Friday, July 23, 2010

The Peoria Church & Crime And Violence

In this segment  I wanted to break from the normal routine and do a little biblical exposition as it pertains to the mission of the church in modern times. In part, this is due to the response and grumbling that we have heard from many in the ministerial community as individuals, including myself, have promoted and questioned various ministers as to why they have been absentee or non-existent in the current fight against crime and violence within the Peoria community.

Clarification: I first want to affirm that the church is NOT in and of itself, a "crime fighting" organization, neither should it be. However, I believe it is clear that the church should be an extension of the love of God through Christ in the world and an organization which facilitates the peace of God within the community. It's from this perspective that we examine the church's intervention into these issues.

Let's rehash this: According to the Emerge Blog to date there have been over 84 shootings, 17 murders, and a borderline state of martial law imposed upon the citizens of South Peoria.  There is additional police intervention and sweep patrols designed to nab the perpetrators and potential perpetrators of crime and violence. I addressed this both HERE and in a Peoria Journal Star Article and we must be careful about how we proceed. There is, rightfully so, a curfew upon the youth that is being strictly enforced and at least one councilman that even thinks that the adult citizens should have all their constitutional rights taken away and be restricted to their homes after certain hours for their own safety. The problem is that some of the shootings have been at people in or around their homes and houses also, so staying at home doesn't guarantee safety by any means.

The Pastoral Community

In all of this the pastoral community has been asked to engage these issues. Mrs. Monique Caradine of Chicago's WVON has undertaken the same issue through her radio broadcast with many of the same results that we have experienced here in Peoria.

To add context, I have personally made calls, sent letters, appeared on TV asking and promoting events and all. Unfortunately, by large, the pastoral community has simply reverted to a position and condition of "blessed quietness". However, some of them haven't been exactly silent. They have spoken in at least two ways:

1- Through inaction (as I have pointed out)
2- Directly saying that they have no responsibility beyond what they currently do

First, neither of these positions are acceptable. In fact they are ridiculous and only expose a greater problems many of which are beyond the scope of this writing.

Now, this post will undoubtedly offend some who say they are my friends and challenge those who are to continue in the mission of Christ. If it does those things then the post has accomplished it's mission. We need friends who are convicted of the mission of Christ, dedicated to the service of community and humanity and know that the cause of families and those that are hurting are of essential and primary concern. If one must separate themselves because of the mission of Christ, well then...SO BE IT! The scripture outlines that we can't walk together unless we agree. (Amos 3:3)

Here's The Command:

Matthew 28:19-20 ~ "19- Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20-Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen."

Inaction has been a silent facilitator of the current problems that we experience and face within the community. Last year, 2009, I asked pastors and ministers to come together to devise an action plan against crime and violence. We had a meeting in which roughly 30 ministries attended. A second meeting was held and it was down to 3 ministries. A third couldn't be held due to lack of attendance. Now over 30 murders later, we are wondering why things are like they are.

Roll Call

Let me tell you, without being specific, (although I could) who has never stopped to dawn the door of the frequent calls made to the pastoral community by our organization over the last 3 years. With limited exception many of the following organizational churches have failed to unify to show any cause during this recent episode of violence and murder within the black community:

1- With limited exception, the prominent black Baptist churches in the inner city Peoria have not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed.
2- With limited exception, the Apostolic Assemblies or Jesus Only churches in the inner city Peoria have not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed.
3- With limited exception the Assemblies Of God churches have not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed
4- With the exception of 3 churches the remaining 6 or 7 Church Of God In Christ churches in inner city Peoria have not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed. 
5- With the exception of one church, the Methodists, AME or United Methodist, in inner city Peoria have not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed.
6- The Presbyterian church has not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed.
7- The Catholic church has not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed.
8- The Lutheran church has not engaged this epidemic in any known public format that I have witnessed
The list goes on and on. Although churches can be pointed to in general, the lack of response from the churches from within the affected areas are the focus of this writing and the lack of response from them has been astounding.  

Blessed Help

Para-ministries such as Teen Challenge and the ELITE programs of Carl Cannon and few others have been the ones engaged and physically present during this battle against crime and violence. The Peoria County States Attorney's office and the Peoria Police Department has stepped up to provide what seems like a true partnership with the community. There are individuals even within many of the absentee churches who support and encourage efforts and make themselves available. That is a good thing. However, but we must make a transition and challenge leaders and leading organizations who have had their hands off the particular issues to come front and center and engage the issues. There are some, and I could name them specifically, who have never responded to calls, emails, public notices and requests and who have not approached this matter with any sense of urgency. This is to their shame.  

