Pastors‘ and Theologians‘ Forum on Race
We asked a roundtable of pastors and theologians the following questions:
In From Every People and Every Nation, J. Daniel Hays writes, „Black scholars identify the racial division in the church as one of the most central problems for contemporary [church], while many White Scholars are saying, ‘What problem?’“ (17). Is there a race problem in the American church? Are whites missing it? Why? What implications does this have for the church’s proclamation of the gospel?
- Rickey Armstrong
- Anthony Carter
- J. D. Greear
- Sam Lam
- Eric C. Redmond
- Juan R. Sanchez Jr.
- Kevin L. Smith
- Ed Stetzer
- Justin Taylor
- David Wells
- Jeremy Yong
„Is there a race problem in the American Church?“ I must answer by saying obviously yes. Growing up in a nation where everything has been divided by the color of a person’s skin has made it impossible for the American Church to escape the negative effects of racism. In 1993 Billy Graham pronounced that „racism, both in the world and in the church is one of the greatest barriers to world evangelization.“ In 2001 Michael Emerson and Christian Smith brilliantly documents the racial problem in the church. We hinder racial healing when we fail to acknowledge the reality of racism in our churches.
„Are Whites missing it?“ While most of our white evangelical brethren are „missing it,“ praise God that some like Dr. Daniel Hays and Dr. John Piper are getting it. As a result of the Fall we all have our blind spots regarding the race issue.
There are a number of reasons why many white Christians continue to miss the race problem.
1. Given the history of America many Whites have been conditioned to deny the existence of racial problems.
2. Most Whites do not have to live in an environment controlled by minorities.
3. Some view racism as primarily an individual issue as opposed to a corporate problem. Most Whites fail to address the institutional nature of racism.
4. Most Whites are not aware of the various ways that culture is used as a tool of racism.
5. Most white pastors and ministers have refused to address the race problem biblically or otherwise.
6. Many white evangelicals are more loyal to their culture than they are to the Gospel.
What implications does this have for the proclamation of the gospel? I would offer several:
1. The spread of the gospel will continue to be hindered by the sin of racism. We are quick to declare the Scriptures to be the final court of appeal for what we believe and practice, but there is a noticeable inconsistency between our rhetoric and our behavior. We have muzzled the gospel so that it can fit within our cultural, racial and religious traditions.
2. The world’s depiction of evangelicals as segregationists is justifiable as long as we continue to be silent on racial issues.
3. False expressions of Christianity as well as other false teachings (Prosperity teachings, Charismatic madness, Black Muslim religion etc.) will continue to make significant inroads into our inner city and minority communities apart from a serious biblical, interracial, cross-cultural witness in the evangelical church.
4. Race and culture will continue to dictate how we relate to each other rather than the Scriptures.
1. Billy Graham, Racism and the Evangelical Church (Nashville: Christian Life Commission SBC, 1993), pamphlet.
Reverend Rickey Armstrong serves as pastor of Glendale Baptist Church in Miami, Florida where he lives with his wife, Tobi, and their six children.
Is there a race problem in the church? Indeed there is. The unfortunate truth is that there is a racial divide in evangelicalism. The issue primarily lies in our inability (particularly our white brothers and sisters) to live according to Philippians 2:3: „in humility count others more significant than yourselves.“ White privilege makes it difficult and even unnecessary for our white brothers and sisters to submit to those who are not racially or culturally like them. This lack of submission does not necessarily stem from a racist attitude, but it does demonstrate that we do what is most comfortable and causes the least tension in our cultural identifications. It also tends to make talk of racial diversity empty and fruitless.
Most of my white evangelical and Reformed brothers and sisters speak positively and eloquently on racial diversity. For this, I commend them. However, until we see white men and women doing what black men and women have long learned to do—namely, sitting under and submitting to the leadership and authority of those who are ethnically different—we will not see real diversity.
Most of the diversity we presently see is black men and women going to where white people are. Even when predominantly white churches call a black man to be the pastor, it is black people going to where white people are most comfortable. Real diversity will happen when we see white people regularly and joyfully going to where black men lead, preach, and teach. We will see real diversity when white people learn to submit to the minority culture as black people have had to submit to the majority culture.
Mutual submission is an undeniable evidence of the Spirit’s work (Phil. 2:3-4). It is particularly evident when the majority learn the worth and joy of submitting to the minority. It demonstrates that they fear God more than men. Where there is no mutual submission, there is no real fear of God. Where there is no real fear of God, there will be no real diversity. God has long given us the solution to the racial problem. Besides a racial problem, however, it appears that we have an obedience problem as well.
