I was growing up in East Tennessee in 1974. A new Christ follower and College Student very involved in Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU). We had several concerts hosting the Pat Terry Group from Atlanta. I became a fan!!
I am now 66 and Pat is 68 and has made a successful career as a song writer. I am still a fan!!
I listened to a new song and realized Pat was telling his life story and journey in understanding racial reconcilation. His song is helping me make sense of my own journey.
May it help my black friends to understand I cannot go back and change my past but with their patience and grace and truth we can move into healing and walk the journey together.
Sunday Afternoon June 7, 2020 I attended my first public protest. It was Black Lives Matter and was held in the community where I live, The Market Commons.
Just before leaving to go over a friend shared in a phone call a word from his pastor in small town Georgia. “The white Christian needs to wake up and go to African Americans and Listen, Learn and Love”
So, that became my first protest poster, “LISTEN, LEARN AND LOVE.” I have kept it to use in my next opportunity.
I know protests can vary a great deal but here was my experience.
The protest was peaceful and was a range of skin colors. I was welcomed, offered bottles of water, and was greeted with, “Bless you for coming.”
I sensed that my presence made a difference.
Most of the crowd were young adults –the age of my own childern and they were respectful and open to this old man with gray hair and beard (Who needed a haircut because of the CV19 virus restrictions). The crowd was diverse including some visible LBGTQ rainbow draped folks. But all seemed ot be very open to the speakers and musicans.
There were several speakers and singers who were young, very articulte and while passionate, they were very balanced. Several were clear they did not support destructive looting or damage and wanted to respect the rule of law even if they felt that some in law enforcement did not respect them.
They focused on the laws and how those laws are implemented. There were specific cases cited of needed changes.
The biggest surprise to me was how clearly Biblical truth and the preaching of a Gospel of Love, Forgiveness and Reconciliation was held up as THE only hope to change a life on the heart level. There was a strong world view on EVERY person being made in the image of God as the basis for a just society. Jesus was presented as a peace maker provided by God. Anything seperating humanity from loving God and each other is sin and brings death.
I was not able to stay until the end of the protest because of a family commitment and being out in humid hot afternoon sun. But I was praying with gratitude for a younger generation that is stepping up.
I will close with one story from a lady helping to lead the protests in our area. This is my paraphrase based on my memory. She said, “My grandmother is 73 and she marched in civil rights protests in the 60s. She has been a constant encourager for me to not hide in silence but to stand up and speak out. And when I organized my first march and protest she insisted on being there. My grandmother’s generation made real strides in improving things for my generation but the journey is not over. The need for change still exists.”
YES! But in a broken world where people fail to love as God designed it takes a powerful Gospel unleashed in the hearts of humble people by the power of the Spirit to develop and protect a fragile unity.
What steps of faith and obedience can we take that grow ethnically diverse congregations?
Be convinced a church as diverse as the geographic area where it resides is God’s will. Notice there was NOT ONE INSTANCE OF a church started in the New Testament that separated people ethnically or socioeconomically although the culture was segregated and stratified. Many of the conflicts in the letters of the New Testament are dealing with the challenges of diversity.
Pray with, be in homes with, and serve with people who are not like you. Listen to their music, eat their food, and understand their language.
See setting aside your preferences in order to build a bridge of love with someone different as a joyous way to grow, be enriched, and give of yourself.
Be ready to make mistakes and say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. SO be ready to ask for and give forgiveness.
Love by giving the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions to clarify before engaging your capacity to form a judgement. Say, “That is different.” Instead of, “That is wrong or weird.”
A study was done of American Pastors asking them to list the top issues or problems facing the church today. Every black pastor placed racial reconciliation near the top of their list. None of the white pastors even put it on their list. When I start sharing about what God is teaching me about reconciliation my fellow white Christians sometimes say, “Why are you living in the past?” “Civil Rights was fixed in the 60s.” The majority ethnic group in America (for just a few more years) just cannot seem to enter into the shoes of an African American brother or sister in Christ and even begin to see America through their eyes.
Pastor John Piper’s new book BLOODLINES: RACE, CROSS AND THE CHRISTIAN has been the study of our Wednesday 7 AM at Bojangle’s group of 2 white guys and 2 black guys for several months. We have laughed together, “Amened” (is that a word) together, and teared up together. God is doing some special stuff in our hearts.
Ask Jesus to give you eyes to see and ears to hear and then read this book.