The criticism:

In response to my encouragements and challenges, a pastor recently said that, his mission was in the pulpit and that he didn't have to go to the streets to minister. In other words, what happens in the streets doesn't affect the church.
Houston (or should I say Peoria?)...We have a problem!

You mean to tell me that the city is on fire and all the pastor can think about is pulpit ministry?  (ie: the confines of safety and a safe environment and collecting a tithe) This is a perversion of the word of God and the mission of Christ. Those that support this sort of sentiment either financially or by physical presence only lend themselves to the problem and not the solution.

We have heard this same shoddy sentiment before, speaking that "the people" (members of the congregation) "are the sheep, and sheep beget sheep"...In other words, the pastor has no or little obligation in church growth or proliferation of the ministry. According to them, that's the "sheep's" job...

That sentiment isn't biblical. In fact as I stated, it's seduction and an effort to justify laziness. Now, please understand, my criticism is not against inaction so much, as some may not know what to do or may not be able to do what others can do. My sentiments are against excuses and using the scriptures to justify disunity, ungodliness and a complete seduction of the mind.

I'll point out three biblically centered reasons why the church should be actively engaged in this effort. There are many more, but I'll simply point to three:

1- The Leadership Of Moses

In Exodus 3 and 4, when God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, he called him to LEAD, not follow. There were three things visible as God led HIS people to freedom:

1- God, as a pillar of fire and smoke by night and a cloud by day (Ex. 13:21)
2- Moses, as he followed the Lord (Ex. 3:10)
3- The people as they followed God under Moses direction and course (Ex. 14:31)

The LEADER led the people into the freedom and deliverance of the Lord as HE (God) led and directed. The leader encouraged the people and protected them with the petition that he made to God on their behalf. How can the leader (pastor) do this when he is not engaged within the community or with the people?

2- The Apostleship Of Paul

After his conversion, the Apostle Paul had 3 missionary journeys and a journey under guard to Rome in which he preached continuously. He traveled either by foot, horse or by boat. No Caddy's, Mercedes, Lexus's or BMW's. 

  • Paul's first missionary journey covered approximately 1,200 (plus) miles and took about 2 years.

  • Paul's second missionary journey covered approximately 2,700 (plus) miles (1,290 by sea and 1,410 by land) and took about 2.5 to 3 years.

  • Paul's third missionary journey covered approximately 2,500 (plus) miles (1,190 by sea and 1,325 by land) and took about 4 years.

  • Paul's journey to Rome covered approximately 2,130 (plus) miles (1,920 by sea and 220 by land) and took about 2.5 years.
In all, we have one man (with ministerial companions), who traveled over 8,530 miles in about 11 years to "finish his course", preach to the poor, and minister to those in distress, converting and helping men wherever he could find them. The modern preacher seems to be enamoured with a building, pulpit, microphone and church salary. I have done this for almost 30 years and have seen many come and go with those ideas and sentiments. One thing that seems to be forgotten is the mission to take the gospel to the world and facilitate change within the community.

I would ask that preacher, that delivered that "word of wisdom", what happens when the pulpit is closed or the church is gone? Does all of the calling of God go away because there is no church building or pulpit from which to preach? I begin to wonder was that preacher or minister ever called of God to begin with? Does he have any conviction at all? 

Obviously this pastor/minister has no clue as to the real mission of Christ. As much as I would like to believe otherwise, it would seem that his sentiments are in good company among his peers which value excuses, lethargy and inaction.  

3- The Mission Of Christ Within The Community & Church

A third reason that the church must be engaged is because of the Kingdom purpose of God within the community. The church was called to spread the "good news". The community wasn't to be lent to terrorism and ungodliness in light of the presence of Christ Kingdom's representative's and their promotion and expansion of the mission of Christ in the earth. Jesus said it like this:

Matthew 5:9 ~ "Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

For sure, violence and murder isn't peace. The church was supposed to be the entity bringing peace into the community and was supposed to be actively involved in facilitating that peace. When leaders don't lead the church down this path, the church becomes inactive and deftly silent as it is in Peoria.

Now we must reconcile that the church is not asleep. When Peoria mayor Jim Ardis called the church to a community prayer effort, almost every church in Peoria (with some exception) was in attendance looking for how they could be involved and engaged. That was good, but this wasn't a KINGDOM call, it was a Mayoral call asking the church to do what it was already engaged in doing. The difference is that when political figures are involved there is a certain level of acknowledgement by the political and social elite. 


As you can see, this is thought provoking and I know I haven't won any "haters" and have probably gained a handful of "Christian critics". I would say, however, that those critics were probably critical anyway and more than likely haven't contributed to the solution of the problems that we face.  

