We Need You Men

As a generation, we are staring daily into the void caused by the lack of strong, godly men in our culture and our homes.  Whether it is the recent news about rampant sexual assault on college campuses or violent, abusive young men who commit mass shootings, we are seeing the consequences of a generation of men who have not been taught to use their strength to live for the good of others, but instead have been trained to use other people for their own selfish gain.  How have we ended up with this sad state of affairs and more importantly, how do we turn the tide with the next generations of boys?

The truth is that one of the effects of sin in our world is the selfish passivity of men.  Without strong mentoring of the next generation of boys by the current generation of men, the default belief of young men is that they are supposed to be cared for by women.  So, instead of learning from an early age to use their masculine energy and strength to be servant leaders, boys learn to use women to get their own needs met.  This selfish passivity is destructive to the family, the church, and the culture at large.

What we desperately need today is a renewal of selfless servant leadership among men.  We need a generation of boys who learn (by watching and hearing) to use their masculine strength to lay down their lives for the good of the women around them.  We need a new generation of men who live to protect women, honor their bodies, and treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve as daughters of God and sisters in Christ.  We need a generation of men who will reject the selfish consumer passivity encouraged by our culture and who reject the violent, abusive treatment of women displayed in pornography.  A generation of men who make the decision to be faithful, loving husbands and fathers, who work hard to provide for their families, and who commit themselves to a  life of character and honor.

One of the oft-repeated proverbs of pastoral leadership is that “everyone attends church on Mother’s Day and everyone goes fishing on Father’s Day.”  While its obviously an overstatement, it reveals the core issue I’m writing about today: that moms too often carry the heaviest load for spiritual leadership and direction in the family.  This should not be.  Dads, where are you?  Where are the fathers who don’t check out on Father’s Day, but instead tell their families, “what would honor your father the most this year would be for us all to be in church together worshiping God as a family”?

It is too easy for us as men to sit back and condemn the culture for its lack of moral compass and mistreatment of women and girls.  But here’s the truth: if we sit  back and do nothing, if we keep our mouths shut and say nothing, if we fail to train the next generation of boys to honor God above all and treat women with love and honor, then we are perpetuating the very problems we hate to see.  Men, we need your strong, servant leadership in the home, the church, and the culture.  We need you to tenderly love and serve your wives in front of your kids, to treat the women at your workplace with dignity and respect, to use your gifts to serve women in the church, and to use your strength to protect your daughters.

Men, our world is crying out for a vision of masculinity that is not selfish, passive, abusive, and consumed with lust and games.  Where are the men who will lay down their selfish desires, their sexual urges, and their violent anger at the altar before God and pick up the mantel of Christ-like love, service, and kindness toward others?  Give me a tribe of these kind of men, and by God’s grace, the next generation of boys will have a vision of manhood worth giving their lives for.

A New Prayer for A New Year

Lord-

As we enter 2016, I cover this year with a prayer for help with the small things.  Not that I have stopped believing you for big miracles in this life, but that my evaluation of faithfulness in the daily grind has gone up exponentially over time.  For that reason, Almighty God, I’m asking for your hand to bless the quiet routines that no one will ever see but you.  I believe that those may be the most significant moments in the new year.  Father, I pray for…

  • the discipline to get up early every day and seek You first.  I understand that going to bed on time and getting up early is one of those small decision with huge ramifications.
  • the creativity to invest new ideas into my dates with Barie.  Don’t let me get stuck in a rut with our weekly date nights.  I ask for the energy and passion to invest in my wonderful marriage.
  • the compassion for those around me who are hurting.  Lord, help me to see what You see and feel what You feel, and to not miss people in my path because of tasks on my to-do list.
  • the honesty to recognize when my body needs rest.  2015 was a tough year of realizing the limitations of my body.  Diabetes has been my thorn in the flesh, literally.  Please help me to rest and exercise as needed so I can be around for my family in the years to come.
  • the patience to parent well.  God, I get angry too often when the kids are disobedient, when they are loud while I’m craving silence.  Help me to have more grace for them, to treat them like You treat me.
  • the wisdom to manage our family budget in a way that fulfills our giving commitments and regular responsibilities.  I need strength in this area.  It is just hard.

God, I want to see you move in big ways in 2016 – in our family, our neighborhood, our church, our nation, and the world.  But as I get older, I increasingly see my need for You in the daily moments of walking with Jesus.  Lord, show us Your powerful hand in the everyday routine of life, helping 2016 be a year of growth and health and peace.

