Moving from the center toward the margins

When you (aka along with your social/ethnic/religious/political group) perceive that you are moving (being moved/”forced”) from the center of influence and power, it may feel like marginalization or discrimination simply because you/we/I experience a loss of privilege. When my privilege declines, whatever the reason, I am likely to experience grief and loss. This may translate into fear or anger.
Even when in the intellectual abstract I recognize that no one group should wield disproportionate influence, when my influence decreases I experience a disequilibrium. It may be this feeling is impossible to avoid, even if I chose and initiate the move away from the center.

As a Christian I need to be reminded that our faith is rooted in this move from the center toward the margins. This move is essential to God’s salvific work. The incarnation itself is God moving from power toward weakness (cf Col 1 & Phil 2). To begin his ministry Jesus moves from Jerusalem to Galilee. The penultimate act of God is submission to trial, conviction and crucifixion as a blasphemer and traitor (placed on the margin of society and culture).

Jesus is the embodiment of God moving from the center to the margin. Genesis 1-2, John 1 and Revelation 20-21 tell us that this is where God chooses and prefers to be – here with us.

What does this mean for the church today, in the West, in the US, here in Dallas? Will we follow God in this move toward the margin and release our hold on he centrality of our power and influence? What will such a move cost us? What will it gain us?

During this Lenten season, my desire is to move toward the margins together with the people of Central. One might argue that my arrival as the Senior Pastor of a church on the border of Highland Park is a move toward the center. This can’t be honestly argued against. And yet for me it is a dance – moving toward the center so that together we might move toward the margins. Clinging to past glory or privilege gains us nothing. Jesus never sought favor because of his royal or priestly lineage. Instead, what if we carry the benefit and privilege we have gained at the center, which may simply be our solid sense of self, and what is possible. What if we take this hope and expectation for the future and carry it with us to the margins, offering hope to others? 

Central Christian Church of Dallas, Texas is literally on the margins of multiple largely homogenous communities: #ParkCities, #NorthPark, #Oaklawn, #Uptown. We are in Dallas (and #DallasISD) but look across the street into #HighlandPark. What might it mean for Central to be literally that – to be the center toward which people from all of these communities move. In the process they would be moving from their own community toward the margins, and toward a meeting place with others.

My friend Matthew Russell and his colleagues at Project Curate are doing exactly this in the city of Houston. Matt is also on staff at St Paul’s UMC in Houston.

Missional church is another way to consider this move. Missional calls us to “go out – go deep – go together”. Missional is a move together into deep community for the sake of going out in to the world, toward the margins, where Christ may be found. When we look at the beatitudes of Luke 6 or Jesus call to serving him by serving others (Mt 25) we are being called to the margins.

How can you move toward the margins in your own life? How can you do it not as a visitor and vacationer, but as a pilgrim, a migrant, with all the inherent trust and vulnerability those suggest?

The Candle of HOPE

First Sunday of Advent – The Candle of HOPE

advent-1-candleFaith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This means that hope must precede faith. Our faith in God revealed in Jesus is rooted and grounded on the deepest hopes of our hearts and minds. The dreams of a better world that stir our imagination. These are the dreams of Abraham and Sarah, the dreams of King David, the dreams of the prophets, the dreams of Joseph and Mary and the Shepherds and the Wise Men. These are the dreams of Jesus and the Apostles – the dreams of God’s kingdom manifest on earth as it is in heaven.

You and I, by virtue of our calling and baptism into Christ, are co-creators with God of bringing this dream to reality. This church exists so that we can hear the dreams of old, have our own imaginations stirred, and invite our neighbors to work alongside us for the healing of the nations – the way of God’s shalom.

As you enter into this Advent season, what are your dreams? What is your hope, of which your faith in God will be the assurance?

As a prayer for God’s fulfilling these hopes and dreams, we light the candle of Hope.

(The first purple candle is lit as the hymn is sung.)

Text (c) Ken G. Crawford 2016
Photo credit –

The Church is Open for Business

The Churchis Open for BusinessWe spend the majority of our waking hours at work between the ages of 20 and 70. Jesus was constantly entering into people’s work places and spaces – the fishing  pier, the market, the town square, the tax office. When we fail to show up and engage in the work place, we are missing an essential aspect of Jesus’ ministry strategy, and missing the opportunity to bless and be blessed by our neighbors.

Sometimes we can go to them, but we also have an opportunity to create a space where they will want to gather for work and community building.

Congregations have several elemental strengths when it comes to incubating small businesses:

  1. They are already physically present in communities.
  2. They are geographically close to individuals who are longing for greater meaning in their lives and a rewarding way to financially support themselves.
  3. They historically have a web of relationships with which to engage and collaborate
  4. They have property (buildings and land) which are often underutilized resources that can be leveraged for new and innovative projects.
  5. They may also have a tradition and a theology that encourages helping people to flourish and thrive in a holistic way – in every aspect of human life.