A member of my church (New Bethel COGIC) was around another particular pastor when my name came up in a conversation for some reason. The pastor jumped right in to say, "Pastor Burnett talks too much!" If this is a stigma, and if because of that stigma, someone gets angry enough to lose the laziness that has defined them and their efforts during this critical period of Peoria's history, then this post has been more than worth it and has hit the spot right where it should be hit. I am glad to talk too much if someone does more than what they've been doing or if someone is helped as a result. Thanks for the astute observation Pastor _ _ _ _ _. (BTW: I haven't heard or seen anything from him either during this crisis)  

Is the church committing the greatest crime by not being actively engaged in this fight? I don't want to say that they are, but that question should be considered and addressed.

What Can You Do?

1- Talk to your pastor and ask him/her what their community plan against crime and violence is. If they have none ask them to associate themselves with me/us who have a plan and who are actively engaged. We can use their help and support.

2- Encourage other members within your church to become actively involved in these issues and supporting causes and events that arise within the community that facilitate a better community.

3- Join our Facebook page and subscribe to this web page for new and updated information.  

4- If neither your church or pastor is responsive, call (309)688-6599 or email me at for a church referral or for an invitation. DO NOT subject your time and energy to anything or anyone that will only serve itself. The Peoria community needs your help and we can do this together with the Lord and one another.

5- Contribute to the cause. I have not solicited nor received a dime outside of the gun exchange for any of the services that this organization renders. In order to do what must be done however, we need cash to help proliferate the message. Please feel free to send a contribution in any amount to the Peoria Assn. Of Pastors at P.O. Box 6167 Peoria, IL 61601. I commit that every dime will be spent to provide some service or outreach to this community and to spread the anti-crime and violence message.

As an organization, we are far from from being alone in this fight. however we need the churches and leaders than can stand along with us in partnership and effort to do so. We can help change this community and in the process further the mission of Christ. Thank you.

Pastor H. Burnett
Exec. Director/Founder 


  1. Now, there is another excuse that has arisen as a result of this post and continued chatter regarding the issue.

    I was told, "You have a very small congregation which affords you the opportunity to do more outside of the church."

    To which I responded:

    So, let's get this...a "small" congregation pastor can do things that a large congregation pastor can't??? What is that? If a church is "small" (in your opinion) the pastor just has plenty of time for community things right???

    So based on this, where does the mission of Christ come into effect? I mean if the large churches have an excuse, then they must be exempt from the mission of Christ right? In essence, according to what you're intimating, they (pastors with large congregations) have BETTER things to do. Or at the very least they are too busy to be bothered with these type of issues right??? Now, I don’t suggest that but you do. If that is true doesn’t it just seem to lead right back to my original argument?

    So now we have an excuse based on the size of the church. Thank God that doesn't hold true. The Association has churches that work with it that could be considered to be "large" churches. Those pastors are "active" outside their churches and within their community.

    There is NO excuse for inaction. This is an emergency. What happens when the shooting spreads to North Peoria? I'm glad that the police and other governmental entities have and had the foresight to ramp up the activity, but when we listen to some from the church community regarding the issue, we're in bad shape.

  2. Brother Burnett, it may not be very much, but a group based at St. Ann's Catholic Church on the South Side has for the last four years gathered to pray near the sites of shootings and to witness to Christ's healing to those living in those places. I was participating with them until I had my cancer surgery, and that is part of why I supported and participated (with my congregation) in the 40 Days of Prayer for Peoria in '08 and '09. I regret that, since my recovery, I have not returned to participating with them, nor have I worked hard to seek other ways in which I could re-engage on this particular issue with our brother pastors.

    In acknowledging my part in our churches' quietness on these particular acts of crime and violence, though, I'd suggest that our response has not been total inaction -- I point to the long-term ministries that aim to show a better way, such as Christ Lutheran School and Preschool, those congregations of several denominations that participate in the South Side Mission's "Adopt-a-Block" program, or even (if I may toot the horn of my congregation and our sisters that support it) Project Return of Peoria. And I'd note that many of the police and other city/county and school (public and private) officials dealing with the immediate emergencies are part of the church community -- and I pray that all us pastors are encouraging them in their vocations as public servants.

    You are right that we could be doing more. Having served in Peoria for 18 years, I learned long ago that getting ministers together for *anything* is really, really hard. The response to the Mayor's call to churches in 2007 that lead to the first 40 Days of Prayer was by far the best response I'd seen of many attempts. I wish I knew how to do it.

    Pastor Steven Tibbetts
    Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria