Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Between Three Worlds
We live in a society in which identity in one way or the other touches everything. And that has been no more evident that in the current presidential campaign. A couple of weeks ago our brother Thabiti Anyabwile gave a powerful sermon on our identity in Christ at the T4G conference. Our fellow elder challenged God’s people to accept the biblical reality that we’re all descended from one man and in him all make up one race. He then went on to speak on how those in Christ are now one new people and therefore basically we should get on with the business of living like it.
I’m sure all of us who heard the message were encouraged and challenged to think or re-think our approach to people and mission. The message particularly challenged me in regards to what I believe was a central aspect of my calling. Ever since studying and embracing reformed theology nearly twenty years ago I’ve been convinced that God wanted me to take these truths to the black church and black community. And since I was sure that our Lord’s primary vehicle to introduce His gospel and disciple His people was through the local church I was certain that He wanted to me to plant a black reformed church. By black reformed church it was my intention start a fellowship which would draw from the cultural heritage of the historic black church and marry that culture with the reformed truths I’d embraced. However, it’s important to be up front and note that any church that sought to feature historic black church experience would appeal mainly to African-Americans and by default exclude most people from other ethnicities. I say by default because whether we admit it or not many of us factor in a given church’s culture when deciding on where to worship.
But here’s the question. Should I have sought to do that in the first place? No matter how benign my intentions were should I have planted a church that specifically targeted souls based on their ethnicity? In doing so did I contribute to the sin of using the church to highlight existing ethnic differences? My thoughts dwell on the way to pursue authentically biblical ministry, serve the subculture that I came out of while at the same time striving for the unity of the faith. For instance should I seek to write books, hold conferences and start or revitalize churches that focus on the issues prevalent in the African-American church and community? More than that, since the issues presented by the black church and community are so different than those faced by others should a whole movement be designed to impact the black church and community with authentic biblical theology and practice? If it did so and was ‘successful’ would the result be another ethnically based church and would that be right? Yet if we don’t go this route what are some alternatives to addressing things like prosperity theology, black liberation theology, the nation of Islam and the confused sacred/secular enmeshment of the black community? Mercy, it ain't easy living between three worlds!
Lastly, I need to end by thanking God for brother Thabiti, his message and his continuing ministry to God’s church. I also want to thank our Lord for the saints at First Baptist of GC and for brothers like Kevin Smith of Pinelands PCA, Reddit Andrew of Soaring Oaks PCA, Mike Campbell of Redeemer PCA of Jackson, Irwyn Ince of City of Hope in Columbia MD and the many other African-American pastors who intentionally sought to serve at mainly white congregations. These brothers are showing us that the body of Christ can stand unified in the face of our persistent ethnic tensions. And their congregations are demonstrating to our culture that white people can and have submitted to black leadership and are willing to invite a black man into one of the most intimate relationships of their lives, namely that of pastor and parishioner. No matter how these things shake out we would do well to pray for and highlight these examples of the gracious power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To Him Who Loves Us…