Following Jesus can result in you getting kicked out of a church. It’s an experience that both Clarence Jordan and I have in common.
Ironically, American discipleship doesn’t come with that warning or many examples.
I would offer more details of my experience with a failed attempt at a multicultural church, but I signed an agreement. It turns out that calls for diversity, equity and inclusion continue to make the gospel inconvenient.
From the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 to the quarterly church business meeting, Jesus’ disciples still struggle to follow his directions to share the gospel freely.
No exceptions, no exclusions, Jesus’ gospel is an even exchange, having no interest in the back and forth of us versus them. Despite the false claims of the prosperity gospel, Jesus’ disciples are called to share the gospel with everything to lose and nothing to gain.
So, imagine my surprise when I learned of the work and witness of Clarence Jordan, a Greek-speaking, Southern Baptist minister and integrationist. He put his seminary education to work and began to work out the details of his salvation.
Koinonia Farm would become a “demonstration plot for the kingdom of God.” In 1942, Clarence and his wife Florence, along with Mabel and Martin England who had previously served as missionaries, formed this small integrated farming community in Americus, Georgia.
Author of the Cotton Patch Gospel, Jordan offered scripture with a Southern accent, and the community became an alternative commentary on racism, capitalism and militarism. The founders agreed to live out their faith by “sharing all things in common” while pursuing peace and reconciliation (Acts 2:44; 4:32).
Five years ago, on the 75th anniversary of the founding of this intentional community, I was able to walk the grounds and walk in their footsteps.
Through the generosity of the Lilly Endowment, a pastoral study grant allowed me to begin to do the work that my soul was calling for and calls me still — the embodiment of community, of the “kin-dom” coming.
Friends, former and present members will meet again on November 26, 2022, to celebrate the 80th year with an open house and a mission that hasn’t changed: “We are Christians called to live together in intentional community sharing a life of prayer, work, study, service and fellowship. We seek to embody peacemaking, sustainability, and radical sharing. While honoring people of all backgrounds and faiths, we strive to demonstrate the way of Jesus as an alternative to materialism, militarism, and racism.”
I’m so glad that the community is still here. Koinonia Farm made finding my way, my voice and my place in this reconciling work easier.
While there, I bought lots of books and memorabilia, wanting to bring as many reminders as possible of life on this farm with me.
I thought that was as close as I could get until I received an email from Sam Hine, an editor at Plough Publishing House, inviting me to consider writing the foreword to the newest book by Clarence Jordan.
It was in that moment that I realized my steps were being “ordered” by God (Psalm 37:23). More than a full circle moment, I agreed back in May to write about my patron saint for The Raceless Gospel and The Raceless Gospel Initiative as an expression of my deep and abiding faith in the boundaryless work of the gospel.
The newest release in the Plough Spiritual Guide series, Inconvenient Gospel: A Southern Prophet Tackles, War, Wealth, Race and Religion will be released next month.
Once you’re done reading the book, join me, Christianity Today’s Russell Moore and Koinonia Farm director Bren Dubay for The Inconvenient Gospel book launch and a conversation moderated by Bruderhof member David Johnson on October 27 at 8 p.m. ET.
For more information and to register, click here.
But I must warn you, if you follow the conversation too closely, you may get kicked out of a church.