For Your glory and fame.  Amen.

Five Tips for Studying the Bible

Open BibleAs we think about our goals for the new year, many of us want to become more regular in reading, studying, and applying God’s Word to our lives.  Here are five tips to help you become a better student of the Bible:

1- Have a plan!  After following Jesus for the last 20 years, I can confidently declare that your Bible reading will be better and more disciplined if you have a good plan to follow.  Without a plan, your reading will be sporadic and disconnected.  Reading the Bible faithfully is a lot like the discipline of exercise.  It requires you to do it when you feel like it and when you don’t feel like it.  The best way to push through the low times is to have a good reading plan that you can stick to.  There are a variety of great plans available online.  However, if you are looking for a great one to start with, sign up to journey with our congregation through the four NT gospels in 2016.  You can sign up at http://cityview.jointhejourney.com/.  You will receive a daily email with a passage to read and a short devotional with reflection questions.

2- Read prayerfully!  Make sure to remember that Bible study is not purely an academic exercise.  Our goal is not to master information or learn new facts but to walk under God’s authority.  We believe that the Bible is living and active and that the Holy Spirit uses the Scripture to speak to our hearts and change our lives.  For that reason, make sure you pray before you read and then meditate on what you have read.  Give the Spirit room (and time!) to speak into your life, comfort you, convict you, change you from the inside out.

3- Read in community!  One of the biggest mistakes that American believers make in 2016 is reading the Bible in isolation from other Christians.  We need to listen to the voices of other Christians (in history and our own times) who have wrestled with the meaning and application of the Bible.  When you find something new and powerful in the Bible, run it past a mature Christian who can help you process your insights.  By God’s grace, you have what you need to study and grow in the Scripture, but God never intended for you to do so in isolation.

4- Study the context!  Most errors in Bible interpretation and application flow from one source: reading Bible verses out of context.  We have all made this mistake, so I’m definitely not throwing stones.  But I do want to encourage you to study the words of the Bible in the context of the sentence, in the context of the paragraph, in the context of the chapter, in the context of the book, in the context of the whole Bible.  This process is so important to make sure you understand what the original author actually intended to say with what they wrote.  You wouldn’t want anyone to read one sentence of your email apart from the context of your whole message.  Don’t do that to the biblical authors either!

5- Read honestly.  The Lord of the Bible knows your heart and mind as you read the Bible.  There is no value in faking your response to the Scripture.  The psalmists model for us a brutal honesty with God as we process His promises in the midst of our own struggles and circumstances.  I think Bible-reading is so much more powerful and life-changing when we are honest with the text, when we argue with it and celebrate it and cry through it and get mad at it.  If you really study the Bible and seek to apply it to your life, you will experience the full range of human emotions.  Be honest about it, and ask the Lord to shape you according to His will as you read.

No other spiritual discipline has helped me grow as much as spending daily time in God’s Word.  I pray that you will experience God in fresh ways in the Bible in the new year!

“For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

Why I Love My Church

This Sunday morning I find myself reflecting on the joys and sorrows of doing life inside the local church.  Specifically my local church, Cityview Bible Church, over the last 8.5 years.  Being heavily involved in any kind community has its shares of ups and downs because we are most vulnerble to pain when we allow ourselves to care deeply about other people.  All the risks considered, I still believe that commitment to a local church is one of the most important contributors to long-term spiritual growth.  As I think about our church family this morning, here’s what I’m grateful for:

1- Their passion for God.  Our congregation loves to worship, loves to pray, and loves to serve God.  I am constantly challenged by their ongoing fire for God’s glory above all else.  When I lose my focus or my passion, the people of Cityview remind me what is really important: we are here for God.

2- Their service of one another motivated by love.  I often say that I’m not sure where people turn for support and help when they are not connected to a local church.  Because I have seen the people of Cityview serve one another through the most difficult of circumstances.  As Barie and I have been through deep waters this year, we have experieneced the love of the local church in a whole new way.

3- The spiritually mature leaders.  The strength of any church is not really built on the communication gift of the pastor or the musical ability of the worship leader.  It is built on the spiritual health of the lay leaders in the church – the elders, the small group leaders, the ministry leaders.  I am continually encouraged by the spiritual maturity of our leaders.  I love serving with our elders, and I love watching the ministry leaders at Cityview use their gifts in such amazing ways.

