The Good Trouble
During the month of February, our country celebrates Black History Month. It is a time when the nation seeks to recognize the great contributions African-Americans have made in fields like the arts, sports, politics, science, business, and more. While it’s great to celebrate those contributions, it’s also important to acknowledge the African-American struggle. The struggle that began with the brutality of slavery, the indignity of segregation, and the continuing institutional and systematic ways people of color have yet to fully level up here on American soil. We have a long way to go, but during this sacred month of remembrance, we acknowledge that we are not where we were.
It’s necessary to note that the progress we’ve made is primarily the result of brave men and women who felt that liberty and justice (for all) simply could not wait. These same men and women have gone down in history as some of the world’s great “trouble-makers.”
U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia) grew up in the Jim Crow South in the '40s & '50s. He recalls experiencing the ugliness of racism and segregation. He was reminded of how the world viewed him every time he saw a sign that read “whites only” or “colored.” Even as a young man, this did not sit right with him and he often wondered why things had to be that way. When he’d ask his parents about this unfair reality, his parents would say, “John, that’s just the way it is. Don’t get in the way and don’t get into trouble!” The only problem is that John was absorbing the words and ideas of civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which inspired him to ignore his parents’ advice and to purposely get into what he calls “good trouble.”
John began marching with Dr. King, staging sit-ins to end segregation, and participating in dangerous freedom rides across the country. He was repeatedly arrested, faced countless threats, and was violently beaten by police and angry mobs. John’s life, and many others’ lives, captures well this idea of “good trouble.”
The older I get, the more I appreciate and understand the importance of getting into “good trouble.” Significant change rarely happens without someone choosing to get into “good trouble.” It’s the kind of trouble that comes when we begin to question our culture’s deeply held beliefs and popular opinions. It’s the kind of trouble one finds when he or she insists every person be treated as someone who is made in the image of God. It’s the kind of trouble people discover when they begin to fight unjust systems of racism and inequality. It’s the kind of trouble we find when we begin to use our voice, influence, or platform to speak up for the voiceless and vulnerable. It’s the kind of trouble that finds you when you muster the courage to speak hard truths to power. It’s both messy and costly.
Dr. King was that kind of troublemaker and it literally cost him his life. Medgar Evers was that type of troublemaker and he, too, lost his life. Nelson Mandela was that kind of troublemaker and it cost him his freedom. Colin Kaepernick was that kind of troublemaker and many believe it cost him his football career. Most importantly, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was that kind of troublemaker and he died a brutal death on a cross.
As a Kingdom of God, signs and wonders movement, we must fully embrace the call to extend the Kingdom of God. In doing so, we realize we’re called to push back against the darkness and to cry out against the systems, institutions, ideas, and practices that are the natural outworkings of our fallen, sinful, and selfish humanity. We’re called to delight in what God delights in and be grieved by what grieves Him. We’re called to invite others into the life of faith and risk - one that runs toward the good, necessary trouble. All this in hopes that, through us, God’s Kingdom would come and His will would be done here on the earth. In this current social and political climate, may the Vineyard be a movement and a people who seek to run toward the (good) trouble and not away from it.
Geno is the lead pastor of the South Suburban Vineyard, a multiethnic church that he and his wife, Shannon, planted in the south suburbs of Chicago. He is a gifted leader and communicator who has devoted his life to church planting and cross-cultural ministry.
Geno currently serves on the National Executive Team for Vineyard USA. He’s also a songwriter and has co-produced albums for Vineyard Worship.