As I close with a summary of our Bloodlines discussion, I want to first thank Trillia for sharing her insights, personal experiences, and convictions to this conversation. I thank her for raising her voice as an African American woman, wife, mother, and disciple of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Piper closes the book with several appendices, one of which is entitled “How and Why Bethlehem Baptist Church Pursues Ethnic Diversity.” I have never worshiped at Bethlehem Baptist Church so I have absolutely no clue what actually goes on there. It does seem, at least from Dr. Piper’s writings, that the right people (leadership) are asking the right questions on how to pursue racial reconciliation within their local church.
I highlight his four points as a summary because in addition to systematic structures (churches, the work place, schools an educational systems, etc), they are also important for consideration in our personal relationships and interactions.
It seems to us that the admiration we feel for this diversity in the New Testament should carry over into the desires we have for the visible church today. It seems to us that the local church should want these things to be true today at the local level where this diversity and harmony would have the greatest visible and relational impact. For us, this has implied pursuit. If we admire it and desire it, then it seems to us we should pursue it…[through] Prayer. Preparation. Probing. Preferring (257).
The idea of prayer laying the foundation for reconciliation seems simple enough. Dr. Piper and the leaders at Bethlehem pray for God’s mercy and for him to increase ethnic diversity to their church.
Preparation includes preaching, engaging in honest dialog on the topics of race, intentional reading, and bringing in speakers to teach and train on various topics related to racial reconciliation, vary worship service to reflect different cultural styles, and encourage interracial relationships.
Probing means “we search for candidates for pastors and elders who are from various ethnicities. Preferring [means] we intentionally take ethnicity into account when making choices about who we will call to the pastoral staff and eldership (258).”
Given these approaches, Bethlehem is following many of the recommendations of Scott Williams book, Church Diversity: Sunday the Most Segregated Day of the Week. They also prove Williams point, “If your heart is not right and you don’t have a strategy for diversity, it’s not going to happen (45).”
As we near the end of this racial reconciliation series, now is the time for personal reflection. Now is the time to ask: Is my heart right? Do I value differences God created in other people? Do I really want to see a unified body of Christ in the American church? Do I believe that reconciliation begins with me? Consider: what does racial reconciliation look like in my local church and community? How can I be a part of the strategy for diversity in my various areas of influence?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012