Black History Month is a time set aside every February to honor significant contributions by African Americans around the world. After several years of grassroots celebrations, President Gerald Ford formally recognized Black History Month during the United States’ bicentennial celebration in 1976. Now other countries including Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom have similar national observances.
As we pause this month to celebrate the contributions of African American men and women throughout our history and culture, we should not forget the past and present contributions of African American pastors and church leaders, many of whom led in the fight to end slavery and ensure civil rights for all Americans.
While we have made significant strides in our nation’s history related to racial reconciliation, events in recent years have demonstrated there is still much work to do. As followers of Jesus Christ, we should lead the way in pursuing healing and wholeness because ethnic discrimination is not merely a social issue, it is a spiritual issue clearly denounced by God’s Word.
Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:14, that Jesus tore down the wall of hostility, when He went to the cross and His blood was shed for our sins. He has broken down the wall of prejudice. He has broken down the wall of discrimination. We know it still exists in the world, but it should not exist in the church.
In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope…. …we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together….”
As we seek to become a movement of churches on mission together, we want to reflect God’s glory and His grace. Revelation 5 depicts people from every nation, tribe, tongue and people on earth gathered around God’s throne in worship. To truly reflect God’s glory and grace while being on mission together, we need to reflect the diversity of our communities as we proclaim the diversity of God’s coming kingdom.
“With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
U.S. census data released earlier this year shows that North Carolina followed national trends with increases in racial and ethnic diversity among its population. Sadly, our faith families don’t always reflect the level of diversity we see among our neighbors nor in Scripture.
This is one of the many reasons why we need our brothers and sisters of color. Not only do we need to be unified in the gospel as a witness to a watching world, we also need their wisdom and experience to help us as we continue to proclaim the gospel in our state, nation and world.
Since becoming your executive director-treasurer, I have enjoyed getting to know more African American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American pastors and church leaders across our state. We have held frank and fruitful conversations related to the gospel, ministry partnerships and more. I have been encouraged, convicted and challenged through these discussions. I am now more convinced that we need more of these ministry leaders serving at every level of leadership in our convention. I pray that you would consider nominating individuals to serve in these roles at ncbaptist.org/recommend.
Our churches should reflect the mission field we are trying to reach as a foretaste of what we will experience around the throne of Jesus. Additionally, our convention staff, committees and boards must look like the fields we are trying to reach.
I believe that God is on the move in our state and that our best days are ahead of us. And we need the wisdom and diversity that God has put into His church all united as a movement of churches on mission together to proclaim the name and fame of Jesus.
So on behalf of N.C. Baptists, let’s honor the legacy of our African American brothers and sisters. As we look to the future, thank you for helping to remind us of the beautiful diversity of all God’s children.