Anthony Carter is the assistant pastor of Southwest Christian Fellowship, author of On Being Black and Reformed, and an organizing member of the Council of Reforming Churches.
J. D. Greear
For years, „church growth experts“ have maintained that you can grow a church faster if you aim at one particular „slice“ of culture, whether a certain demographic, race, age, economic status, and so on. These experts instruct churches to appeal to their target audience by playing the music they like, speaking in their colloquialisms, dressing in their style, and programming ministries for them. Black churches seem to reach black people best. Rockin’, laid-back, uber-cool churches reach the twenty-somethings the best. Organized, professional church services reach middle-class America the best. You get the point.
On the other hand, the second chapter of Acts provides us with a picture of a church where people from different races, different ages, and different backgrounds come together under one commonality, Jesus Christ. The church was supposed to be a miraculous sign of Christ’s Lordship over his people and a testimony to the culturally-transcendent beauty of Jesus.
It is clear that the early church was diverse in this way. Racial harmony within the churches was one of the things that astounded the Roman world and caused the rapid acceptance of the church in Roman culture (see Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity). Recently, I heard Bill Hybels say that if he had Willow Creek to do over again, he would have built his church on diversity. I even asked him, point blank, would he do this if it meant reaching half as many people. Without hesitating he said, „Absolutely. The larger, corporate witness of the church is more important than a temporary numbers surge for one congregation.“
In order to accomplish that type of diversity, however, you have to program for it. There have to be elements in our services that appeal to other cultures and ages. When ethnic minorities see themselves in leadership, they more easily accept the authenticity of the message. Otherwise, they have a hard time inviting others from their culture to come.
And this is fair. Why should we insist they conform to our culture? Many of us poor white people were silly enough to assume that when we finally announced that black people were welcome in our churches, they would all come flooding back in, thanking their lucky stars for the chance to be in our presence. But why would a black person want to come to a church that doesn’t resemble his culture or possess any of his „kind“ in leadership?
However, if you start to mix truly „black elements“ into your service, some of your white crowd gets uncomfortable and you are less effective at reaching them. By „black elements“ I mean things that appeal to people in a truly black culture. (To note: I’ve noticed that some churches who boast of racial diversity have black people who have morphed into white culture. These black people are not recognized by the black culture as being representative. Black culture as a whole is not Victorian, and most black people are not comfortable in a staid, Victorian environment that appeals to the highly educated.)
So, herein lies the dilemma: it seems that the New Testament gives us an ideal of a church that is diverse in every way. But diversity seems to hinder growth. And shouldn’t we want to reach people as fast as possible?
So what is the answer?
Perhaps the answer lies in a matrix. I think that the local church ought to have some ministries that are targeted at a homogenous group—certain outreaches, certain small groups, certain special services, where people of one cultural-milieu try to reach people in their same milieu. The gospel penetrates a culture best when it is brought by people from that same culture. Amidst all the multi-ethnic diversity of the church at Pentecost, the apostles did begin by speaking in peoples’ own language. We can’t expect the unbelieving culture to say that cultural differences really don’t matter—that would be expecting them to act sanctified before they are even saved!
But on top of that are certain things that the local church must do that celebrate and promote its diversity. Perhaps the weekend service is where various cultures can be displayed in worship. Perhaps that can happen in a special joint service where sister-churches of different ethnicities worship together. In the final analysis, however, we know that cultural diversity must be the end-game for the local church.
J. D. Greear is the lead pastor of the Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina.
The issue of race is easier than we think, and it’s more complicated than we think.
It’s easier than we think because, at its core, the issue of race or ethnicity relates to favoritism, which we read about in James 2. We like people who are similar to us or who can give us what we want.
It’s more complicated than we think, though, because favoritism appears in so many ways: from race and ethnicity to socioeconomic to geographical to interests. The challenge is to be aware of how we may be showing favoritism, and often we’re not aware that we are.
Since Whites are often in the majority in America, and given the history of racial relations in America, Whites have a special challenge. Though they may be aware that others have race concerns, it may be hard for them to truly grasp the significance of such issues. Minorities know what it feels to be in a minority position. As a Chinese, I often notice I am different when I walk into a room that is predominantly white. Yet there are not many contexts in the United States where Whites are in the minority. Thus, the cross-cultural awareness that minorities nearly automatically develop must be actively learned by Whites.
