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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.