4- Their patience with me.  I was 28 when we planted our church and in hindsight, a very immature pastor.  But our association and our elders were willing to take a risk on my leadership and to help mentor me along the way.  Now, at 36, I am exceedingly grateful for the patience of our congregation as they have given me room to grow in the Lord and learn how to be a pastor.

5- Their generosity toward our mission.  I don’t even have words to describe how amazed I am that people invest the amount of time, money, and energy in our mission that they do.  When we say that we are committed to reaching every man, woman, and child in Greater Austin with the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ, we mean it.  And our people are so supportive in seeing that become a reality.

6- Their grace toward one another.  I think one of the true marks of the people of Jesus is their ability to forgive one another and extend grace to each other.  Our church is a grace-filled environment.  I am so thankful to lead a church that is willing to press into the hard conflicts of life together and at the same time extend grace and mercy to each other.

I love the people of Cityview Bible Church.  They are truly our extended family, and they have walked with us through so much over the last 8.5 years.  I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for us in the years ahead.

4 Insights from Lloyd-Jones on Preaching

preachinglloydjonesIt took me a while to read because I read it in stages, but nonetheless today I finished Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic book on preaching.  Lloyd-Jones died in 1981 but continues to influence a new generation of preachers who are looking for wise counsel on how to handle the Bible in the pulpit and speak effectively to a new generation of listeners.  This book contains a series of lectures that Lloyd-Jones delivered in 1969 at Westminster Seminary toward the end of his career.  He doesn’t pull any punches in this work, telling you exactly what he things about every aspect of preaching ministry in the local church.  Some of his opinions are based on his strong personal preferences (as he readily admits) while others are based on a lifetime of local church ministry and biblical reflection.  Here are four insights that will stay with me from Lloyd-Jones:

1- Be honest with the biblical text in preparing to preach.  This resonates with me because I feel this tension every week that I preach.  Am I going to force the Scripture to support the point that I want to make OR am I going to allow the main thrust of the text I’m preaching to shape the sermon I’m going to preach?  Every preacher faces this fundamental decision every week – sometimes multiple times a week – will we deal honestly with the Bible?  I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have thought that I knew what I was going to preach from a text only to have the main idea change after a careful study of the Scripture.  I so appreciated Lloyd-Jones’ passionate defense of exegetical preaching and the importance of giving time to make sure we know what the Bible is saying before we stand in the pulpit to preach it.

2- Allow freedom for the Holy Spirit to move.  Tim Keller says the difference between a bad preacher and a good preacher is hard work, but that the difference between a good preacher and a greater preacher is the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Lloyd-Jones would undoubtedly agree with this statement.  He goes to great lengths to emphasize the all-important role of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of preaching.  While some of his recommendations are strange, the heart behind all of them is the same: make sure you are filled with the Spirit, guided by the Spirit, and moved by the Spirit when you preach.  The last chapter of the book is his discussion on “unction,” an old word that means the anointing of the Spirit.  I think it is the best chapter of the whole book.  Lloyd-Jones believed that there was no substitute for the power of the Spirit in the life of the preacher.

3- Know and communicate with your audience.  Lloyd-Jones rightly critiques preachers who argue with commentators in the pulpit, saying that they don’t know their own audience.  I think his concern is that so much that passes as preaching is addressing the wrong audience.  Instead of preaching to the actual people in front of him, the pastor can preach to his peers or professors or authors he reads.  Lloyd-Jones says this may make him sound educated and well-read, but it doesn’t actually help the people he is ministering to.  This is one reason that pulpit ministry must be connected to the life of the congregation and the life of the community.  If we are disconnected from people, we will answer questions they aren’t asking and ignore issues that weigh them down.

4- Be yourself when you preach.  I’ve heard many other preachers make this point, but none as strongly or clearly as Lloyd-Jones.  He says that one of the greatest errors that young preachers make is trying to sound like, act like, move like, and preach like other preachers that they admire.   Throughout the book, he comes back to this theme again and again.  It impacts the way we study, the material we read, the style of our preaching, and the rhetoric we use.  His advise: know thyself and be honest with yourself about your own style, your own preparation rhythms, your own season of life.  I believe that every preacher needs to be reminded of this truth: God made you to be you, not someone else.

If you have read Lloyd-Jones on preaching, which of his words of advice most helped you?

