojourn from beginning to end. The church of Jesus Christ is the community/polis of God’s new humanity. The sermon on the mount (and especially the beatitudes) is political to the core, and it is by one’s faithfulness to this mandate that people will know we are Jesus’ disciples. Look at it! Woe to the rich, but blessed are the poor. Blessed are the merciful, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are willing to suffer for righteousness sake, those who mourn, the meek, …

In the eighth and seventh centuries before the coming of Jesus, the Christ, the prophets were always chastising God’s people for ignoring the humanitarian requirements of God’s law: What does the Lord require of thee, O Israel, but to love justice and to do mercy. … Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. The love of neighbor. Economic provision for the helpless poor, sanctuary for the stranger and the homeless, … Now, if these requirements of God’s design are not taught and discussed in the church community, and if they are not held up as some kind of guideline for evaluating national leaders, … then somehow we’ve missed our calling to be salt and light in this present context of darkness, greed, human suffering, immorality, and deception.

So, that, in these coming weeks and months, it’s not whether we are Democrats or Republicans (Socialists or Independents) … but rather, which of the candidates is potentially must likely to exhibit and implement policies that are just and humane, peaceable and sensitive to the ethics of God’s new creation in Christ? “To him who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:11). We cannot be the light of the world if we succumb passively to the political darkness that has been the context of this present scene. Stay tuned.

I always appreciate your responses.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment



It is often said that: “Jesus didn’t come to make us more religious, but rather, more human. Yes! One synonymous designation of God’s kingdom, (as inaugurated in the coming of Jesus Christ) is that of God’s new humanity in Christ. That new humanity is being continually formed into the image of the son of God (Romans 8:27), i.e., in a whole new way of thinking and behaving, as well as in intimacy with God. We are called to be the glory of God right in the midst of all of the broken-ness, all of the “stink and stuff” that is so often confronting us.

I have found the description of ‘glorifying God” (given by Biblical scholar Gregory Boyd) to be a regular part of my daily prayer life: Glorifying God is the radiation of his divine nature in and through us. My prayer is that God will do in me what he must so that his divine nature is radiated through me in whatever I encounter, day by day—professionally, socially, in conflicted relationships, in my participation in the Christian community, yes… and in my political choices, and in the midst all of the injustices, deceptions, suffering, financial priorities, and complicated engagements that seem to have no solution.

We, God’s people, are to be his new humanity, and the living breathing demonstrations of his divine nature. In this calling, we are also promised that there will be suffering and misunderstanding. An unfortunate and frequent side effect of this is that church gatherings can be an escape, rather than an occasion for equipping to be God’s new humanity, “the radiant display of his divine nature” 24/7.

We are watching, in our current political scene, how easily professed Christian identity is contradicted in the realities of political engagement. I’ve long admired Rep. Walter Judd, a former medical missionary to China, who was elected to congress after World War II. When his political convictions, formed by his Christian faith, caused him to be at odds with his constituency, he told them that if they didn’t agree with him, not to vote for him. And, sure enough, he was voted out of office. But,… he was a profile of courage. We are not called to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can be and do the will of God, i.e., to be the radiant display of the divine nature.

Remember: “Unto us is given on behalf of Christ, not just to believe in his name, but to suffer for his sake.” (Philippians 1:29) Stay tuned …

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


At this confusing and frightening moment in our nation’s history, I am reminded of the wonderful and helpful poem/hymn by G.K.Chesterton, and offer it to my readers:

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honour and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



At the height of the civil rights movement I was pastor of a church in New Orleans that had this text from Isaiah 56:7 sculpted in the limestone arch over front entry. When some members and neighbors protested our welcoming admission of black men and women, I had to remind them of that text over our entry and insist that if we refused people on the basis of race, then we would need to remove that handsome archway with its text. (We received them, and over the years this has been vindicated, so much so that Canal Street Church defines itself as a “mosaic community,)

But the battle goes on. On this 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, anti-Semitism surfaces continually, along with anti-Islamic prejudice, anti-immigrant prejudice, and many other forms of prejudice. All the way back to God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah is the promise that in his seed should all the world be blessed. That promise would embrace every kindred and tribe and people, it would include the homeless, the hungry, the unjustly imprisoned, and the immigrants.

Then there is the astounding definition of the church in II Corinthians, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, and giving to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are called n Christ to be ‘reconcilers’ … not dividers or expressions of prejudice. That same church which I pastored in New Orleans took a devastating blow with the hurricane Katrina, which destroyed a vast number of the homes, and left the community in a state of re-evaluating what was God’s purpose. What took place was their building (which survived with little damage) becoming a community center, and the re-founding of the church as what they call a mosaic community that is non-denominational, which gathers a very diverse group of Christ’s people around worship and the teachings of Christ—and it has grown into a beautiful community of reconciliation, i.e., a house of prayer for all people.

Yes, and in our nation, the church must never be anti-Islamic, or anti-anything. We are to be reconcilers. Add to that the issue of sexual orientation. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and that includes all of us: the self-righteous, the morally confused, the those of different sexual orientation, the ethically struggling, every ethnic group— “a house of prayer for all people.”

This is not said lightly. There are complicated issues at stake here, … but if we are to fall off on the side of prejudice and exclusion, … or on the side of grace and reconciliation through Christ, … then I choose falling off on the side of grace, of being reconcilers.