For more on this topic:
Small Business Incubators, Community Development, and the Church
Social Entrepreneurship on

The Invisible God Made Visible


Thesis: Christ is the fullness of God made visible. God-invisible-and-unknowable becomes concretized for humanity and creation in the Christ. Love, flourishing and wholeness are the marks of God’s true nature and will for us. As the church, the “Body of Christ”, “the continuation of the incarnation” (my phrase), we are called (and gifted!) to tell that story and bear witness in both our words and our embodied lives.


ALL THINGS exist in Christ - fb.pngPaul is unequivocal that in Jesus, the Christ, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col 1:19). He makes no real attempt to explain the metaphysics. Whether he wasn’t interested, or just recognized the futility, who knows. The closest we get may be John’s prologue:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…  14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.  (John 1)

The LOGOS of GOD – the word, mind, thoughts, heart, wisdom of God. This has echoes of earlier writings:

Wisdom Speaks:

Proverbs 3:13 Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, 14 for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy. 19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; 20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.

Proverbs 8: 22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— 26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Solomon, in writing to his sons, seems to foreshadow the truth of the incarnation. And he recognizes that this Wisdom of God in and by which the worlds came to be is something which can also dwell within and among us. God’s imagining and creating wisdom is not reserved for the divine, but is intended for us to experience and embody.


All things are created in, by and through the Christ, the Logos of God. This Christ became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus, who fully embodied the Godhead. Again, this is a mystery that must be taken on faith, for the human mind and languages cannot comprehend or explain it.

Created in God’s image, we humans are free to choose how we will use our power. And often we use it to serve ourselves at the exclusion and to the detriment of others. This is the origin of sin and the source of much human suffering. It is the reason we need redemption. We need to be not rescued from an angry God, but reconciled back to God because of the natural consequences of our own individual and collective selfishness.


All things are redeemed in, by and through the Christ, the Logos of God. This Christ was crucified in the flesh in Jesus, and thus the fullness of God entered into, took on, and traveled through the brokenness of humanity. And in so doing, God redeemed our sin and the suffering of all creation, reconciling us to God’s self – “…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” (2 Cor 5). But the work is not yet done.


We are held, and “held together” in the abiding love of God made known in Jesus. We means not just Christians, but all humanity – those who know and believe the story, those who reject it because it has been misrepresented, and those who have never heard it. And not just humanity, but all of creation.

Julian of NorwichJulian of Norwich envisioned this aspect of God as if someone were holding a hazelnut in the palm of her hand, and that small thing represented all of the known universe and the history of humanity past, present and future. Mirabai Starr’s translation is a moving and accessible edition of this writing. Whether a hazelnut, acorn, or something more relevant to your context, the impact is the same – God holds, nurtures, and preserves creation, life, existence itself.


The Works of God are not just something that happened one time, long ago and far away. When Jesus said, “It is finished” he meant his work was done. Our work was just entering a new stage of development as God’s children on earth. Paul goes so far as to say that “in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Surely he does not intend to imply that anything was imperfect or lacking in God’s ability to redeem Christ’s death to accomplish our reconciliation. Rather, it is the continuing spreading of the message, and the living embodiment of that life, that Paul intends to illustrate here. What was “lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of the church” is in fact that they were time bound – they happened. In the Roman Catholic Mass rite, and in some other traditions, this is addressed by proclaiming that Christ continues to be crucified in the flesh in the mass. For Paul, it was a matter of living sacrificially for the sake of others, so that they could encounter this creating, reconciling, sustaining love of God in Christ for themselves. This is “the continuation of the incarnation” – that we who desire and claim to be followers of Jesus are in point of fact the actual ongoing embodiment of the incarnate Word. This is why Paul offers such stern cautions:  “23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven….  28 It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Col 1) When we accept as true the hope offered in Christ, and then blaspheme it, we mount up obstacles that hinder others from encountering the living Christ still incarnate in the world. True, God will find a way to work around us to reach people, but 1 Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2 It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”  (Luke 17)

 Let’s say you decided to build a house for your family. You spent months looking at other homes to identify the very best features that will serve to create a wonderful environment for you to live your lives together, and to warmly welcome friends and strangers. You select only the best materials, and hire the most skilled artisans and craftspeople in every field. The lot you select is accessible and connected with neighbors, while providing a sense of peace and security and privacy, all with amazing views and just the right mix of sun and shade. You spare no expense in the construction and take all the time needed to complete every detail with excellence.

Unfortunately, you’re not done, are you? Designing and building the house is just the beginning. For it to become a home, you must occupy it. Eventually, after several years of waiting, you and your family finally move in and occupy a fully furnished home of your dreams that exceeds every expectation and hope you could imagine.

Now you’re finished, right? Well, not actually. You still need to heat and cool it. You need clean water coming in and waste being processed out effectively. And your family needs to eat, so you need some food coming in and being prepared regularly also.abandoned house ohio.JPG

OK, that’s it. Now you can rest. Nope. The home needs to be cleaned inside, and the yard maintained outside. Plus, occasional preventive maintenance will help protect your investment – keeping windows and doors sealed, and a good coat of paint on all the woodwork. We’ve all seen images, like this, of houses that were lovingly designed, constructed and occupied, but somewhere in time they got lost, forgotten, abandoned and neglected. The result is no surprise, but it is a sad outcome.

