Practical Suggestions for Redemptive Ethnic Unity
In light of the recent incident in Charlottesville I wanted to follow up on a friend’s request for a few suggestions concerning the pursuit of redemptive ethnic unity. I define redemptive ethnic unity as the tangible unity God’s people are called to experience and enjoy in the local church. This isn’t exhaustive as each point could be developed further. Hopefully, it will provide a good starting point for those who wish to pursue the authentic unity of God’s people.
1. Begin by asking yourself the following question: Does the church I serve need people from various ethnic groups to demonstrate a biblical, relevant witness to my community, my fellow church members and our children?
2. Remember this is a gospel issue since it’s God’s express will to bring people from different ethnic groups into one multi-ethnic worshiping community called the church. (Gen. 12:3; 18:18-19; Ps. 72:8-11; Isa. 2:1-5; Jer. 3:15-17; John 10:16; Ch. 17; Acts 2; Eph. 2:11-3:21; Rev. 7)
3. Pray about these things consistently. Through prayer God does some miraculous things in the human heart.
4. Cultivate the practice of thinking redemptively instead of ideologically. For example, redemptive thinking leads us to consider our responsibility to pursue unity across ethnic lines. Ideological thinking can lead to complacency with the status quo. Redemptive thinking emphasizes biblical virtues like sacrifice, love, humility, kindness and compassion. Ideological thinking stresses American virtues like individual rights, fairness, merit and tolerance.
5. Pray about working toward more ethnic unity within your local church. It can do little good and seem hypocritical for us to say that ‘all we need is the gospel’ if the gospel’s power can’t begin to reflect God’s will in this area within our churches.
6. Read some insightful books on the topic such as Free at Last? By Dr. Carl Ellis, Aliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions. Edited by Dr. Anthony Bradley, Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Heal Us Emmanuel, (Edited by Rev. Doug Serven) One New Man by Dr. Jarvis Williams and Winning the Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Working? Clarence E. Shuler.
7. Listen to podcasts like Pass the Mic and Truth’s Table to gain some solid, biblical insight into these issues.
8. Consider attending the LDR conference. LDR is a yearly gathering on Labor Day weekend that focuses on biblically based redemptive ethnic unity and social justice.
9. Be sure to have actual face to face, and not just Facebook conversations with minorities who tend to have a different view from most people in your church or circle of friends about this.
10. Consider coordinating a church effort to establish a relationship with church of a different ethnicity. You can begin with joint worship services and then move to joint men’s, women’s and youth retreats. One of the goals is to build genuine relationships with a group of God’s people. These relationships will enable you to talk about your lives, our common faith, along with some of the ways we differ in our approach to race.
11. Learn the history of conservative evangelicals on race relations from the late 19th into the late 20th century. It will help to place our current challenges into context. You can begin with books like God’s Long Summer (Charles Marsh) and For a Continuing Church (Dr. Sean Michael Lucas).
12. Related to that is the importance of learning about African-American history during this period. The following is a sample of where you can begin: Rev. Dr. King’s Letter from A Birmingham Jail, The Souls of Black Folk by Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and the video documentary series Eyes on the Prize. Eyes on the Prize followed the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 through 1965.
13. Check out our art. A people’s art is a window into their souls. Read poetry, listen to music, attend theater productions and movies. The following is a very short list to get started. The characters in these stories examine African-Americans as they struggle with issues of dignity, identity and what it means to be human in America. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Fences by August Wilson, Crash, Boyz In the Hood, Precious, Twelve Years a Slave, 42, Selma, and Ragtime (musical).
14. Finally, remember that redemptive ethnic unity matters to the living God. As such we can trust in Him to do the impossible in this area. Take some time to carefully read Eph. 2:11-4:6. See what the passage teaches about our unity across ethnic lines and then reflect on Paul’s exclamation of praise concerning God’s power to bring it to pass for His own glory. Finally, note how God has determined to receive this glory from His multi-ethnic worshiping community called the church and His Son throughout eternity.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Joyfully in Christ,