Copied from the prologue of the "Precious in His Sight" book. Grab a book at any Gathering.
We try to remind you regularly that pastoring you and our church family is a privilege and a joy. You guys are awesome. It’s hard to explain how much we love you. So even as we are launching this series on a heated conversation like race, we do so with a lot of joy and confidence. And as we do, we wanted to give you some disclaimers.
1.) You can let your guard down.
We are not coming after you. You are already faithfully walking in many of the applications we plan to talk about in this series. Because of your love for Jesus, you do a great job welcoming people in regardless of racial or cultural background. All of our churches have members of various ethnicities who are sharing life as a family. We see you seeking to be sensitive to this issue. You express an uncommon eagerness to listen and learn. People often note how much fun our city-wide Gatherings are, where the diversity of styles and skin colors across our family is on full display.
The overall tone of this series will not be one of rebuke. Our hope is to simply continue growing together when it comes to racial issues.
Now culturally speaking, stepping into the current conversation about race is somewhat dicey. People have vehement, passionate and often polarized perspectives on all kinds of racial issues. Many of these are fueled by political agendas and clickbait that get attention by intentionally being rude and overstated.
Nuance isn’t celebrated (or even considered) nearly enough in this conversation.
And that’s exactly why we have to continue engaging in this conversation. It’s both necessary and a beautiful missional opportunity. As Christians, we have tools and a perspective that the world needs to move toward the peaceful hope and unity that most desire (though the American church has frequently and painfully neglected these tools). There are real people in our society who are hurting and need gracious Christians armed with gospel mercy and biblical clarity to proclaim and embody the redeemed life formed only by the blood of Jesus.
Sure it will be risky, awkward and uncomfortable at times, but that’s never stopped us before. Part of our blood-bought identity is entering into the mess of our broken world with gospel hope and helpfulness.
2.) Don’t assume political agendas.
Conservative or liberal political leanings are not a prerequisite for this conversation. You can agree with everything we say in this series and everything the Bible has to say about race issues and still lean toward or hold conservative or liberal political values. We intend to look into what the Word of God has to say about race, oppression, justice, love and compassion and draw out applications for our current time and place. In fact, that’s exactly what we always seek to do as a church family. Nothing we are doing here is a veiled attempt to get you to align with a political platform.
3.) Race issues can be obvious to some while invisible to others.
One of the biggest problems with injustice issues in general, and specifically racial issues in America, is that if you haven’t experienced them, they often seem invisible to you. Meanwhile, if you have experienced them or observed them directly, their realness and detriment are so obvious as to demand urgent attention and immediate action.
If you find yourself thinking, “I really don’t see it”, that’s okay. It might be good to remind yourself that a lack of insight and experience doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.
If you find yourself thinking, “Why can’t you see this?”, that’s okay. It might be good to remind yourself that there are people who have never experienced, seen or dealt with what you are dealing with. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they hate you or don’t care. The best solution is for us to all faithfully work together to see them accurately and respond appropriately.
In light of this paradox…
4.) This book, series and conversation could be difficult at times.
There’s a decent chance that there will be ideas in this series that will be tough to swallow. We are going to try our best, but there’s a chance one of our pastors may misspeak in a sermon. There’s a chance someone in your LifeGroup might say something that makes you shift in your chair
We’re becoming more and more convinced that there’s almost no way to venture into this conversation without some of these uncomfortable and awkward moments happening. And each of these moments will provide another opportunity to give each other the grace that we have all received from Jesus.
5.) We invite you to a no yelling policy (and no mocking, insulting, hating or any other kind of self-righteousness either).
James 1:19-21 “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
Just to be clear, this goes for everyone. Sometimes it feels like the call to listen is really just a call for me to listen while you tell me I’m wrong. The Biblical call to listen is not a bully tactic to silence others and win arguments. All of us need a heavy dose of listening marked by mercy, meekness and understanding. Especially for people who think differently than us. And all of us need to be corrected at times.
6.) The book you are holding is supplemental and primarily historical.
The book you are holding is a supplement to the sermon series. It details parts of the story of race relations in America and includes space for sermon notes and LifeGroup discussion guides. The sermons will primarily work through the story of God as it relates to race, whereas this book is meant to serve as an overview of the persistent race problems our country has experienced.
Without the story of God, we won’t be theologically prepared to see the deepest issues and hold out the truest solutions.
Without the story of America, we will lack necessary perspective and understanding as to where our culture’s current race issues came from and why they are often so hard to move past.
Just like your personal history had massive effects on shaping who you are now, our country’s history has shaped our present situation in the same way. We’ve attempted to present historical facts with as little commentary as possible.
The goal in all of this is to help us see the historical connections that led to many of the problems we have inherited. We are not starting from a blank slate. Even a cursory knowledge of these issues can bring about understanding and help us make connections to the current problems we are experiencing.
The Bible calls all of God's children to stand with and speak for the oppressed, which means we must be aware of oppression’s history and presence in order to start. Our request is that you read the historical content we've provided here while looking for ways these historical events might still be affecting lives to this day.
Someday there will be no more mourning, nor pain, nor death nor tears in our eyes. (Revelation 21:4) Someday there will be no more racism, or hatred, or oppression and injustice that have caused untold amounts of pain, mourning, death and tears.
And until that day, as God’s people we are called to do justice; to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)
So let us do it armed with Jesus’ hope and love.
Let us scorn the discomfort of hard solutions as we pursue peace at any cost. Let us persevere in whatever good deeds Jesus calls us to with every comfort that God is responsible for the coming redemption of all things.
Grace and peace,
Your pastors at Midtown