Three months ago, Matt Chandler’s Village Church (Tx) put out a video about racial reconciliation. Perhaps because I don’t follow Chandler, I didn’t see the video until today. And after watching, I felt a bit sick.
On the forefront, I want to say that I honestly believe that the Village is waking up to the horrendous sin in their own hearts. They really do want racial reconciliation. And for that, I’m grateful. But this video clearly displays their implicit ignorance and racism, rather than revealing a change of heart and change of vision, and for that, my heart breaks.
Rather than hash through all their mistakes, though, I want to lead you in a different direction. I want to ask you a question. Do you want your church to be multi-ethnic? If the answer is yes, then I beg you to keep reading and sincerely listen to just a few things that God has broken me about in a lifetime of trying to be a part of what He’s doing in reconciling us together in a church setting.
1) Racial reconciliation is not about banning a “white sound” or a “black sound.” And it’s FOR SURE not about blending the two together to have something “we all can enjoy.” Racial reconciliation happens before a note is played or a key is struck. It happens before we can actually speak to each other. It starts in our own homes, in our own bedrooms, in our own hearts. It starts with asking ourselves the dangerous questions. Questions like: Is there any racism in me at all? And don’t wimp out by blaming your environment for some lingering illusions. Be honest about what you agree with and what you disagree with, and why. And then ask yourself what it would take for you to admit you’re wrong. Because you are wrong.
2) Racial reconciliation isn’t about a quota. It’s not about magically hitting that number of more than 20% “other” in our church sanctuary so that we can declare on some Web site somewhere that we are “multi-ethnic.” It’s about understanding that brothers have been locked in war with other brothers for decades, and you’re not going to change it in a 5 step-plan. You’re not even going to change it with 5 intentional relationships. You’re going to change it when you realize that despite all our progress, you’re probably still just a trail blazer. So if you’re willing to strap on your boots and be disillusioned at just how big this fight is, join the rest of us.
3) You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT, advocate for racial reconciliation while still maintaining how awesome your ministry is and how well you have reached out to other ethnic groups. What you can do is admit that you want to love, and you don’t know how to do it exactly. But that you’re going to try. Any successes you get are not to feel like victories. They are to be somber reminders that there is so much more reconciling that can be done. There’s not time for celebration. There’s time to keep living it out. That’s it.
4) Don’t you DARE try to use doctrine to convince others that they should want racial reconciliation. You can make the mind believe it, but the heart never will. When you’re talking about reconciliation, you’re talking about surrender. You’re talking about both sides (or multiple sides) leaving their claims behind to meet at another destination. To try to use doctrine to be the ultimate summation of the goal of racial reconciliation is to be woefully ignorant of how that language created the problem to begin with. Racial segregation always begins with intellectual idolatry: We think about this better than you. And to use doctrine, especially if your a mostly white congregation, is to come into the meeting with your weapon still loaded.
Instead, ask the character questions of your own tribe. Ask your congregations if they can say the Holy Spirit is totally unhindered in love, joy, and self control when they encounter different tribes and nations of people. And when they bow their heads, knowing that the answer is no, invite apologies to be given. Not excuses. Apologies.
5) And the last and hardest piece of advice I have to give is this: Don’t try to make everybody look good or holy or like they’re trying to “make the peace.” There is nothing good or holy in the way that we ignored, shut down, condemned, criticized, and separated from one another. The way back is a path of walking through the muck. We’re all going to look messy as we go through it. So don’t publicize it. Don’t be proud of it. Don’t hold it up as a template for others to follow. Be grateful that God is allowing you to be a part of a miracle and that He’s offering grace upon grace to you. Let Him do the work. Let Him change you. Let Him grow something in your church without you needed to put your own “touch” on it. And stand in awe and reverence. You’re on Holy Ground.