Saturday, March 22, 2008

One Nation Under The Blood?

My last post drew a comment that began with this question ‘In all honesty, why bother attempting to bridge the divide?’ The commenter went on to wonder in light of our past and current circumstances why we (i.e. black believers) should bother to bridge a gap created by white believers who it appear wish to maintain it even if they do so benignly.

Brothers and sisters whether we achieve a genuine level of ethnic harmony among the body of Christ in this life or not I believe that this is a discussion worth having. And since I know that I don’t have all the answers I would invite those of us who maintain blogs to participate in the conversation by hosting topics related to the pursuit of ethnic unity among Christ’s church. It really is high time for us to stop having conversations about having a conversation regarding ethnicity and actually begin the conversation. The question voiced by the anonymous commenter probably echoes the feelings of a good many believing black people. They hold no ill will toward their white brothers and sisters nor white people in general. They do not hate America nor do they wish this country any harm. However, my guess is that if you asked a majority of them if pursuing ethnic harmony with whites was high on their agenda they’d reply that it wasn’t.

In fact my own extended family may be quite typical of where most black believers are in this regard. They live in mainly or all black neighborhoods, go to all black churches and though they have white acquaintances at work they are just that, co-workers and little more. My best guess is that the only time any of my extended family comes into contact with white Christians is when they visit our fellowship. And I can tell you that from their point of view it’s no skin off their nose. I can also tell you that unless I had embraced reformed theology I would have been just like them.

So let’s begin with the question of the hour. Why should we attempt to bridge the divide? You’ll find that question and a very good, gospel focused answer to it posted by brother Lionel Woods who maintains the Black and Reformed blog in the comment section of my last post. But before we tackle that question I’d like to ask another and aim it mainly toward brother Lionel’s response and those who would agree with it. Should African-Americans pursue genuine ethnic harmony with our white brothers and sisters what would that harmony look like? We all agree that we don’t yet have it therefore I want to know what would it look like should we actually achieve it? We know the purpose in pursuing unity, I want to know what goal are we aiming for.

Please feel free to comment on this and Lord willing let’s begin to generate an authentic dialogue. Of course as believers we are to be mindful of our words being careful not to use them to tear one another down. At times the discussion will become passionate and that’s okay as long as that passion doesn’t become anger that’s expressed in an unbiblical manner toward anyone.

And here’s a homework assignment. (yes there will be homework and we might even create a list of required reading) Check out our fellow elder’s post that features the entire sermon by Rev. Jeremiah Wright in which he said ‘God damn America’. Listen to the message and follow brother Thabiti’s directions making comments on his site.

And above all please pray. Pray that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ will seek to bring Him glory in this area and not just protect our own ethnic or ideological turf. Pray that the main agenda of white and black believers will be the extension of the kingdom and the removal of anything on our part that prevents that. Pray that we can engage in a genuine dialogue that will result in the biblical fruit of Christ-like love and true unity. And pray that our example might result in the Name of Jesus being given high honor and praise among those who don’t know Him and yet truly want better ethnic relations in this country.

Lastly, here’s a message I preached on ethnic unity around this time last year. It’s entitled ‘One Nation Under The Blood’ and focuses on what God has done in Christ to create one new people.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance


Ben Stevenson said...

A couple of things I would like to see happen are:

1. Where there are two churches within a few miles of each other, where there is agreement on a lot of theology, but one is predominantly white, and another predominantly black, to find ways to work on a project together, or do outreach together. This would hopefully give more opportunities for members of different congregations to meet.

2. Middle class people move in to poorer working class areas. I know of areas predominantly white working class areas in the city where I live where there is not much evangelical Christian witness. Churches in "nicer" areas need to encourage people to move into these areas and support the struggling churches there.
I think some ethnic barriers are also partly economic barriers, and so this could help to address ethnic division as well.

I hope I can say in 10 years time that I am doing these things myself.

Although I live in the UK, not the USA, we have the same sort of issues, although different historical context. As a generalisation, black majority churches are numerically doing better than white majority churches (BBC News), and are doing a good job of speaking out about social issues like religious freedom.

Irwyn said...


Thanks for this post. I wrote an extended response on my blog here. Basically, as you know, City of Hope is intentionally striving to be a multi-ethnic church in our community. The goal won't be reached until glory, but I do know what the journey will look like. We will step on one another’s feet. We will make unintentionally offensive statements. We will be confronted with our own prejudices. We will be forced to ask, “Am I holding on to this issue because it is central to the gospel, or is the Lord calling me to die to it as an unessential preference?” We will begin to examine and appreciate the beauty of the image of God in other ethnic expressions. In other words, it will be a mixed bag. But Christ will be glorified in the pursuit. And that makes it worthwhile.