What to do? I recommend that we actively seek to grow in serving all members of our churches, spending time with those who are different from us. Through such interactions, I think we will discover how we have blindly shown favoritism. Then as we work through these issues of race, we have the privilege of glorifying God by showing the power of his cross in reconciling all peoples to himself. That is a picture of the gospel—and also a great hope for us.
Sam Lam is Director of Business Development at Manas Development Group, which helps foster sustainable development in developing countries.
Eric C. Redmond
There is a race problem in the American church, if for no other reason than the fact that there is a race problem in America, and the evangelical church’s progress on race has, historically, mirrored America’s progress on race. The great gulf that exists between the gatherings of Whites and African Americans on Sunday morning, often reflecting the great gulf that exists between white exurbia and African American suburbia or cityscape, exemplifies the mirroring of the culture by the church.
My white brothers of the faith often miss the race problem. I don’t feel that this is due to overt racism on the part of many. Instead, it’s because my white brothers must work at seeing life though the eyes of an African or Hispanic or Asian or Native American—all of whom are naturally and daily race-conscious. This is inevitable when you are
- the only minority in the board room or on the faculty,
- the one being profiled by security cameras or stereotyped as a class below white cultural and class standards,
- the potential victim of discrimination by mortgage lenders and human resource hiring specialists,
- a parent concerned about his/her child being mistreated as the only minority in a classroom or at a teen camp—even a Christian teen camp.
In addition, unless one works very hard to do so, my white brothers cannot feel what it is like to live in a society dominated by another ethnic culture (in a society in which ethnic distinctions matter greatly) and to adjust to the dominant culture’s preferences, norms, and mores daily—from the time one leaves home in the morning until returning home in the evening. This can even be the case at one’s church, fraternal organization or civic group. This practical ignorance of the minority experience lends itself to omissions of thought—i.e., „insensitivity“—on issues of race. Three examples should suffice to express this reality:
1. In churches that are predominantly white with a small percentage of African Americans or other minorities, little might be said on issues like Supreme Court decisions on race, immigration reform, and the tightening of the U.S.-Mexico border; the continued use of offensive names for professional sports teams; and the use of racial slurs by actors like Michael Richards and Mel Gibson. Yet there are ethnic minority believers in that congregation who need their white brothers and sisters to weep with those who weep, or to encourage them all the more as we [they] see the Day approaching. After all, the ethnic minority has been dealt a blow below the skin. At minimum, the ethnic minority needs someone to ask, „Brother, sister, how do you feel about this issue?“ This demonstrates a clothing-in-humility-toward-one-another that is needed to bring unity within the body of Christ.
2. A recently published systematic theology—A Theology for the Church (B&H, 2007)—provides the contemporary pastor and layman with a solid work that has the potential to become a standard seminary classroom or personal pastoral reference text for years to come. In this collaborative effort, each chapter on a specific doctrine has three great features: (i) a brief look at the history of the specified doctrine, (ii) a selective summary of Baptist teaching on the doctrine, and (iii) a consideration of the practical implications and outworking of the doctrine in the life of the church.
However, in Theology there is not one mention of racism, racial-reconciliation, injustice, slavery, or genocide. (I am aware that the topics included may seem imbalanced since the work is a collaborative effort, drawing from the expertise of several men.) By omitting such discussions in a tome of this type—one that is compiled by some of the most well-known conservative Baptist scholars in this generation—we have, by de facto, said that issues related to „race“ are not for theological discussions, or at least not a discussion at the level of Openness Theology, Intelligent Design, and the extent of the Atonement. If this text begins to serve our seminaries in a manner similar to Erickson’s and Grudem’s systematics, many of our younger men and women will study theology without a critical reference work on race. Apparently, that discussion is left for the African Americans, Hispanics, and Liberation Theologians. This unintentional omission in Theology allows for an unintentional omission in the theology coming from our pulpits.
It seems to me that Theology would have been a good place to put a nail in the coffin on theological errors related to race. I think this would have had a tremendous effect on the pulpits around the country, and especially in Southern Baptist pulpits, as men grabbed this reference work when preparing sermons on Genesis 10, Ephesians 2, or 2 Corinthians 5, or for topical series on sin, justice, missions, and theological anthropology. As it stands, we are left without a one-stop body of divinity that also discusses race and justice.
