In light of recents events in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas, our nation is looking for answers while Christians are asking the question, after we pray….Now what do we do?
To me, this is a prime opportunity for the Church to live out a gospel presence in order to gain the attention of ears and hearts – so we can give gospel presentations.
- Pastors – we must be seen in the community, outside the 4 walls of our churches and not just behind our pulpits = we need to speak God’s Word to the cultural ills around us and model biblical living while we call our people to mobilize alongside us
- Christians – every believer plays a vital role, its not just on the shoulders of the pastor. Every Christian has the same job description; the Great Commission (multi-ethnic discipleship relationships)
Today I want to reiterate two strategies (RAPID and FABRIC) I’ve been advocating we employ as an answer to the question “now what?” after we end our prayer vigils.
#1 – R.A.P.I.D. (to be used inside of the church)
The gospel Jesus preached consists of a balance regarding His salvific atoning work and social action with the non-believing world. It is this same gospel that addresses racism in America because racism distorts the imago dei. The plan I’m proposing is summed up in the acrosticR.A.P.I.D. I’m calling every Evangelical to; Restore dignity to Blacks in America (as well as all other ethnicities who’ve had it stripped from them socially), Affirm the ethnic identity of Black Christians (and other ethnic minorities), Promote the truth All Black lives matter, Institute Ethnic Conciliation, and Develop biblical guardrails for our limited engagement with non-believers as co-belligerents.
- Restore Dignity = In light of a previously article I wrote regarding the horrible treatment of Blacks in America, Evangelicals should now recognize the leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement are crying out for a restoration of the imago dei. They’re not asking for the gospel per se, and their core values do not pave a road to the cross of Christ however, in light of the historic treatment of Blacks in America, their request for a restoration of dignity rooting back to the imago dei must be granted! This why in week 1 I started off with a biblical understanding of the imago dei. Christians, it is time for us to lead the national conversation on race and we must start by affirming the imago dei of every Black life. By doing this we will directly confront the animalization and dehumanization they’ve endured for centuries often from the mouths of professing and practicing Christians. The #BlackLivesMatter cry/hashtag is a starting point for gospel conversations, not the whole of the conversation. This is why Evangelicals can enter the conversation by leveraging the truthful statementBlack Lives Matter by redeeming through a gospel-saturated framework that leads to the affirmation of one’s ethnic identity.
- Affirm Ethnic Identities = Next, we must express a holistic interpretation of Galatians 3:26-29 by affirming the ethnic identity of Black Christians (in addition to the ethnicity of every believer) rather than ignoring or idolizing it. In this passage we see three areas humans have sinfully used to build walls of segregation; ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status. Paul says the finished work of Jesus obliterates each of these walls, providing salvation for sinners regardless of their ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status. Couple this truth with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) we recognize we’re called make disciples from all ethnicities who will dwell in the multi-ethnic City of God (Rev. 5:8-10; 7:9; 21). Evangelicalism does well in creating content, conferences, and conversations focusing on two out of the three (gender and socio-economic status) yet, at the same time we regularly fumble the ball when it comes to ethnicity. We affirm the gender of believers by laying out curriculum for respectable biblical roles, stress the importance of a biblical work ethic and financial stewardship, but when the conversation turns towards issues involving the development of resources contextualized for ethnic minorities the question, “why does it always have to be about race” stifles progress. It will do us well to understand that by affirming the ethnic identify of Black Christians, championing our North African Church Fathers, and creating space for contextualizing discipleship tools for ethnic minorities is not putting our ethnicity before our Christianity (I’ve written more on this here and I challenge you to read it for further clarification). When we fail to affirm the ethnic identity of believers, we leave room for anti-gospel movements to gain the ears of Blacks (and other minorities) by propagating a caricaturized “White Christianity” that has no place and relevance for them, in order to lead them out of the church into their ethno-centric movement.
- Promote “All” Black Lives Matter = Third, it our conviction as Evangelicals to affirm the sanctity of live inside the womb by protecting it. One glaring blind spot of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is the neglect, in-large of Black lives in the womb! A key opportunity awaiting Evangelicals is for us to recognize all Black lives matter, especially those in the womb. It’s an atrocity nearly 17 million Black babies have been aborted since 1973. Being pro-life is not our only call and we must equally understand our passion for fighting for Black lives in the womb must be coupled expressing the fact Black lives outside of the womb matter too. We can accomplish this by strategically mobilizing believers (leaders and laity) in local churches to address the brokenness found in Black communities by working to renew the broken systems. Issues we must begin to address are; adequate and affordable housing (in light of gentrification), broken family structures, crime, education reform (grassroots to top levels of leadership), food deserts, mass incarceration, poverty, sex-trafficking, and unemployment all being issues the gospel addresses.
- Institute Ethnic Conciliation = Fourth, it is the Body of Christ’s responsibility to work towards ethnic conciliation in place of “racial reconciliation”. In light of the ethnic tensions we have within the household of faith, I believe ethnic conciliation will only become evident when the members of the Body of Christ stop withholding the compassion of Christ from each other. We are to be the model for God’s plan of redemption for the lost and we can only accomplish this by having grace-filled long-lasting interpersonal relationships with Christians from differing ethnicities than our own. The work of Christ has torn down the wall of segregation regarding worship to God (Eph. 2:11-122), its time we personify His victory by showing America and the world tangible expression of ethnic conciliation in our local churches. I share a three-step plan on how we as the Body of Christ collectively (not just leaders) can accomplish the task here.
- Develop Biblical Guardrails for Co-Belligerency = Lastly, the gospel proclaims the kingdom Jesus preached. A kingdom larger than the reach of movements that come and go. I believe God is calling His Church in America to represent Him with excellence by stewarding the gospel greater care than previous generations. The mission of the Church should be seen through the lives of saints who apply the gospel’s implications to the spheres of influence they’re in. The gospel reaches far beyond the goals of the #BlackLivesMatter movement yet, if believers fail to live on mission, such movements gain momentum because of our lack of mobilization and stewardship. The stewardship I’m speaking of comes with three kinds of relationships; Co-laborers, Compadres, and Co-belligerents. Co-laborers are other believers (and churches) inside of Evangelicalism we most resonate with theologically on essential and secondary issues. Compadres are believers (and churches) who affirm the gospel but differ in length on secondary issues. Lastly, Co-belligerents are non-believers who work to address communal social ills suppressing human flourishing in our vicinity. The most complex of the three relationships is the third and it demands a biblical framework put in place before limited short-term agreements are entered into. Relating to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, when InterVaristy employed the term Co-belligerents without identifying a framework, I felt it was necessary to advance the conversation by developing this Missiological assessment as a prerequisite to introducing biblical guardrails for co-belligerency.
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