Christians are pained by the racial injustices that are pervasive in our nation’s history. Our hearts and prayers are with all who have faced racial discrimination and outright cruelty. Forces of darkness seek to tear humanity apart by great divisions, hatred, and violence. But Christians long to see both love abound and justice prevail. Clearly, our culture and society need Gospel Renewal. So, how can individual church leaders make a difference? Perhaps there are five areas of engagement:
1. First, and most importantly, we must begin with ourselves. Of course, Christianity has a heart to acknowledge the extensive brokenness, misery, and pain in our world. However, as I preach the Gospel to myself daily, I am compelled to acknowledge that I am a part of the problem. Guilt and shame have caused me both overtly and inadvertently to move toward prejudice, fear, and racial isolation. Additionally, societal evil is a web that traps me in problems of race and all other ills. (After all, I was born into a society where racism has been a huge problem, and the society is oriented around the perpetuation of this issue.) The Gospel compels me to remove the plank from my own eye before attempting to remove the speck from others. So, I must daily seek the grace and mercy of Jesus and the transformation of the Gospel.
2. Second, let us pay attention to our own individual social networks. We must consciously ask ourselves: Who are my close friends? Who is in my friend network? Who is in my network of acquaintances? Certainly, the communities we live in may vary and make an impact on the answers to these questions. Nevertheless, regardless of setting, making intentional decisions regarding racial inclusion with regard to our individual social networks is important.
Additionally, we must be deliberate in applying the Gospel to our network of relationships. For example, Philippians 2:3 would have us ‘value others above ourselves.’ We must seek to really listen to others. We must seek to understand more than to be understood. We must seek to love more than to be loved.
3. Third, we can pay attention to areas where we have direct impact and responsibility. Our family lives are great places to start. How am I leading my family? What am I teaching my children? How am I treating my children’s friends? What am I modeling day in and day out? Another area of direct responsibility is our work lives. We can make an impact in our businesses and workplaces.
If you are serving as a pastor or leader in a church or ministry, here are some ways that we can make a difference. First, we can make a difference in the area of leadership development. Let us work to raise up a diverse group of Gospel-centered disciple-making leaders. It is important that we hold high, yet fair standards for leadership. At the same time, it is good to remain open to a diversity of approaches when it comes to leadership. Second, we should publicly model the humility and confidence that comes from the Gospel. This should make us willing to really listen to others. Third, we should seek to develop and pursue a vision for racial reconciliation in our congregations where people of very different backgrounds consider and treat each other as brothers and sisters despite incredible differences.
4. Fourth, there places where we have influence even though we do not have direct responsibility. How can we have an impact there? For instance, what influence can we have in our classis or denomination to truly help with issues relating to race? Are there ways in which our church and ministry could make an important impact? Another example would be participation in the town or city in which we live. How can we use our influence, however large or small, to make an impact for race relations in the cities in which we live?
5. Fifth, there ways in which we can impact society as a whole. This is last on the list intentionally because we are very unlikely to ‘change the world’–especially if we have not been able to make changes first in ourselves and then in our immediate surroundings. Nevertheless, we may all receive opportunities from time to time to have an outsized impact. The Bible tells us to ‘always be prepared.’ So it is important to look for avenues to advocate for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our culture and in our society as a whole. To this end we must guard against the forces in our society that are working toward greater and greater division and polarization and not allow ourselves to become a part of the problem by widening these divides.