We find ourselves in a heated and painful season in our society over the issue of racism. This is what lies at the heart of the present social unrest and turmoil.
Right now, our black neighbors are crying out. They have been pushed away from an equal place at the table in America or even the church. This is a cry the black community has made for generations. This is unjust. Black men and women bear God’s image just as all people do, and so deserve an equitable place at this table and to be defended against cruelty and injustice.
In response, I have not taken these long-term cries as seriously as I should have, and this lacks the love Jesus has extended to me that he has also called me to exhibit (Ephesians 5:1). But, I suspect that I am not the only one. Now is our time to change that posture, and to take up a different posture of listening and learning. That way, as we act for racial reconciliation, we’ll work to ensure a fully dignified and recognized space at the table for members of the black community (and every other ethnicity for that matter). Undoubtedly, taking that posture of humility will be uncomfortable as potential blindspots are exposed. But that can lead to growth for every one of us. This posture is one that leads to becoming blessed as peacemakers (Matthew 6:9), and taking steps toward becoming the church Christ died and rose to create. After all, this is the church God designed in sending his Spirit to us as a people to realize the reversal of the division of Babel (Acts 2:1-13 that was part of our Square One sermon series).
As a result, we are taking the next faithful steps together as a church family, to listen and learn, so as to act for racial reconciliation. Here are some initial faithful steps we are inviting our church family to take with us:
- We are hosting a church-wide book club on Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. Written by Latasha Morrison, this book will challenge us to consider ourselves and our blindspots in the racial divide, and will help us to grow as we talk about ideas, process our feelings, and move to new understandings.
- The elder board is reading Be the Bridge in order to engage in the same stretching experience and grow in the area of race and racism.
- We are hosting a social distancing prayer vigil for racial reconciliation in America on July 5th at 7pm in the courtyard at FBC. We will pray for our country and spend time in reflection, lament, confession and intercession, asking God to extend mercy and to bring justice for reconciliation. To join on campus, please save your spot here to ensure we follow county regulations. Or if you’re more comfortable to join in from home, we will stream it on FBC’s Facebook page and on Instagram Live.
- The staff will be doing an inservice with an outside expert in public health and racism to grow in our understanding of race and racism, and to know how we can respond.
- College Life is addressing the issue of race and racism. For example, in a recent podcast they heard from a former College Life leader. This has encouraged ongoing dialogue and learning. (You can listen in through Spotify or Apple Podcasts... search for "Your Pod and Your Staff" and then subscribe).
- Lighthouse has hosted a number of conversations about race and racism that included members from the black community as well as the police community.
- The Children’s Ministry has changed our online VBC theme to “Love Thy Neighbor” and as part of their ongoing support to parents, the team emailed helpful resources for talking with children about race.
- The staff has reached out to people of color in our church to get their thoughts and to ask how FBC can support them. The staff has done the same with adoptive parents of black children.
- In sermons we’ve explained the implications of the passage for racial justice. We’ve also made the ongoing scourge of racism the subject of pastoral prayers.
As you might notice, many of these faithful next steps involve difficult conversations bringing to the surface sensitive and uncomfortable issues. So, we look to God and his Spirit among us to help us in these conversations. In fact, I’m confident that God will do just that to empower us to move toward the realization of Babel’s reversal. Let me encourage you to be extra sensitive to the Spirit’s prompts and convictions as we navigate these conversations. That way, we’ll...
- apologize quickly and forgive quickly,
- extend grace as we acknowledge we are all in process,
- ask for clarifications instead of jumping to conclusions,
- reflect back what we heard to ensure we understood,
- and be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19).
In short, we seek to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26) so as to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and apply much of what we learned in Emotional Healthy Relationships two years ago (now, may be a good time for you to review what you learned, or to acquaint yourself with it).
So, I want to encourage you to actively participate in listening and learning to be an agent of racial reconciliation. Join in any of the above opportunities. Search out trusted resources on your own (see additional resources below). Spend some time in prayer asking God what he’s showing you, and what he’s asking you to do. Seek out conversations with people in your Home Group and others across racial lines to listen and learn. In that way, we’ll take what next faithful steps we need to take toward God’s vision of his people reversing Babel where everyone has an equal place at the table. My prayer is that God would lead us on and keep us in this journey.
Taking the next faithful steps with you,
(on behalf of the Board of Elders: Chris Dietrich, Chris Krage, Joe Biggs, Keith Redenbaugh, Ray Rodriguez, Mike Wall, Tim Blewett, and Dan Seitz)
- Heartfelt, powerful words from some leading African American pastors about race, as shared through Bayside Church in Sacramento. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLfnZUBMMSg&t=99s
- Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales!) has put together an excellent 17-minute video illustrating the history of Black oppression post-slavery and the systemic and structural racism that has brought us to our current cultural moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGUwcs9qJXY
- Senior Pastor, Steve Luxa, addressed the topic of injustice in a recent sermon in Elijah: Just Like Us. Listen here.
- Associate Pastor, Dan Seitz, addressed the vision of racial unity in Christ in How God Buried the Human Hatchet. Listen here.
- Be The Bridge Book: Be The Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation. Get the book on Kindle, Audible, or Avid Reader in Davis!