Clayton Shenk – Against Prejudice – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 068

Clayton Shenk – Against Prejudice – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 068


Hello everybody. Welcome back to another
episode of Anabaptist Perspectives. I’m here with Clayton Shenk. We’re in York,
Pennsylvania, and you haven’t always lived in this city. You moved
here, and you’re now a school administrator in inner city context. Can
you just give us a little bit of background? What that was like when you made that move to the city? Well, what’s interesting is that my first
church experience was in the city of Lancaster. My parents were
missionaries to Lancaster City – Laurel Street, and so my very first remembrances
of church, summer Bible school, prayer meetings was all city missions. At about
the age of 10, 12 – somewhere in there, there was a dispute in church, and my parents
were asked to leave, and so we went back out to the country. That was a very, very
hard adjustment for me to have to go to a country church instead of a city
church. I grew up in the country. Sort of the suburbs of Lancaster City. It’s been
in my bones, and I think that’s an important thing for parents to think
about is what do they want their children to appreciate? What you give
them at a young age is many times – you know, the Bible says, Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6) So there’s a number of my siblings who are
also in the cities, and in different cities enjoying city missions, and so that’s a critical part. We visited for a while. We lived in Lancaster the
first year and a half of our marriage, and traveled to York, but then I saw
young people who really wanted to do what was right, but they had to pay to
call the pastor. That was before cellphones when you could just call people, right. So, I actually got an 800 number so that they could call me over
in Lancaster without them costing anything, but then I said you know what? If I can’t
live in a city and be faithful to God, how can I expect them to live in the
city and be faithful to God, and so moving in was sort of a demonstration that you can be faithful living in the city, and in the midst of all the crime and all the whatever people think that the
city is. You can be faithful, and I wanted to show that to youth so that they could also do that. With that move into the city, what are
some prejudices or misconceptions? Things that you had to overcome, and then maybe
impressions other people had of what the city is like? Prejudice is a very, very real thing, and whether we like it or not, whether we think that we have it or not,
almost everybody is prejudiced about something, all right? I remember as a little boy – my dad was drilling, and I don’t know what drill he was using – what job he was doing. I just remember him saying, this is pretty good for a Craftsman. Interesting! Now, that prejudice against Sears products. I caught that. Okay. Well what is this? right, and so the little comments we make along the way are the same way, and
so I’ll go to a church, and I’ll say, how many of you hope that you never have to live
in the city? How many of you ever? Raise your hand. Especially out in the country. I don’t want to live in the city. I said, Well, I’m gonna pray for you because in
Revelation it says all of God’s people are going to live in a holy city – Jerusalem. We’re gonna live in a city. Most of the people who don’t live in a city have this concept that
crime is really bad in the city, and there’s a prejudice against just the
concept that you would even live in the city. Well, the Bible talks about – over a
thousand verses – about cities, city or cities, and for most of human’s existence
since creation, you lived in a city for safety, and you went out in the country
to do your farming, right? You didn’t have a farm out there. That’s
a concept of America. When you left Europe, people came over here and
there was woods, and so you chop down a tree. You build a house. You cleared some
more trees, and you had a farm, and you had your own little individual farm. Well,
that whole concept is only in the last 250 years because the European model, the African model it’s a cluster of homes, and you put up a fence around
that to protect you from the animals at night, or from the other enemies, right. So the whole concept for thousands of years was you live in the
city. It’s safer in the city. Now we come, and we say, no, no. It’s safer
out in the country. It’s just total reversal. Now I ask people when I teach
at SMBI for instance – Urban Class, the Urban Missions class, I’ll say, true or false:
most people live in this city are blacks or Hispanics. And people are like, yeah, true. No. That’s false. Most people who live in the cities are white, and there are some
cities you can find Atlanta, Georgia, and St. Louis, and New Orleans, you know,
but for the most part here in America the whites are the majority of the people that live in the city. I’ll say okay, so most people who are on welfare
are blacks: true or false? Yeah, that’s true. I said, that’s false. Most people on welfare are whites. Matter of fact there’s more farmers on welfare than there are city people. Woah. Interesting. Now that’s a controversial one right? I’m gonna tell you that. What’s farm subsidies? You know, I’ll pay you