A Changing Spiritual Landscape

There has been much discussion in our country this week about how to interpret a new research report from the Pew Research Center on the state of religion in the United States in 2015.  You can watch the editor of the report talk about the research on the PBS Newshour.  The most common national headline has been about the “decline in Christianity” in the USA.   But if you dig deeper into the numbers, they reveal something more nuanced and interesting:

As Ed Stetzer writes in USA Today, evangelical Christianity continues to grow in our country.  The most massive decline is among those who used to associate with mainline Protestant traditions or the Roman Catholic Church.  Now, when asked, a growing number of them self-identify as having no religious affiliation.  This isn’t necessarily growth in the number of atheist or agnostics, but growth in the number who have no religious affiliation.

Russell Moore reads the report as saying that nominal Christianity (a form of civil religion) is in rapid decline because fewer people feel pressured to say they are Christian when they are not.  In other words, they don’t feel any social obstacles to revealing their true religious convictions.  Moore thinks this is bad for America (a decline in general Christian identity) but maybe helpful for the church (in making true Christianity more clear).

I personally think the report reveals what we see all around us every day: a decline in the importance of religious faith for many people in our country.  The research shows an increase in the disinterested middle of the nation – those who simply don’t care about God and religious faith at all.  This is seen in the fact that former self-identified “Christians” are not converting to another religion, but to no religion at all.

Here’s my take: as a church, we are living in a time in our nation’s history when more and more people are apathetic toward the church and indifferent toward issues of faith.  We live in an era of constant distraction and entertainment, and we are seeing the results around us – a lack of attention toward faith and worldview.  What does this mean for us as a church?  A few things:

1- We need to feel an increasing urgency for evangelism right here in the United States.  Many times, we wrongly assume that Americans are Christian or have heard the gospel.  This is an increasingly wrong assumption.  May we be the generation who takes serious our charge to re-evangelize the 320 million people who live in America.

2- We need to prioritize our outreach to the next generation.  The highest percentage of Americans who describe themselves as having “no faith” are the youngest millennials.  We need to prayerfully consider how we can share the gospel effectively with the newest generation of young people.

3- We need to live as an attractive counter-culture inside the larger secular culture.  I believe one of the reasons that non-Christians find Christianity unattractive is that the Christian community fails to present a true alternative to the larger cultural narrative.  In other words, we look too much like the world around us.

This Sunday, I’m starting a sermon series called Contrast: A Study of 1 John where we will be looking at the distinguishing marks of the Christian faith and the Christian community.  The apostle John helps us understand how we can know that we have experienced the true Christian faith and not a distortion of the truth.  I hope that you will join us for this powerful and life-changing study of God’s Word.

What were your take-aways from the Pew Research?

The Cross and Our Shame

When the Bible describes the condition of Adam and Eve before their choice to sin against their Creator, it says something remarkable about their relationship with one another.  Genesis 2:25 records that they were together in complete vulnerability (they were naked) and that they felt no shame.  They knew each other intimately and yet were not ashamed in each other’s presence.  hen, in Genesis 3, right after Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s commands, they experienced shame.  They hid from God and from one another.  They covered their nakedness and were no longer being completely transparent before the other.

What is shame?  Shame is the humiliation or distress caused by awareness of wrong-doing.  It is the dishonor that we feel when we have done something wrong.  In other words, before sin entered the world, there was no shame.  There was nothing to feel ashamed of.  But once disobedience occurred, shame resulted.  This is true even today.  After we commit a sin, we feel shame.  Some feel more shame than others based on the sensitivity of their conscience and their view of God.  But at the core, we all experience shame.

You know the feeling and the look of shame.  You have had that experience where you couldn’t look someone in the eye because you knew that you had hurt them.   You didn’t want them to know who you really were, what you had really done.  Why?  Because you felt ashamed.  You may have experienced that in your relationship with your parents or your spouse or your best friend.  You most definitely have felt it in your relationship with God.  If you are aware of His perfect holiness and your own moral failings, then you feel unworthy to be in his presence, a sense of shame over the sins in your life, the choices you made that has brought dishonor to His name.

This is not unique to you.  Listen to the writer Ezra describe his personal shame in Ezra 9:6.  “And I said: My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward You, my God, because our iniquities are higher than our heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens.”  In the next verse, he describes the national shame of his people.  Verse 7 reads, “Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today.”  In other words, Ezra is ashamed of his sin before God, and he is ashamed of the sin of his people before the Lord.  Sin leads to shame before God and before others.