Thanks Ben for your comments as well.


Anonymous said...


I think the situation is quite different in the UK (as is what we must do), in terms of history, demographics, economics, and where we are at as 'conservative evangelicals' in the UK in 2008. (to begin, we are generally rubbish in the UK cities and do not seriously reach out much beyond middle class university students - this is demonstrated in there is not one African Carribean or African reformed or conservative evangelical church in the UK, and believe me I have looked !)

Please start a conversation on your blog - I think these are important things to discuss and vital for our future. These are issues close to my heart and it encourages me to see people interested in them.

Pastor Lance, please keep up the good work, I have appreciated your thoughts on Obama.

One day I must pick your brains on church planting.


Birmingham (UK, not Alabama)

Jim Pemberton said...

Pastor Lance,
I think there has been dialog, but talk is cheap. I think the biggest problem we have isn't with the people who genuinely espouse hatred, but with the people who are generally apathetic. Let me explain:

I love going cross-cultural. Learning how God can be glorified in different cultures is my bag. I love radically different types of music, foods, living arrangements, social structures, etc. But I'm strange this way. Most people don't like to go into the unfamiliar. I think it has less to do with skin color and more to do with a difference in a cultural frame of reference.

I understand that words may mean something different to someone with a different background, so I ask for clarification. most people assume the know and often assume wrongly.

I'll give you an illustration. I've worked in more than one place where first shift comes in and does some work. They leave. Second shift comes in and does some more of the same stuff. They may do things a little differently because they have communicated with each other and have developed a slightly different method for accomplishing the task because they don't work with first shift and slightly different solutions are developed for the same problems independently. Perhaps second shift left the work area arranged a little different than first shift is familiar with when first shift comes in. They get upset because they aren't familiar with the way second shift left the work area. If anything goes wrong, it's easy for them to blame second shift because they've decided to do things differently. Besides, second shift isn't there to give their view. First shift leaves and second shift comes in. The work area is set up differently than what second shift has worked out for themselves. The boss asks second shift about the accusations first shift has leveled at them. Second shift gets defensive because they are being blamed out of turn. Thus begins the cycle of division due to a lack, not just of communication, but of mutual enculturation.

The only way to truly eradicate the racial divide is to eliminate the cultural divide. The only way to eliminate the cultural divide is for enough people to intentionally cross that divide. Most people won't cross that divide because they are comfortable where they are and don't want their little world to change or expand any.

I'm willing to expand my little world because my God is bigger than my little world and if He goes somewhere outside of my little world, I want my world to grow so I can go with Him. For the secular world, this is not a consideration, but we as brothers in Christ have this good reason for crossing that divide.

Anonymous said...

brother Lance this is a tall order!

But crucially essential to the glory of God in Christ, and the essence of the gospel. " A new creation."

Of course, on both sides of the fence,our white brothers who have also, become full of the short coming of quiet dislike towards blacks, want what you and all of us, who have seen, what Shelby Steele calls

" The dumb mathemaitcs of thinking by race, or the dumb logic of racial thinking".

I will tell you what I suggest, as I have pressed this issue for our Church for years.(

First, Leadership must both believe and exibit, in a sacrificial way, the new wineskin of the gospel, which effectively transcends the status quo.

Blame it on Jesus! Luke 15;1,2

Secondly, educate your people both privately and publically, while we have this freedom on the flaws of political religion. The failure of liberal/conservative ideology as a impedence to true unity.

Politics by nature divides

Thirdly, establish what Oz Guiness, tauted Christian author and historian says, must be recovered in American discussion, and that is a Civil square.

A place where the men and women of this nation can actually talk to each other with out it errupting into the embarrassing manifestations of talk radio and T.V.

I will be heading the pack here on the west cost, with both christian ministry and secular radio, as a talk show host,using
this very format, to seek to remove the hostitlity, and open the way to fearless and honest discussion.

Knowing that not everyone is ready for this, but the Church must take the lead or the beloved country we dwell in will continue to lose it's freedoms, as it is now, because the nations that forget God will be turned into hell!

So once again, don't be weary in well doing, we shall reap if we faint, not.

for this, Obama's calling is well worth it!

By Grace Alone,