Race

A Letter From Your Pastors

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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.

In Conclusion,

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

Discussing Race & Racism

Adam Gibson, the author of this post, serves as one of the pastors on our vision team, as well as one of our primary teaching pastors. For more information on our leadership, visit our

Leadership page

.

Different Responses to Sunday

There might not be a more controversial topic in our country right now than racism and racial bias. Yesterday, I spent some time with Two Notch pastor Ant Frederick discussing the issues in Ferguson, race in general, and how the gospel informs our view of all those things.

Many have expressed gratitude simply for the topic being brought up and discussed. On the other hand, some in our church were offended by what was said, and I’ve already received feedback expressing such. Some are saying that we over-exaggerated the extent of racism in our country, while others said that we wimped out by not declaring the full extent of it. Ant and I knew that we would not please everyone with what we said, and with a topic like this I’m not even sure it’s possible to please everyone.

Things to Keep in Mind

As the conversation shifts into our LifeGroups now, I wanted to offer just a little bit of counsel:

  • Let’s keep the conversation centered on Scripture. I’m not sure that it would be most beneficial to hash through your opinions on the media’s handling of race-based issues, what changes should be made to our police forces, etc. Below are some pertinent passages of scripture. Let’s focus our conversation on God’s word.
  • Make it personal. What role does racism or racial bias play in your life? Do you have sin that needs to be repented of in this area? Don’t be quicker to point out others' sin than you are of your own. (Matthew 7:1-5) Before this is a political issue, it is a sin issue and a human issue. Don’t miss that.
  • Be quicker to listen than to speak, especially if you have racial diversity in your group. Ask others about their personal experiences. Don’t assume that the America you know is the same as the one everyone else has experienced.
  • If someone says something offensive, lovingly correct him or her by explaining why what they said was offensive. Don’t passively let it slide and don’t angrily attack back. Let’s learn to extend the grace extended to us by Jesus.
  • Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus has made us a family. We are a new race, a new humanity, the kingdom of God on the earth. The power of the gospel to unite us is more powerful that anything that might otherwise separate us. The gospel has been overcoming racism for centuries, there is no reason to think that can’t happen still today. So whether white, black, Hispanic, Asian, police officer, activist, liberal or conservative, Jesus has made us one big crazy family. Speak and live as such.

Some Helpful Scripture

As you look to process these subjects with your LifeGroup, church family, family, and friends, please consider the following Scripture:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick  to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace,who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22)

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17-18)

For this passage, just replace "sojourner" with "minority":

“You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:17-22)

“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers.  I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,  plead the widow's cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:12b-18)