What does the cross of Jesus have to do with our shame?  Well, Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus took our shame when he hung on the cross – “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.”  Even though Jesus had nothing to be ashamed of, he faced the humiliation and dishonor that we deserved.  He felt the dishonor that we should have experienced.  Why?  So that he could take our shame from us!

In Hebrews 12:2, the Bible says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, despising the shame.  What does that phrase mean?  It means that he even though he endured our shame on the cross, he despised the shame.  He didn’t deserve to be humiliated in that way.  He deserved honor and yet received dishonor.  He deserved praise and adoration and yet received cursing and shame.  Why?

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us what happen transactionally when Jesus died on the cross.  “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Here’s the truth I want you to get in your heart and mind.  He endured your shame so that we could receive His righteousness.  He took your shame, my friend, so that you could receive His honor.  So that you could approach God as your Father and not your enemy.  So that you could be freed from condemnation and shame, walking in God’s love.  Lift your eyes, child of God.  You are His beloved! Jesus took away all of your shame.

 

Pastor Taxes

Full-time pastors are considered self-employed in the eyes of the IRS.  Because of this, pastor taxes can be complex and confusing.  In order to clear up confusion on how to plan for taxes, our church provides this explanation of pastors taxes and requests that all of our pastors turn in two numbers to our finance team before the start of each calendar year: (1) their requested federal withholding, and (2) their requested housing allowance.

To define our terms, a pastor’s total income (PTI) = church salary + housing allowance + other income.

Pastor Federal Taxes

Full-time clergy pay two different kinds of taxes.  The first is federal income tax.  Federal income tax is calculated as a percentage of your adjusted gross income (AGI).  How is your AGI calculated by the IRS?  For the purpose of federal income tax, a pastor’s housing allowance is non-taxable income.  Therefore, a pastor’s AGI does NOT include his housing allowance.  This means that federal income tax is levied only against the pastor’s salary + other income.  The AGI for a pastor is his total income – housing allowance – all valid deductions.

Once a pastor calculates his AGI and multiplies it by his applicable tax-rate, he gets his federal income tax burden.

The second federal tax that a pastor pays is federal self-employment tax.  This goes by many different names.  It is sometimes called the payroll tax or FICA or the social-security/Medicare tax.  All of those names describe the same tax.  Some pastors have opted out of social-security and Medicare (by completing a Form 4361 which says that the pastor has a conscientious opposition to public insurance based on your religious convictions – meaning a pastor cannot exempt himself for economic reasons).  If a pastor is opted out of SS/Medicare, then he does not owe Self-Employment tax, but he is also therefore not participating in the Social Security or Medicare systems and will not have those benefits in his retirement.

For those pastors who have NOT opted out of SS/Medicare, they must pay Self-Employment tax every year on their total income (salary + housing allowance + other income).  A pastor’s housing allowance is NOT shielded from SE tax.  Therefore, a pastor will owe 15.3% of his total income as federal self-employment tax.

At the end, a pastor’s total federal tax burden (who is participating in SS and Medicare) is the combination of these two taxes minus any credits (child-tax credit or earned-income credit).  As an equation, it works like this:

Pastor’s Total Federal Tax = Federal Income Tax + Federal SE Tax – Federal Tax Credits

To figure out how much money should be withheld from your paycheck, a pastor should estimate his total federal tax burden and divide it by the number of paychecks he receives in a year.  In our church (that pays out salary in 24 paychecks), the withholding amount should be the total tax burden / 24.

Pastors, what questions do you have about federal taxes that I can help with?

Four Steps to Consecrate Yourself before the Lord

After the Lord rescued the people of Israel from brutal slavery in Egypt and delivered them from the powerful hand of Pharaoh, He called them to consecrate their lives.  The consecration was not a prerequisite of Israel’s salvation, but a commanded response to God’s faithful love for His people.  The Lord commands the nation of Israel to “be My holy people” in Exodus 22:31, to set themselves apart for worship and devotion to God.  The command has not changed now that we are under the blood of Christ.  Our salvation is still a work of total grace, based on the perfect righteousness of Jesus and not our own.  At the same time, Jesus has commanded those who have been purchased by His grace to “obey all that He has commanded us” and to “be holy as His Father is holy.”  In other words, we are still directed to consecrate ourselves before the Lord, not as a means of earning His favor, but as the appropriate response to His favor.  What does this process of consecration look like?

