In a time of much division and hostility within our churches, the North American Mission Board has provided a free resource titled “Undivided” that aims to move congregations from low points of ignorance and struggle, to genuine gospel community. Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta and J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh and newly elected president of the SBC, come together to talk about division along party lines, poverty lines and, especially, racial lines.
“I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours—if not the most segregated hours—in Christian America” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Unfortunately, little has changed in the more than five decades since Martin Luther King, Jr. made this statement. Our homes and our places of worship are still largely segregated. Is this merely a reflection of our context, or is it a reflection of our faith?
Race and reconciliation is a conversation that can be hostile and extremely polarizing. Emotions range from fear and frustration to fatigue and indifference—or even anger. But we are the Church, and God’s people are called to be peacemakers and ministers of reconciliation.
We should want to see God’s image bearers redeemed and God’s family united.
As we get started, we must all confess we come to the conversation with our prejudices and personal experiences with race, and God’s Word may not currently be the primary source shaping our view on race and reconciliation, but it should be, and it can be.
The gospel message has never ignored racial issues.
The greatest commandments compel us to love God and our neighbors, and the Great Commission compels us to share the gospel and build lasting relationships with other ethnicities. So this is bigger than a race issue—it’s a discipleship obstacle. John Piper said that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” We can also say racial dysfunction exists where discipleship doesn’t.
Our vertical reconciliation to God should directly impact our horizontal relationship with one another.
The Church possesses the ability to demonstrate this unity, but we can only live this out by the power of the Holy Spirit and through discipleship.
Discipleship only happens in relationships.
If concerts, conferences and even church services don’t produce meaningful, discipling relationships, they’re just short-term experiences. The beauty of the gospel is not sameness, but oneness. God has called us to unity, not uniformity, and mutual discipleship produces this type of oneness.
Every nation, tribe, people and language exists in heaven.
Even in heaven, we see a multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural people united. This means we’ll eternally exist the way God created us ethnically and culturally. Just as on earth, we will not look the same in heaven; but, together, we will worship the same Savior and proclaim the same message. Ethnicity is valuable to Jesus on earth and in heaven, so it should be valuable to us on earth and in heaven. We should worship God now across various cultures, languages and ethnicities as a beautiful way of picturing and practicing how we will worship Him later with believers for eternity.
A community of people centered in the gospel enables the multiethnic body of Christ to weep, mourn, rejoice, laugh, play, eat, love, confess and repent together.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The content of this article was retrieved from the introductory session of the Undivided curriculum at the permission of the North American Mission Board. For more information and further study please visit NAMB.net/undivided.
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