Moreover, if „race“ is not important enough for the theologians to discuss, it will not be important enough for those who actually believe in (conservative) theology to consider it as part of their theology.
The question has to be asked, why are topics concerning race not a part of normal, essential theological discourse? Why is it not natural for them to appear in a bound systematic volume written by conservative churchmen? I would suggest that it is because „race“ is not a natural and daily concern for these brothers; it is not factored into their theological histories and applications.
3. Evangelical seminaries—the training grounds for the leaders of the church—still tend to be overwhelmingly white in administration and faculties. While every evangelical seminary with which I am familiar is working hard to hire ethnic minority faculty and administrators, the fact that few schools have demonstrated the courage, good will, and consistent effort to bring about these changes suggests that the issue is not a top priority for many schools. However, when a school’s faculty and administration remains nearly 100 percent white, in effect the school communicates that scholarship, teaching leaders, mentoring leaders, and administrating a school is for some and not others—that ethnic minorities are not yet equals in this task. This effect also sends a message that ethnic minorities may preach the gospel, but (re)searching and teaching the depths of the historical and theological deductions from the gospel in a formal academic and scholastic manner is beyond them. Thus, white brothers can view ethnic minorities and their churches as second-tier in their understanding and articulation of the gospel. In fact, when an African American or another ethnic minority speaks in seminary chapel only once or twice a year, ethnic minority students feel that they are being viewed as second-tier by fellow white students. This then leads African Americans to discourage younger generations of men in their churches from going to such schools. It also creates feelings that such schools are racially biased when a school’s administration may simply be omitting what does not come naturally to them.
I believe the Church is the only entity on earth that has the power to overcome the social display of sins (and the sins themselves!) related to the racial divide in the church, racial insensitivity, racism, racial discrimination, racial injustice, the racialization of American society, and genocide. Only the gospel of the Savior of the whole world, the righteous Judge of all the earth, the one who looks at the heart and not the outward appearance of man, the one who has broken down the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, the one whose kingdom rules over all, and the one who announced to Abraham, „through you all nations shall be blessed,“ has the power to make people of regenerate hearts one in Christ Jesus.
In adhering to this gospel, African Americans and other ethnic minority believers must practice forgiveness, overlook faults in others, and conquer cynicism, which is the private judgment of the motives of others. For even if Whites corrected all of the above omissions and more, I fear that many African American believers would not give true reconciliation a chance. Many are still holding pains, bitterness, and patterns of skepticism left over from an era gone by. Nevertheless, if we do not forgive, we do not understand the gospel.
Eric C. Redmond is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland, and the 2007-2008 Second Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention. He blogs at A Man from Issachar and The Council of Reforming Churches.
Juan R. Sanchez Jr.
I am convinced that the issue of race is a gospel issue which reflects an ignorance, distortion or blatant denial of particular applications of the gospel. In this light, I do believe that racial division is one of the most pressing issues in the American church today because racism, whether by ignorance or by willful intent, strikes at the very heart of the gospel.
If at the heart of the gospel is the message that God is at work in Christ to glorify himself in all the earth by gathering a multi-ethnic assembly from every tribe, nation, people and language, each of whom are created in his image and likeness, then the neglect of this gospel emphasis communicates an incomplete and deficient gospel.
We may understand that blatant racism is sin; however, I fear that certain popular ministry methods unwittingly produce the same „racist“ effects. Here are just three areas that come immediately to my mind which require great wisdom and caution in light of the issue of race:
1). Church Growth and Church Planting – Methods of church growth and church planting that are grounded on the homogeneity principle undermine the multi-ethnic emphasis of the gospel because the idea that „like attracts like“ tends to lead some well-intentioned evangelists, pastors, and church planters to focus on a particular „target“ group, which by its very nature excludes those who are not like the „target.“
2). Ethnic Churches – This raises the fact that the race issue is not only a „white“ problem; for as long as we maintain a need for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian churches, we deny the power of the gospel not only to save, but to unite us as one in Christ. I understand the need for ethnic churches due to language barriers, but such churches prove only effective in reaching the first generation. This is one of the great problems facing language ministries and requires much attention.
3). Church Relocation – I am sure relocation is warranted on some occasions, but when a church relocates away from a community because of racial transition or with the purpose of moving to a more affluent community, it embraces the very partiality of which Scripture warns (James 2:1-7) and which betrays the gospel.
