As we wrap up the first part of this series this week, I want to remind everyone why we are having this conversation. Why talk about diversity, race, or racism? Why talk about these issues in the church?
I have written on many occasions that I am not interested in discussing race for its own sake. When we look at race and racism with such a limited focus, it is quite easy to narrow the conversations to issues of fairness and pride (which we will discuss a little on tomorrow). A narrow focus makes an idol of our own race and belittles the race of others.
Furthermore, we can look at the history of racism in America and easily become overwhelmed with the injustice, disillusioned with the slow progress, or deceived into thinking that we as American people have somehow overcome this sin.
I have a better reason to discuss race and racism, particularly in the church…and that is for the sake of the gospel. Discussing church diversity, race, and racism is really about Christians accepting the responsibility to make disciples of all nations and evaluating the mission fields in which we are called to labor.
Within a few months, I will be reviewing David Platt’s book, Radical for the third time. (We completed a chapter-by-chapter book discussion last fall.) When wrestling with the reality that many American Christians do not want to “go” as missionaries or send their children to other parts of the world where living is less comfortable, David found himself angry, sad, disappointed, and confused. “Jesus commands us to go. He has created each of us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and I propose that anything less than radical devotion to his purpose is unbiblical Christianity (64, emphasis mine).”
A biblical Christianity commands the love of our neighbors. Biblical Christianity sees the connection between divisions of race and ethnicities, social and economic classes, and gender class. Biblical Christianity sees the difference between embracing a comfortable Christianity in America and making a dangerous commitment to Christ in many other parts of the world. Biblical Christianity sees that these disparities affect how we make disciples of all humankind and teach them to obey everything that Christ commands.
Williams reminds us, Church diversity is about reaching all people—period (53)!” It is simply unacceptable for well meaning, nice Christians to continue going around saying “I don’t see race” when what they actually mean is, “I’m too afraid to talk about it” or “The issue of racism does not negatively affect me.” (By the way, I have never heard a minority make such of a statement, and most minorities I know smile on the outside, but cringe on the inside when they hear it.) Likewise, “ministry leaders are claiming they want to share the gospel with “all people,” but their sanctuaries and their hearts are communicating that they want to share the gospel with those that look like them (38).”
Are we truly committed to making disciples of all nations? Do we understand that this training for diversity first starts with wrestling in our hearts through personal relationships we build at home, in our families, and congregations? What can we do to make a difference?
Other Reflections from Church Diversity: Sunday the Most Segregated Day of the Week:
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012