First, we need to remember God’s grace in our lives.  One of the most common commands in the Bible is to “remember” all that God has done for us.  The festivals in the OT and the sacraments in the NT are means of remembering the gracious work of God on our behalf.  A drift in our commitment to holiness is usually connected to a lack of awe and wonder at all that God has done for us.  Start your process of consecration by writing down all the good gifts that God has given to you that you do not deserve.

Second, we need to remove our idols and distractionsAs the people of Israel moved into the promised land, they found it full of other nations who worshipped other gods.  This is a helpful picture of the church’s position in the world today – surrounded by people who worship everything and everyone else other than the one true God.  And because our hearts are naturally bent away from devotion to God, we will drift naturally drift toward idolatry.  This is why Jesus commands us to “seek first” the Kingdom of God ahead of everything else, and why God warned His people to not adopt the gods of the peoples around them.  To consecrate ourselves before God, we need to recognize where we have adopted the idols of our surrounding culture and remove them from our lives.  Continue your consecration by writing down the distractions that keep you from loving God first and most in your life.

Third, we need to repent of sinful attitudes and actions.  When we turn from our idols to seek the Lord, we must confess the sins that have become second-nature to us.  We must be mindful of the sins that we most easily excuse – the selfish attitudes, evil thoughts, and harsh words.  We need to agree with God that our laziness and spite and lust and greed and apathy are sins against His holiness.  We need to repent of our flippant attitude toward our own sin, and recognize the damage that our sin causes to our relationship with God and with others.  As you consecrate yourself before the Lord, ask Him to show you the sinful attitudes and actions that are offensive to Him, especially those that you cannot see.  And turn from those sins back to the Lord.

Fourth, we need to recommit our hearts to God.  Consecration is not ultimately about clean living.  It is about worship.  We consecrate ourselves before the Lord not to prove ourselves to our neighbor or feel good about ourselves.  We consecrate ourselves before the Lord for the Lord.  We pursue holiness as an act of worship, out of a deep love and awe for the worthiness of God.  In this way, true consecration seeks to bring the Lord the glory and honor that He is due.  Finish your consecration process by declaring your love and devotion to God as your highest and greatest pursuit.

Five Lessons Learned From Preaching on Race

Preaching on race in our church over the last five weeks has been one of the most formative experiences of my ministry.  I have grown in my understanding of racialization in our society today, and I have grown in love for my neighbor.  I am so thankful to have walked through this journey with our congregation at Cityview Bible Church in Round Rock, TX.  Their faithful feedback, honest reflection, and personal obedience has shaped the way I think about race today.  Here are five lessons we learned as a community of faith as we explored what the Bible teaches about race in light of the grace of the gospel:

  1. We are often blind to our own prejudices (whether they are toward those of another race or a subgroup inside our own race) because they are rooted in pride. We need the truth of the Bible and the power of the Spirit to open our eyes to our own racial stereotypes.  We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we are personally beyond all racial biases.  We are not, and we need to own that race matters, even today in 2015.
  2. People want to talk about race in a constructive way, but are not sure how or where to have the conversation. I was amazed at the participation in our small group each week during this series and the feedback from the elders, staff, and congregation.  Not everyone agreed with everything I had to say on the subject, but everyone was thankful that I had broached the subject.
  3. White evangelicals tend to over-individualize racial problems today and fail to see systemic injustices in the culture at large. As long as racial problems today are seen as the result of individual racists, then we can let ourselves off the hook personally if we don’t see ourselves as racist.  We fail to see that we live in a culture with systems that can also be racially unjust and treat groups of people differently.
  4. Racially isolated people can more easily create stereotypes of other races than those who are genuinely connected to people from other races. This is another reason that diverse congregations and schools and civic organizations are so important.  It is too easy to unfairly categorize people that you have never taken the time to know.  And because we are naturally drawn to those who are most like us (the homogeneous unit principle), we are always in danger in moving toward racial isolation.
  5. In order to build a unified, diverse, multi-ethnic congregation, individual congregants must make the decision to value diversity more than their own cultural preferences. If we believe the Bible mandates the local church be both unified and diverse, then each one of us must make the choice to lay down our personal preferences for the sake of the whole.  The goal of building a healthy multi-ethnic church is one where our personal consumerism directly conflicts with the Kingdom of Jesus.

I hope these lessons will help you to take a next step in building bridges of love and peace between people of different races.  For in the end, if we believe the first chapter of the Bible is true, then there is really only one race – the human race, created in God’s image to worship and serve Him forever.