to not plant any crops this year. That’s welfare. That’s a form of welfare. It’s a
form of government subsidy, but we don’t look at it that way. The city people. The city people. Yeah. It’s perspective. It’s like your perception of things. You like to see it
from your angle, but then if you’d flip it around, and be from this side, and look at it, you’d see it totally differently. Yeah. So you ask about crime. How many
believe that most people who commit crimes are living in the city? Yeah,
that’s right. Well, death for instance. About 15,000 murders per year. That’s awful, right? But what about how many deaths happen in business
because of violation of OSHA? Is that also a murder? Well there’s more deaths per year from business accidents
than there are from actual gun shootings in the city, and so – Yeah, it kind of stretches people a little bit, but it’s like, how do you look at it? And so then you look about theft, right? Cities are awful. You know, people
stealing stuff, and it amounts to about 5 billion dollars a year. Well, when you
think about embezzlement, that’s about 20 billion dollars a year. Twenty billion
dollars a year. That’s the upper echelon. That’s the higher guys. That’s the white-collar crime, and most people don’t report white collar crime. There’s lots of embezzlement that – for instance a bank – I don’t know
what bank you go to, but let’s just say you read in the bank that the
vice-president of finances embezzled 10 million dollars from the bank. That’s a terrible light for your bank, right? That means my bank isn’t safe. If
that guy can embezzle 10 million dollars, I better get a different bank. So they
won’t report that kind of stuff. Universally. Year after year after year there’s more embezzlement than there is natural theft. So we have these prejudices that
it’s not safe there. It’s safe where I’m at. Per capita there’s more crime. Actually in some of the other smaller towns then there is actually in the big city
per person. That’s really interesting. Even that example you gave of your dad saying, oh you know, this drill isn’t as good because it’s a
whatever. That’s so common. I’m just stopping and thinking like, wow! How many times have we heard little things like that? Not even like big scary prejudices,
but just concepts of the world that we had that we just take for granted. It’s just how we look at things. There’s a lot of Christian authors
today or people of influence that are saying things like the church needs to be much more intentional about moving into the cities. I’m curious would you share that? If so, like what kind of model would you
suggest for our churches particularly the Anabaptists to be involved in those
ways? Well, first of all, I want to confess that I have been so city, city, city, city,
city – go-go-go. A cheerleader for city missions that I have sometimes wounded
other people who are not involved, and there’s people who have felt that I come
across like, you’re not quite as spiritual if you’re not in the city. The
spiritual ones are in the city, and I don’t want to do that. The reason I would
encourage city missions is that’s where the people are, and so if you have – let’s say – I don’t know what the statistic is, but we’ll just make something up, all right? One in a thousand people is going to come to Christ. Well, if you’re in a town of 6,000
people, you have 6 people that are going to come to Christ. If you’re in a
city with 200,000 people, that means you’re gonna have 200 people come to Christ. Our goal is to preach Christ, and to go out, and so when you have people who are
hungry and thirsting – needing help and open to dialogue, well, if they’re in
the cities, that’s where they are, that’s where we ought to be, and so somebody
living in a city, somebody who’s raising their children in the city, who are working in a city, working alongside of it. A lot of good contacts when I
drove bus – I was driving the mass transit buses, and so you have people who don’t have
vehicles. I met a number of people that way. It’s a very good ministry. Very good opportunity. First of all being intentional
wherever you are – whatever ministry God’s called you to, but also in a sense, you’re
advocating, be strategic. Go where the needs are. Where the people are. I like that. Yeah, I think that’s really good. Well is there anything else you would like to add? Well, one of the things that I think everybody ought to understand, and I sort of alluded to it before. We need to be
faithful no matter where we’re at, and so if you say, I can’t. I can’t live in the city. There’s no way I can live in the city. Well, would you consider maybe a suburb where you have your own grass and your
own yard, you know, but you’re within striking distance of the city? Thirty-five years ago when we first moved into the city, my wife and I were walking across
town, and we were going over to the rescue mission, and there was some people
sitting there on the sidewalk, and so we stopped and talked to them, and they found
out we’re Mennonites. Mennonites? I didn’t think they’d let you out. I say, won’t let us out? What are you talking about? It was like, could you live in a city? About
three years ago there was a case. One of our school students were taken away by
