By / May 19

Lindsay Swartz sits down with Trillia Newbell to discuss her new book Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves

Newbell is the Director of Community Outreach at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. She has a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is currently pursuing her M.A. in biblical counseling from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Swartz serves as the Managing Editor of Content. Lindsay completed her Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

By / Apr 2

From the 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit on “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation”

By / Mar 30

I wrote about being a parent who is slow to get angry with their children on my blog, and a mother asked me that essential question: How?

Her question is one that many of us have asked. We see the beauty of grace contrasted with the ugliness that still lingers within us, and we find our hearts asking the same question. I can only attempt to answer as someone who knows much failure amid much grace. What follows are not theoretical or from the past, but they are intensely fresh, personal, present and real.

Before we can change what we do as parents, we often need to change how we think. Identifying thought patterns might seem purely theoretical and not of much practical help, but if what we do is often the overflow of how we think, perhaps it’s a good place to begin.

Four helpful realizations

1. Realize that the times when we are easily angered are often moments ripe with opportunity to teach our children.

Often, the moments when we are naturally angered are those times when we can teach our children about life, sin and grace. Conflict is a part of life in a sin-filled, broken world. For our children’s entire lives, they’re going to be dealing with it.

In those moments when we’re easily angered, our instinct tends to want to get things back to a state of peace and quiet as speedily and effortlessly as possible. The children are whining or fighting so we angrily snarl, “Enough. Stop it right now! I don’t want to hear it!” What a wasted opportunity. When it’s possible, we ought to be willing to take the time to patiently talk, listen and teach. In our haste to get back to peace, we sometimes forget the most important part: their hearts.

2. Realize that angry parenting is often deeply selfish.

Think of the words that usually escape our lips in our worst parenting moments: “I’m sick and tired of you guys fighting. I’ve had it up to here!” What’s striking about these phrases is that they’re all about me. They’re selfish phrases that give us a glimpse of our heart—our anger is about us and how their behavior is disrupting our life.

But parenting isn’t about us being sick of whining or fighting, is it? Ultimately, it’s not about us at all. It’s about our children and putting ourselves aside to love, nurture, teach and guide them. A quickly angered parent is a selfish parent whose peace and quiet is being disrupted. It can be helpful to realize afresh the intrinsically selfish quality of the easily angered parent and to remember that grace-filled parenting means caring more about others than ourselves.

3. Realize that being easily angered is less about lack of control and more about lack of desire.

When our kids do stuff in public that makes us mad, we often handle it differently than if we were at home by ourselves. We’re more patient, aren’t we? Kinder. Gentler. Tempered. In other words, we’re better parents. We really do have self control in moments of frustration. We really do have the capacity to respond the way we should. When I’m at home, unnoticed by others, it’s not that I lack the control to do what’s right. It’s that I lack the desire.

There’s a sadness in this because most of us truly care more about what our children think of us than a bunch of strangers. More than that, we care more about what God thinks about us. Yet, our actions often indicate otherwise. It can be helpful to remember that how we respond really is a choice, and the people who matter most see our parenting all the time.

4. Realize that becoming a slow-to-anger parent is often about reprogramming the muscle memory of the heart.

Much of our time in parenthood is spent reacting to things our children do. We all have patterns of reaction in our lives. When we reflect upon how we habitually react in moments of frustration, we’re able to discern our own pattern of reaction. For many who are quickly angered, the muscle memory of the heart is to react in anger instead of grace. When we find ourselves habitually reacting in anger, it means we need to repent and form new heart habits. Eventually, with time and much grace, we create a new rhythm that changes the muscle memory of our heart.

Four practical suggestions

1. Prepare in advance.

Before the day begins to unfold and begins to unravel, anticipate that your children will occasionally do frustrating things that annoy you and get under your skin, and then prepare to react with grace. Think about it, know it’s coming and then plan how you’ll respond.

Each day, our children are going to do many things that bring us joy and make us laugh. And with just as much certainty, our kids are going to do things that irritate and anger us. Why does it seem to catch us unprepared so that all we’re doing is reacting? Before the moments come, spend time praying and preparing your heart. We don’t just want to go through parenthood reacting. We want to be proactively changing.

2. Reflect at the end of the day.

When it’s been a good, joy-filled day with your children, take a few moments to reflect on why things went well and why you reacted in grace instead of anger. And similarly, when it’s been a difficult day and you’ve been angry and sinful, take a few minutes to reflect upon why it was a rough day. You might be surprised at the clarity of patterns and themes that emerge with this little exercise. One mark of mature, sanctified Christians is that they are often people who can identify those things which cause them to stumble and those things which help them soar.

3. Get enough sleep.

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but for many it holds true that lack of sleep leads to lack of grace. When we’re tired, we’re irritable. And when we’re irritable, we are prone to becoming quickly angered instead of patient and gracious. Granted, there are some seasons where sufficient rest is impossible. But in the many other times when staying up too late is a choice, we ought to remember that it’s the people who matter to us most who will be on the receiving end of our tired, angry responses.

4. Avoid rushing.

When we’re rushing somewhere with our children, running late or haven’t allotted enough time, it can easily lead to frustrated, angry and impatient words. It doesn’t take being a parent for long to realize that, with young children, the simplest things can take way longer than we ever thought possible. It’s just the way it is.