If the gospel overcomes all barriers—ethnic (Jew/Gentile), social (slave/free) and gender (male/female)—and unites all who believe as one in Christ (Gal. 3:28), then this unity should be reflected in our congregations, our ministries, and our lives. Anything less would be a denial of the gospel in its entirety.
Juan R. Sanchez Jr. is the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
Kevin L. Smith
Is there a „race problem“ in the American church? OF COURSE! Christians in this country are affected by the ills of our culture unless we pursue godly living that contradicts the surrounding peer influences. Thus far in our nation’s history, Christian churches (as a whole) have failed to be sanctified in their understanding of racial and ethnic differences among people, even among fellow Christians. There have been glimpses in American history where the church could have been something greater and godlier. Unfortunately, she failed. As the eighteenth century ended there were noticeable Christian voices crying out against the evil of chattel slavery. Unfortunately, the culture „shouted them down.“ At the dawning of the twentieth century the Pentecostal revival that began at Azusa Street was a multiracial movement. Sadly, within a decade that union divided over race, with Blacks and Whites taking separate paths. Currently, one only needs to read Edward Gilbreath’s Reconciliation Blues to understand the present problem of race within the evangelical wing of Christianity.
Are Whites missing it? Yes, many are – not all. Individuals should be considered on their own merits. As a black Southern Baptist, I interact regularly with „clueless“ Whites as well as Whites that are very aware of racial issues. When I feel optimistic—I say without oversimplifying—it often depends on what „world“ we live in. In Gilbreath’s book, a frustrated black woman says, „The White Christians I encounter often display a shocking provincialism – a real naiveté about the world around them. Frankly, it’s as if they are stunned to find out that their cultural, political, and religious frame of reference is not the only one“ (18). On my bad days, I say white Christians are just like white non-Christians—unwilling to share power and privilege in a competitive, capitalistic society.
Whatever the reason, the costs are eternal! According to John 17:21, the church in America is hindered in its proclamation of the gospel because of our racism and prejudice. Using Hays’ language, I would say that is a „central“ problem. I appreciate courageous Christians who realize that the original sin of America has also stained the church in America. Has America (and its churches) made progress? Yes, but there is still death in the melting pot. We lament that Christians divorce as much as non-Christians. We likewise should weep that Christian racism parallels that of the non-Christian culture. Sadly, to whom much is given (like the precious glorious gospel), much is required. We fail.
Kevin Smith is an assistant professor of church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
I planted my first church among the urban poor in Buffalo. Having been raised in a racially isolated community near New York City, I never thought much about race—but in Buffalo we had little choice. We were forced to address issues of race because our community was a multicultural milieu. It forced us to read the Scriptures with more awareness of race—and an acknowledgement of its challenges.
We found that race matters in scripture. Even though few Anglo churches seem to notice, Scripture frequently demonstrates God’s concern for race and ethnicity.
Luke illustrates the coming of the Spirit with diverse expressions of tongues (Acts 2), even identifying the languages being spoken. And a glimpse of eternity in Revelation shows that men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation make up the choir of eternal praise (Rev. 7:9). If the writers of Scripture take notice of ethnicity, so should we.
Scripture not only identifies race and ethnicity, but John hints at prejudice concerning Jesus in John 1:46, „Can anything good come out of Nazareth?“ Furthermore, Jesus intentionally offends ethnic and racial sensibilities with both the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Why go to so much trouble to emphasize their ethnicity if it does not matter?
Yet the same Spirit that inspired the Scripture to identify race also provides the strength to overcome its challenges. Both our worship and our witness are made more perfect when we model gospel-centered diversity.
At the cross, there is „no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.“ Yet at the throne there are men and women from „every tongue, tribe, and nation.“ We would do well to remember both.
Ed Stetzer is the Director of LifeWay Research and LifeWay Missiologist in Residence. He is also the author, most recently, of Comeback Churches.
It’s simply impossible to deny that there is some form of a „race problem in the American church.“ If a man and woman enter marriage counseling, and one says that there’s a problem and the other denies that there’s a problem—well, by definition there’s a problem! Furthermore, „If one member suffers, all suffer together“ (1 Cor. 12:26).
