#RacialRec: Sound the Alarm – Our Symbol, Our Prayers

One thing evident to me as I lead and minister is this, “Actions speak louder than words.” As a young leader, I have been drawn to the wise counsel the Apostle Paul provided to his protégé Timothy. Paul wrote to Timothy about the qualifications of leadership, the importance of having a good reputation, living with integrity, and training “yourself to be godly (1 Tim. 4:7b).”

Paul provides important leadership lessons to Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:13-16. These lessons apply to all “Do the Right Thing Leaders.” Paul basically teaches Timothy to, “Remain focused on the things I have taught and modeled for you. Uplift God’s Word, proclaim the good news through preaching and teaching. Hone your spiritual gifts. Do all of this because people are watching. Since people are watching you, be careful to watch your life and doctrine closely. When you are a faithful leader in this way, you not only grow in maturity yourself, but you also influence those who are watching to see your progress.”

This is the reality, as Christians and leaders, people are always watching. We should therefore constantly challenge ourselves about the messages we send into the world. Do our words, beliefs, and actions display the same symbol, heart, and ministry of Jesus Christ? This week, I have already shared Jesus’ John 17:20-23 prayer for unity, and how that unity when properly displayed is a symbol to the rest of the world that Jesus was sent to change us and to change the world.

We see Jesus’ prayer answered and practiced through the faithful servants in the early church. Sometimes we rush over the names of people and places we cannot pronounce in the Bible, and in doing so, we completely miss what God is trying to teach us in his Word. The Book of Acts Chapter 13 verses 1-3 is one such example and it reads:

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teacher: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabus and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. 

Without completing background research, we miss the fact that this is a multi-cultural church in a diverse city. Consider the research in Tony Evans Speaks Out on Fasting:

Barnabus was a Jew from Cypus (Acts 4:36), a Gentile colony. He was a Grecian Jew, Jewish by birth but with a Gentile upbringing. This would be the same today as a white person who grew up in a black neighborhood, or a black person who grew up in a white neighborhood.

            “Simeon who was called Niger” was another leader (Acts 13:1). Niger means black. Simeon was a black African exercising leadership at Antioch. The next man was Lucius of Cyrene, which was a North African country.

            Then there was Manaen, “who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch.” Manaen represented royalty, the upper crust of society. Last, but by no means least, was Saul or Paul. He was the Jewish scholar, the local Pharisee. Paul was totally immersed in the Scriptures and Jewish culture.

            The church at Antioch reflects the fact that God has a plan and a place of ministry for everyone (pages 46-47).  

Dr. Tony Evans writing outlines the racial differences between the church leaders at Antioch, but he also carefully displays the differences of their experiences. Racial and ethnic diversity in the church are not isolated issues. These issues oftentimes reveal our hearts concerning diversities of social/economic class, education, experiences and upbringing. They reveal how we address gender differences and the diversity of age, hence Paul’s instructions to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers… (1 Tim. 4:12).” The character and integrity of leadership is what counts. The symbol of Christ is what counts.

The church leaders at Antioch valued diversity. The church leaders at Antioch were leaders who worshipped, fasted and prayed, listened and heard from the Holy Spirit before making decisions because they were united as Jesus desired! Their unity was a symbol to all those around them. We know this because scripture records, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26b).” Glory to God! May it be so with us!

I challenge you as a “Do the Right Thing Leader” to call Christian leaders to pray for unity in the church. Prayer is one thing, perhaps the most importance thing we can do right now to challenge the church to move in the right direction concerning unity in the body of Christ. That’s what we are doing here. You can do the same in your church and community.

 


We cannot wait. Now is the time to pray! Will you start by sharing a prayer for the universal church here?

© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012

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