Children, Youth, and so I was down at the courthouse, and the children’s appointed lawyer saw my wife, and said, come, come, come. So he pulled us across the lot and he’s like, do you live in the city? Yeah. And you’re Mennonite? Yeah. I didn’t think they’d let you do that. And so there’s this misconception
that we can’t live here. We’re not allowed here. There’s a bit of a prejudice right there even. Like a mindset. Oh wow. So there’s things there that we have to work on too, and there’s people
who believe that you have to be born Mennonite. You can’t join us. I am amazed at how many times we are judgmental. You said prejudiced, right? And it shows up by staring. By looking, right? I would go
out to the country. I’d take some children from the city. We go out to a
church service, and they come back, and they say over and over again I heard this: Mennonites have eye problems. Mennonites have eye problems. What do you mean? They just stare at you.
They just stare at you. Where’s the friendliness? The friendliest church I was ever at was the Mormon Church. I went to the Mormon church, and everybody in that auditorium came to say hi to me. Okay. So here is somebody we can get, right? Here’s somebody we can win, and they made a point to everybody came over. As a matter of fact, I took a SMBI group there. Oh, really? But they swarmed us to make us
feel welcome. Oh, please come again! Is there any
question we can answer for you? When you go to a new Mennonite Church even those of us who are Mennonites, people just stare at you. The point is most Mennonite
churches are not friendly churches. Most Mennonite churches are not welcoming
churches, and so a stranger walks in – I mean we have that here. We have to
constantly work at our church who’s in the city to win people, and encourage
people to say, get out of that click. You know, the service is over, and stand up, and
immediately you have people just talking to whoever’s around you, and sometimes
it’s the people – cause we all sit in our own places you know, and then there’s new people. There’s visitors who are completely
ignored, and so it’s something we have to work at. You have to constantly work at. It’s very, very possible for somebody – I’ve been here for 35 years, and come across like I’m scolding people. All right? It’s still something I have to
work on, and there’s also this issue of men versus ladies. Men are in boxes. You know you read that book, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. We do get caught up in our pursuit of
life, and our business, and our job, and to really take time. Take time to – I had a lady tell me this week (just this past Sunday), Clayton, you’re the only one at church that actually will sit and listen to me. You’re the only one in church. Everybody else is – I said, now, come on. What about – ? and I mentioned a couple. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. What about – ? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s true. Many, many times you hear people – my parents taught us we ought to be winsome. We ought to be a winsome person. Now Jesus was winsome, but he asked a lot of questions. Do we have enough time to
ask questions, or do we already assume? Well, assuming is prejudice, right? I assume I know what you mean. I assume by what you’re saying, and so it’s
fascinating when you start asking questions, and begin to learn heart. Another thing. I remember from – I mentioned that I grew up in Lancaster
City. I mean I ministered in Lancaster City. My parents went in. We didn’t live there, but one day I was a little six-year-old maybe, and I was teasing one
of the neighbor boys, and making some sort of comment, and my mom called me
into the church, and said, people that you make fun of you will never win for Jesus,
and people you laugh about will never live for Jesus. So, what are our jokes? Who do we tell jokes about? We’ve got to think about that because there’s a lot – it’s so much fun to have jokes. It’s so
much fun to be the center of the party, and tell jokes, but if we’re putting
people down, or we’re putting genders down, or races down, or you know we
already now have a superior attitude towards those, and we’re not going to win
them for Jesus if we’re going to tell jokes about them, and so that’s another area we have to think about. Yeah. It’s about intentionally thinking, and taking the time to analyze your worldview. Where’s this coming from? It’s very easy, and I’m sure every human on the planet struggles with this, but this superiority mindset.
Of course I’m better than – (fill-in-the-blank) – whoever. This person. That person. This other religion. This whatever. But you know we’re all created in the image of God, and yeah, it’s a real struggle. Wow. Well, thank you, Clayton, for being on this episode. For tackling something big like
prejudice, and living in a city, and all the complex dynamics you have to
deal with. Praise the Lord! Yeah, and hopefully this will inspire some people to take a hard look at what they think of others. Okay. Thank you.

2 Replies to “Clayton Shenk – Against Prejudice – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 068”

  1. Eye problems, indeed! I was not born into a Mennonite family; I chose a conservative Mennonite church because of the lack of Biblical teaching where I was before. Yes, people do stare, especially the children and it is rather rude.

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