But what is the nature of the problem? Does Scripture mandate ethnic diversity within local congregations? Are mono-cultural communities inherently deficient? What caused the divisions we now see? What perpetuates them? What can be done to overcome them? When are generalizations helpful and when are they harmful? What is the relationship between race and culture? What are the principles and parameters of contextualization? Our inability to come to a common mind on these sorts of questions leads to a divided house playing an indistinct bugle, and this lack of gospel unity hinders our gospel witness.
There are a number of reasons for the mixture of anger and apathy that attends consideration of these issues, including selfishness, self-righteousness, hypersensitivity, insensitivity, assuming the worst in others, love of comfort, and love of power. And despite decades of „dialogue,“ the church often apes the culture in reversing the maxim of the apostle James, being quick to anger and quick to speak while slow to hear and to listen.
The growing contingent of Reformed black pastors, bloggers, and authors represents a new opportunity for us to search the Word together and to use the resources of our common Reformational heritage. We need our best and brightest pastor-theologians engaging these issues, searching the Scriptures, and communicating the truth with „brokenhearted boldness“ (to borrow a phrase from John Piper). Genuine progress can be made if we (i) agree that no questions are off the table; (ii) commit to conversation for the long haul; (iii) assume the best in each other; (iv) seek to ground all of our points in the Word; (v) humbly seek correction and biblically practice the correction of others; (vi) refuse to seek either power or atonement in anything other than the cross of Jesus Christ.
Justin Taylor is the managing editor of Crossway’s forthcoming ESV Study Bible. He is also the editor of Overcoming Sin and Temptation, an unabridged but more accessible version of John Owen’s classics on sin and temptation.
David F. Wells
Antagonism toward other racial groups is one of the ways in which the Fall continues to play itself out in our world today. Are some white churches guilty of this racism? Of course. Who can deny it?
At the same time, racism is something which is very hard to quantify. How many churches are guilty, and to what degree, and with what frequency, is impossible to say. We can say, though, that racism is always wrong and should always be rectified as soon as it is recognized for what it is. In the Book of Acts, we see the first Christian churches coming to terms with this very issue even though ethnic and theological issues were intertwined in that context.
There were Greek-speaking widows who felt that they were being treated as outsiders and not being given a fair shake. This is what minorities often feel and oftentimes with good reason. The widows’ concerns were immediately addressed (Acts 6:1-3). And what we also see is how the gospel itself enabled the early Church to overcome its potential for racism. In obedience to Christ (Acts 1:9), it took the gospel to—of all people!—the Samaritans who were religiously deviant and with whom Jews had had uneasy, strained relations for a thousand years. And Peter was also to learn personally how hard it is to go beyond one’s own group (Acts 10:9-48).
In this regard, wouldn’t it be a wonderful day if we no longer had all White, or all Black, or all Hispanic churches? These churches come about, I know, because of where people live. And yet we do need to be able to find ways of modeling the gospel together, do we not? After all, we come to Christ as sinners, not as Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics; and if our union with him does not obliterate our uneasiness with each other, then we discredit the Church, the gospel and, worst of all, Christ himself. That is what is at stake.
David Wells is the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, and an ordained Congregational minister. He is also the author of the forthcoming The Courage to be Protestant: Marketers, Emergents, and Historic Christians in the Postmodern World.
Some people in every church have missed it. I grew up in up in a Chinese American church, and I missed it. If a church has the problem of losing sight of the racial implications of the gospel, we first need to make sure the gospel is actually present. If the gospel is present, we need to think and help others think through how our restored relationships with God through Christ lead to restored relationships with others in Christ; men once hostile to God now call him Father and two once-divided brothers now fellowship because of the blood of the Savior.
For the preacher and his preaching:
1. Preach the Word. The whole counsel of God provides plenty of opportunities to address the fact that in Christ, there is no Jew or Gentile. Seize them.
2. Specifically apply the Word. Specific application (do a Bible study, read a book, meet up with someone of a different culture to talk about the issues, etc.) can help challenge the congregation (and ourselves!) to move from ungodly ethnocentrism and toward a biblical understanding of race and culture.
3. Live what we preach. Three characteristics come to mind: intentionality, grace, and humility. Mark Dever was a model of intentionality as he took time in staff meeting to read and then have us discuss a piece on Asian American leadership (even though I was the only Asian American at the table). Thabiti Anyabwile was a model of grace as he patiently bore with my racial faux pas when we were getting to know each other as brothers. Until Christ’s kingdom is consummated, we need a hefty dose of humility (for some of us the Lord sticks it through humiliation) to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and that we need someone to help us. Who’s that someone for you?