Let’s start with a brief vocabulary lesson. Here are two potentially new terms and I would hate for Google to interrupt your reading so here you go...
daps: the knocking of fists together as a greeting or form of respect.
Guido Merkens: church planter who founded Concordia Lutheran Church in San Antonio, TX in 1951.
What does Guido Merkens (pictured on the graphic for this post) have to do with giving daps? A legitimate question that was recently introduced and answered for me. About three weeks ago I got a call from a college friend and fellow pastor. Hi Ben. He asked if I was going to be attending an large gathering of pastors from around the country for the Best Practices in Ministry Conference. I wasn’t planning to attend because my parents were visiting from California. He suggested that I change my mind, book a flight, and find a place to stay. Why?
WE WON AN AWARD!
Not what you were expecting, right? Neither was I. Bridge City Community had been nominated by a number of people from around the country to receive the Guido Merkens Entrepreneurial Ministry Award. And we won! I couldn’t have been more surprised. Honored, excited, and definitely taken aback by the fact that our story was reaching that many ears and opening that many eyes to the beautiful struggle of reconciliation.
Considering I had no idea who Guido Merkens was I headed straight for the search bar. Avoiding the initial automatic form fill of “Guido Fist Pump” and “Guido Jersey Shore” my fingers worked quick enough to find some information about who this Guido dude was and why we were being recognized with an award that bore his name. Guido Merkens was a church planter back in the day when knocking on door after door wasn’t weird. "The only thing Merkens prayed for before he received his first assignment [from the seminary] was to be sent to a place where he could start a congregation from scratch… because he had all kinds of ideas about how to do ministry and was anxious to try them.”
After reading that quote from an LCMS obituary I realized I shared a certain familiarity with this man I had never met - a kinship rooted in the mutual desire to explore ecclesial methodologies. In his lifetime Merkens planted a flourishing congregation, wrote a bunch of books, and became a high ranking synodical official. I’ll probably never honor his legacy and the award named after him with the same credentials. Just to be recognized in the lineage of entrepreneurial pastors is more than enough for me. It was a humbling experience to accept the award and applause Friday evening on behalf of Bridge City Community. Like I told the crowd at the end of my short acceptance speech, “It’s a lot scarier speaking all of you to than walking through the projects.” I was like Eminem in 8-Mile palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy thankfully no vomit on the sweater.
Guido Merkens may have planted a church in San Antonio, TX but on that night he visited the hood. My friend Ben, the one who informed me of the award, was also the one to present it to me. We didn’t dap. We did the white guy thing and firmly shook hands. However, the moment that star shaped acrylic statue hit my palms it was as if Guido Merkens gave props to the southside of Chattanooga.
What we’re doing in Chattanooga isn’t so innovative or entrepreneurial if I’m being honest. We’re simply trying to imitate the ministry of Christ. We hear the cries of the prophets, the laments of the exiled, the whispered pleas of those in need of healing. We act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Despite the challenges we are blessed as we get front row seats to the shalom of God weaving back together the fabric of his Kingdom and our community. I can’t imagine worship without seeing an ER doctor and a single mother sitting next to one another; or walking the streets with kids from the housing projects hand in hand with a middle-aged woman who has Luther's seal tatted on her ankle; or seeing racial, educational, and socio-economic barriers breaking; or experiencing the development of a family grown through the power of the Holy Spirit. I never would’ve imagined having the chief of police and director of public safety’s cell phone numbers or the fact that they would call me for help from our ministry.
I could not have been more honored to accept the achievement on behalf of Bridge City Community. Admittedly, I’m self-conscious because I didn’t start BCC and take the plunge into urban mission work to give speeches, receive awards, or gain notoriety. Being an urban missionary and pursuing reconciliation isn’t sexy but it is necessary. My wife and I took a step of faith and opened our eyes to the broken, the segregated, the overlooked, and the forgotten knowing it would not be short and sweet, but a fulfilling long term grind.
‘Preciate it Guido. Daps bruh.
May our efforts be as honoring to the community and faithful to Christ as yours was.