The same story could be told about our own personal physical bodies – they are given to us as a sacred trust to indwell, in and through which to experience the fullness of this life. But if we only treat them as a vessel, and do not care for them, then they will likely ultimately betray and fail us. This might happen anyway, for reasons beyond our control or influence (like when our home gets struck by lightning and burns down – not much we could have done). But it will most surely happen if we willfully neglect the very basics of self-care – healthy food, clean water, regular exercise and rest, safety from undue risk. These basic are like attending to the needs of the house to keep it strong and functioning well so that it can in turn serve us and meet our needs.

Now imagine we are talking about the church. This same narrative threat follows, but God is the designer and builder, and we are the occupants charged with its ongoing care, indwelling, usefulness and hospitality. Will we, like Paul, complete the work that is lacking? Will we work in our own lives, in our church, and support others toward “maturity in Christ.”

And this maturity, by the way, is not a destination or a stopping place either, but a way of being. It is a continual living embodiment of the incarnation, the indwelling of Christ in us as we indwell the world. It does no good for us to indwell the world if Christ is not in us, nor for Christ to indwell us if we are not in the world. God invites and asks both of us.

Paul enjoins the Colossians, and us, with the words of this ancient Hymn exalting Christ, and then immediately uses it as a platform from which to argue the importance of his own continuing ministry. Similarly does he call us to faithfully join him in the ongoing work of living and proclaiming the incarnate wisdom of God in Jesus Christ that Creates, Reconciles, and Preserves God’s great experiment of love that we know as this earthly, soulful life.


Text: Colossians 1:15-28; Also: Genesis 18:1-10a; Luke 10:38-42

#1 – Ken G Crawford (C) 2016



What do you most want to do? What will you do?

My goal in life is to read and write – and through these activities to make a difference. And along side this WORK, to be near or on the water, with my beloveds.

I think I’m wired the way I am for a reason – all pathology aside. My personality and my gifts and my strengths and my abilities and my experiences and my education and my connections and my unique point of view all somehow work together to make me who I am. (perhaps there’s other stuff in there too…)

A colleague and friend asked me several years ago, “What do you most want to do?”
My answer: “Sit on the porch overlooking the water and write.”
“Well,” he asked after a pregnant pause, “What do you need to do in order to do that?”

What indeed.

I also recognize that the VAST MAJORITY of the world’s population have, do, and probably always will work at things to feed and shelter their families that are in no way connected to their passions and dreams and personality. They do what needs to be done. Perhaps it is expressly western privilege that leads me to think I can and should do otherwise.

And, there is plenty of other meaningful work that I find very rewarding. I LOVE congregational ministry. Sermon preparation and delivery, worship planning and leadership, leadership development, teaching, strategic planning, community engagement, pastoral visitation, EVEN MEETINGS. I find meaning and purpose in all of it. The casual conversations at a Thursday morning men’s breakfast coffee klatch at McDonalds are enjoyable and important. This week I led 16 octogenarians and above in a brief service of Eucharist and Ashes. I could tell by their expressions that this was incredibly important to them, and thus an immensely important way for me to spend an hour of my time.

I don’t want to be one of those people who delays the pursuit of life’s passions for retirement, only to drop dead of a heart attack the next week. My ow grandfather died at age 59 on the dais during the hymn of preparation for the sermon on the Monday of Holy Week. I never knew him, but by all accounts he lived a rich and full life and did the things he found important, worthwhile and meaningful. That’s what matters. Whether he had unfulfilled hopes and dreams for himself and others, I don’t know. That’ll be a good conversation with my own father and uncle soon. A neighbor of mine lost his wife of 50+ years 6 months after moving into the first home they ever owned together – he was career military so they’d always lived in base or government owned housing. He’s going on to live a rich full life, but I wonder if they’d have done something differently had they known. I’ve seen so many clergy suffer severe health problems within 1 year of retiring, as if their body said, “Finally, I can rest long enough to be sick because you’re not dragging me around every which way.”

The most important impact I make is in the lives of my wife and two children. That is completely clear for me. There is no argument that can prevail against it.

AND, I think I have something to contribute to the larger world, to the church, and to the conversation about how leaders in ministry can flourish and thrive in the coming decades. This matters, because communities’ health and well-being is greatly impacted by the organizations and institutions within them. Individual and grassroots resilience can overcome immense dysfunction in local institutions. Even so, everyone benefits when local congregations, nonprofits, education, government and businesses are healthy.

And organizations can not be healthy if their leaders are not healthy.

And it is incredibly difficult to be a healthy leader in the midst of a dis-eased institution.

Thus, supporting leaders in today’s institutions matters. It creates direct impact in the real lives of individuals and households throughout our communities, regardless of population size or demographic diversity.

If I could find a way to impact that system from my study, I would. At present, I don’t know how to do that other than by pastoring a local congregation, serving in nonprofit leadership, offering coaching and consulting, and showing up in local communities. If you or someone you know wants to pay me to research and write perhaps in an international think tank on leadership impact, please let me know.

Until then, I look forward to seeing you in church, in a coworking space, or at the local coffee shop.