Some Thoughts on Engaging Our World and Talking about Race
In a world filled with a constant stream of information loaded with so much emotion and tension, many are wondering how the church should respond. So, I am writing to share with you how we are thinking about these times we are living in. First, let me say that I think some longer and slower in-person conversations are needed, but Covid makes this hard. As we walk through this time, you need to know, we aren’t going to freak out every time something happens in our world, but we also aren’t going to ignore what’s happening and stick our heads in the sand.
Our aim as a church is not to be reactive, but to focus on true discipleship. Our mission hasn’t changed — we are called to make authentic disciples of Jesus who live for the glory of God and the good of our world. When we say we “live for the good of our world,” this means that we will engage the world in a Christ-honoring way. This isn’t new—we actually planted this church with this day in mind.
In our prospectus as a new church, I wrote 7 years ago before we had even started as church, “We do not attack our culture, acquiesce to our culture, nor hide from our culture; we redemptively engage our culture.”
That means we are going to be a space where we can talk about things happening in our world, but we are going to depend on God’s Word for guidance and direction. We are not going to look to religious culture or to irreligious culture for answers. We aren’t picking sides in a polarized world — we let what God says about his world dictate what we think. It also means that we seek to live out the truth in the ways, attitudes, and manner of Jesus.
This is the harder path, by the way. The other ways are easier.
- To attack our culture would be easier — just make it about US versus THEM.
- To acquiesce to our culture would be easier — just bend our views to accommodate what others want us to believe.
- To hide from our culture would be easier — just pull out of conversation and live in a holy huddle of people who reinforce what we want.
These options would be easier, but we don’t believe these approaches foster the biblical, God-honoring, world-reaching lives we are called to live. I long for us to be a people who are more responsive to God and to his Word than we are reactive to the world. We see these moments asopportunities to reach people in our world with the gospel and to grow disciples of Jesus.
So, we will engage important issues, but not in a reactive, knee-jerk way. We are going to practice a long obedience in the same direction. We are going to seek to be biblical, seek to be humble, seek to be honest, seek to be courageous, seek to be kind.
As we walk this path together, we will look like most families — there will be some different opinions and experiences, but we will remain committed to one another as a church family.
Unity does not mean we always agree. Unity is a commitment to oneness even when we don’t agree. Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
So, let’s seek to be both wise and humble in our interactions.
While what I’ve said above applies to many conversations and frames how we think on a broader level, I want to take a moment to apply it to the conversation about race and justice that is raging in our country.
The Conversation about Race and Justice
I don’t think anyone would say that race issues are insignificant in our world, but we each experience this struggle in various ways. For my part, I am incredibly grieved and frustrated by the way our world continues to be torn apart. Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with my friends who are black, my friends who are in law enforcement, my friends of differing opinions, and my friends of various political stripes, so I know how divided our world is. To be honest, it is hard for me to be hopeful as I watch both the destructiveness and the dismissiveness of so many. The biblical word for what I feel is lament. There is so much to mourn on every front, and the divisiveness of much of the actions and rhetoric and posturing is just more to mourn.
Yet, I know our Lord sees all of this too, and I believe he can change the hardest human heart. So, I choose to fight for hope. As I think about what we ought to do, I am fairly certain that nothing which has been broken in our country for 400 years (and longer elsewhere) is going to be undone in a 4 min video or 4 paragraph email. Rather than trying to react to every new story in the news cycle, I want us to consider how we can play the long-game. I want to create ways for people to study and discuss what the Bible says. I want us to invest in ministry partnerships like Restore OKC that make a difference in individual lives. I want us to train our students to be ready to engage the world in a biblical and healthy way as they head to college or into the workforce. I want to see families formed who seek to leave the next generation a better place to live. I want to focus on reaching people with the gospel and on making disciples who will love others well.
As we engage this conversation together, let’s set some realistic expectations — I will make some mistakes, and you will too. We may overreact. We may be fearful. We may make assumptions about someone that are wrong. We may say something offensive. We may stubbornly dig in our heels. It is going to happen to the best of us. So, we are going to need lots of grace and patience with one another. We will have to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” when we blow it. But I believe our Heavenly Father will grow us as we seek to honor him as Jesus did by saying, “Not my will, but your will be done.”
So, in this as in all of life, we will seek to do what is best over the long haul, we will fight for our oneness as a church, unified by Christ, and we will let our love show the world that Jesus really is the Savior sent to save us.
As a way to put some practical “next steps” on what we will do as a church family in this area, here is what you can expect in the next twelve months. We want to:
- Pray — We are going to pray to ask the Lord to bring healing and racial reconciliation. We will pray on the first Sunday of the month in our worship gathering, and we will set aside time for this in our quarterly Prayer and Worship Nights.
- Serve — We are going to continue to serve alongside our ministry partners at Restore OKC. We are asking each small group to serve together at Restore OKC at least once per year, our students to serve at least once a year, and our staff and elders to serve at least once per year.
- Study — For those who want to know more, we want to equip you to study God’s Word for guidance and direction. So, we will explore ways to help you to better understand what the Bible says about race and justice. This may be an Equipping workshop, a podcast, or some other opportunity, but we hope to offer something this Fall as an optional study outside of our normal gatherings.
- Presence — We will seek to listen to people of color, maintaining a humble posture as our brothers and sisters share their experiences and stories. Listening is one way we can live out the “one another” commands of Scripture such as honor one another (Romans 12:10), have compassion for one another (Ephesians 4:32), bear with one another (Colossians 3:13), etc. We think we can learn from our friends and follows when we position ourselves in proximity and in conversation with others.
- Support — We will support ministries around the world investing our resources, our time, and our prayers. Whether it is a church in Guatemala, an orphanage in Ecuador, or a church planter in an urban context, we want our resources to be a blessing that furthers God’s mission among diverse people, and especially among the poor.
I hope this helps you to better understand our heart for both our church and our world as well as some practical steps for how we will engage our world for good at this time. Please pray for us as we seek the good of others in the way of Jesus. Much love and grace to you!