Anti-Semitism in the Protestant church, began back at least to Luther’s day, and is was never confessed as a violation of God’s design, … and it emerged in all of its tragic ugliness in Nazi Germany, … and for the most part, the church remained silent. We dare not remain silent in all of the evidences of prejudice, especially in the church. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”

We are to be reconcilers. It is a critical and urgent calling in a society that harbors all too much prejudice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s was a very enlightened nation in every way. It was a center of higher education, of music and the arts, of science and technology, … and with a very prominent church presence and theological community. All of that makes it the more puzzling and frightening is any attempt to understand how a populist blowhard could emerge out of a beer halls of Bavaria, and within a brief time seduce the whole of that remarkable nation to follow his call to make Germany into a world power made up of ‘Aryan-pure’ Germans under him.

I was becoming aware of world events as a boy in the 1930’s, and with other Americans laughed at Charlie Chaplain’s movie: The Great Dictator, in which he spoofed Adolph Hitler in a brilliant caricature. But in Germany it was more frightening as that remarkable nation looked the other way even as Hitler seized power, and the government agencies fell under his sway, and celebrated him in vast displays of military presence, began to allow him to implement his atrocious anti-Semitic policies and the beginnings of the holocaust and the death camps, which ultimately led to the death of millions of Jewish citizens. With the creation of his Gestapo it was not a good idea to question Hitler’s actions.

So, to my point in this blog: where was the church in all of this? The church was a very prominent institution in Germany. The answer is that Hitler took the church captive also, for the most part. His challenge to the church was that to be a ‘good German Christian’ one would be a faithful follower of the policies of his Third Reich. And do you know what? Most of the church bought this line—but not all! But to protest this Nazi claim on the church was to become an outlaw.

It was in this context that a brilliant young German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote the classic work, The Cost of Discipleship.

There emerged an underground ‘witnessing church’, a clandestine church seeking to be faithful to the church’s calling and mission. Its most notable figure was this same Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his book Life Together describes this underground church, and has become a classic on the nature and discipline of the communion of God’s people. Ah! but this was an illegal church. The legal church in Germany was composed of what Bonhoeffer described as ‘religious Christians’ i.e. nominal (in name only) Christians.

Meanwhile the witnessing church was also producing one of the great confessions of church history, namely: The Barmen Declaration (under the guidance of Swiss theologian Karl Barth). That declaration is a classic for those in such a context as were they, and are we at this frightening moment in our history. This Barmen Declaration resides in many collections of the church’s confessions.

All of this is round-a-bout way of my saying to my readers that we are in a similar context in this country in which so much of the church in our nation seems content to be placidly conformed to a political agenda/party and dubious leadership, rather than being part of a dangerous and costly witnessing church. Bonhoeffer and the Barmen Declaration give us great resources in finding our way to faithful discipleship.

Or, to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. on this day that honors him, when challenged that he was breaking the law: “But we appeal to a higher law.”


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments



It helps us to remind ourselves, from time to time, that the church is, as the community of God’s new creation, a community that is called by Jesus Christ to be sent into the world to engage in the very same mission that was given him by his Father in heaven: “As the Father has sent me, even so do I send you.” … But right away comes the reality check: When are we to be engaged in that mission? The answer? 24/7, every day, all day, in every place that we find ourselves. The church is as much the church on Thursday afternoon as it is on Sunday morning (or whenever your Christian community gathers).

It is the church gathered weekly for mutual encouragement, to “teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns” to be equipped for mission and refreshed in our sense of calling. But, … it is no less the church when it is scattered into homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, etc. on Thursday afternoon. As a matter of fact, a case can be made that it is more in contact with the human community/world that Jesus came to reconcile to God on Thursday than it is on Sunday morning. Communal gatherings on Sunday morning are to re-evangelize us anew, to encourage us, to let us know that we’re not alone, and bond us to one another in love.

Ah! But then comes the “Monday morning world” into which Christ sends us to be contagious with the life of his new creation, to be his glory, the “the radiant display of his divine nature.” The Monday morning world is where the rubber meets the road. It is where the darkness is the most realistic and complex, yet where we are called to be the light, to be the demonstrations of new life in the Spirit what with all those fruits of a contagious and radical love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and so much more.

The Monday morning world is our mission field, and is that specific place to which Jesus sends us. When we become aware of this and pray about the realities, … it is amazing what kind of conversations you can get into in the most unexpected place, i.e., over a cup of coffee, or stuffed into the middle seat of a commuter plane!

Got it? Run with it. And pass the word along.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



Here, at the end of the week, given the chaos on the national and international scene, we need to be reminded that in whatever expression/community of the Christian we inhabit, … that the church, first of all, is a global community existing in multiple expressions, and a plethora of traditions, is a holy nation, whose calling is to be that of a community of Light in themidst of cultures of darkness. It is to be a community which is called to be God’s agent of righteousness and reconciliation, of peacemaking and of compassion for the broken, lost, hungry, homeless, unjustly imprisoned, and poverty-stricken of the world.

The reality is that we are citizens of the particular nations of the world. In those nations, we also need to choose the communities and political identities with which we will participate. Ah! But those choices are always made with the awareness of Christ’s calling to be primarily the demonstration of his New Creation, of his New Humanity. We become instruments of righteousness in national and international relationships.

This is an election year in these United States. As God’s new creation people out priority should be on those persons and those policies that most closely express demonstrate/incarnate the mission of God to the world in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. This is always costly. The darkness always resist the light. Greed and unrighteousness always have a way of trumping generosity and righteousness. Principalities and powers tend to resist the long-range welfare of God’s creation.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Uganda, or China, or Iraq … face similar, and often far more costly. But they are, with us, part of God’s holy nation, “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. And they are in their context also counter-cultural, salt and light in cultures replete with corruption and darkness, estrangement and unrighteousness.

God’s new life in his people is always counter-cultural. Run with that!

I always love to hear from you. Plus, is you find these blogs provocative, recommend them to your friends.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment