Moving Toward Racial Reconciliation

Moving Toward Racial Reconciliation

This post is essentially the first of what I am calling The Coaches Round Table. I want to create a platform for others to post their thoughts about not only generosity but other issues impacting the Church today.

The following post was written by my friend Dr. Jason Bunger the Lead Pastor of Hope Church in Dayton, OH

Moving toward reconciliation is not easy, but it is critical.  Tim Keller notes that many churches find it exciting to consider the possibility of being multi-ethnic until it comes time to make decisions.  Decisions force us to define our values.  Decision-making situations also reveal our cultural assumptions that come to the surface in the deliberating and implementation processes.  However, a church that is committed to reconciliation can see great success, even though the processes may be challenging at times.  At the time of this compilation, there are several strategic commitments that I am sensing we need to consider in pursuing réconciliation. 

A Commitment from the Lead Pastor to Purse Reconciliation.

For years, I have listed on my bio the following statement: “Jason’s passion is to reconcile people to God and to one another by experiencing the word of God in an accurate, passionate and understandable way.  My primary goal continues to be to reconcile people to God and to one another through the gospel.  The pastor must be cultivating and communicating the value of multi-ethnic ministry. 

Prayerful Dependence

In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father on behalf of His followers.  He petitions to God that “they may be one.” There is much speculation about whom Jesus was referring to here.  Some think He was referring to all Christians; others believe He was simply referring to the apostles.  I am not sure exactly.  But I am sure of this, Jesus knew that His people, even His disciples, could not “be one” without the intervening power of God.  We must develop attitudes and opportunities to cultivate prayer to develop reconciliation.

An Attitude of Voluntary Displacement

Gospel-inspired voluntary displacement is the discipline of setting aside rights and privileges for the sake and betterment of others.  In simple terms, it means, I am willing to give up what I want (or have) in order for you to get what you need.”  

We must continue to be willing to set aside our privileges and preferences to reconcile people to God and one another.  One particular way to do this is to agree to not go to war over the “non-essential” matters of the faith.  

Intentional Service and Invitations

We must also look for ways to demonstrate the grace and kindness of God intentionally.  We are not merely seeking to do charity work. Instead, we are looking for opportunities to demonstrate justice and proclaim the righteousness of Christ.  Since the two most stable institutions in a community are the school and the Church, schools can be a natural place to consider long-term partnerships.  We also need to be more assertive at extending invitations to be shared and taught by minorities.  Tony Evans observed how rarely whites sit at the feet of black teachers to be taught.  To embrace reconciliation, majority-culture churches must extend invitations to minorities for friendship and education and not merely entertainment.  We also can take advantage of multi-ethnic invitations that are extended to us in addition to extending invitations.  Evans also noted that white ministries are better at extending partnership invitations to black ministries than they are about accepting them and partnering with the black ministries.[1]

Music Ministry Enhancement

For our music to extend beyond our current culture, we must add musical personnel who can reflect who we are trying to reach and enhance the impact of our worship ministry.  We must find a way to create a culture of celebration in worship that is typical in most Latino, African American, and Asian Churches. 

I am becoming increasingly convinced that we have lost something when we quit singing hymns.  We must sing/preach of the faith that has been handed down.  The quickest way to become irrelevant is to define yourself and music only by the era in which we currently live.  The hymns in most black churches are sung with more expressive reverence, slower pace, uplifted voices, and a sense of awe and hope.

A Leadership Team and Staff Committed to Diversity

We must strive to have a multi-ethnic leadership team and staff.  Staff pictures and sermon downloads speak greater volume than well-worded vision statements.  Staff photos don’t lie.  If we want to be a multi-ethnic church, we first have to strive to hire multi-ethnic staff. 

The Lead Pastor must be Committed to Better Preaching

According to Bryan Loritts, effective preachers have two main characteristics.  First, they address issues of race and diversity in the way the Bible addresses them because it is strategic for the Church’s mission and vision.  Secondly, they resist the temptation to “turn the pulpit into a sociological platform” and instead are committed to the good news of the gospel and the veracity of the text instead of the political opinions of the day.  They do this by talking more about Christ than about culture.

I don’t plan not to preach a series about reconciliation. Instead, I want to address issues of reconciliation as they arise in the consecutive expository passages. One scholar refers to this approach as “not giving someone a cube of sugar, but rather simply sweetening the tea by sprinkling it in and gradually stirring.”

[1] Tony Evans Oneness Embraced. 

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