A simple but helpful detail in how my heart and our family functions has been to become more organized and, along with this, to ensure that we have ample time to do whatever it is we need to do. Of course, this isn’t always possible, and there are many disclaimers, but when it’s within our power to do so, avoiding rushing is a simple yet helpful little tool to employ.

Why we have tremendous hope

Parenting is a journey. There are days when it seems like God’s grace pours into and out of us into our children. There’s good stuff happening in our home, and we’re filled with hope and excitement for the days ahead. Then there are days where it seems like anger and tears have been the theme.

But even during hard times, we have every reason to have tremendous hope. We're not alone. Truly, in our failures and in our joys alike, we're not doing this parenting thing alone. We live our lives beneath the shadow of his wings, and even as we parent our little ones, we’re being parented by a Father who loves us, is with us, and is helping us every step along the way.

By / Feb 24

The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015.

By / Feb 5

The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation" to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015.

By / Feb 5

The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation" to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015.

By / Feb 5

The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015.

By / Jan 24

The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation" to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015.

By / Nov 25

I haven’t spoken on race much since I’ve been a pastor. But like the great songwriter said, “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” (Ecc. 3:7 ESV) Now is a time to speak.

My background

I grew up in an environment in the post-civil rights era when every message from the pulpit was racially charged.  I grew up around black nationalists who saw a conspiracy everywhere,  and went to one of the oldest historically black colleges in the country, during a time when hip-hop artists had an activist edge to their craft. 

In the home where I grew up, I was raised by a mom and dad 50 years older than me. They grew up in the Jim Crow South (South Carolina) and experienced lynching and racism at its height. Growing up in DC in the crack era, we were trained to interact with police in a way to keep ourselves safe.  I have been racially profiled on more than one occasion.

Fast forward—I get called to ministry and head off to one of the premier seminaries in the country.  This was my first experience in a majority white evangelical culture and the broader majority white world, for that matter.  As I walked in this world for the first time, my eyes were opened to what upbringing was preparing me for. 

What I was not prepared for, however, was the naivety and lack of empathy among my white evangelical brothers.  Because some of the progress that had been made up to that point (in terms of opportunities for African Americans), many evangelicals seemed to view racism as a thing of the past. As I entered conversations on race in this sector, it was clear to me that there was a common misconception that any talk of racism was seen as whining, or an attempt to utilize the past as justification for laziness in the present. 

During my sojourn in seminary, I went into radio silence on the issue.  As I began to complete 8yrs of post undergraduate education (Masters and Doctoral), I feared that sharing my experiences regarding racism with my white brethren, largely due to the cynical responses that I have received from those I encountered.  However, there were priceless relationships that I built with my white brothers, and I continue to build strong relationships to this day. 

Now that I am pastoring an inner city (Philadelphia, PA) church that happens to be multiethnic, I still feel the effects of racism.  Even in planting Epiphany Fellowship Church, with all of the earned theological education I have received and over two decades, I have to borrow the credibility of white pastors to help get resources to plant the church. 

I cannot tell you some of the ways that I was treated in that process by some pastors and churches.  I can’t tell you how broken hearted I am when someone tells me that I am a credit to my race.  Incidentally, I am angry that I still have to work through these challenges, and the fact the racism still exists.

Good Grief

It grieves me that in the multiethnic church that I pastor, that when I engage SOME of our white congregants, I have to have one of my white elders present to make sure they (whom I will give an account to God for) feel comfortable when they meet with me. So much so, in fact, I fear I’ve under-pastored the whites in our church, because of my sensitivity to being in a cultural environment where one is a minority. 

It grieves me that when I speak at events with thousands of attendees—my face pictured on the brochures and screens—only to be mistaken for “the help.”  Because of how I have been socialized, and because of my experiences, I am working to take race off the table in many instances—like the current trial of Mike Brown’s killer. 

It is impossible for me to shake off my experiences though.

From Rodney King to Trayvon Martin, these trials seem doomed from the start.  They act, for many African-Americans in the post civil rights era, as a barometer for where the race issue stands in this country.  Even now, with Mike Brown, it seems to be in the same place the issue has been in the past.  I don’t pretend to speak for all African Americans, yet it is obvious to most that race really does still matter. And there needs to be healthy and honest dialogue about the subject. 

How does the gospel speak to the current issue?

I took to Twitter last night to come out of my radio silence.  I don’t know if that was the right platform, but what is done, is done. 

I tried to make equitable statements that spoke to both African Americans and whites in the Christian world.  What I found was profoundly grievous from some of my white brothers.  The lack of empathy and ignorance and the depth of naivety was heart breaking.  Comments went through my Twitter line from white brethren stating stuff like, “Did you view the facts?,” and, “Did you want an eye for eye?” and “Obama race baiting,” “Due process,” “Color has nothing to do with it,” “What about the looters?” and “The grand jury did their job.”  In short, I was blown away by some lacking the spirit of sacrifice stated in Romans 12:1,2 and then applied verses 9-21. 

In light of these verses this is what I’ll say, “Mourn with those who mourn”.

After instructing Christians to respond to outsiders with love and forgiveness, Paul now turns back to the Christian community, enjoining a sincere identification with others whatever their state might be. Note how Paul’s commands here echo what he says about relations within the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” But the need for such mutual identification is found in Jewish sources as well (Arnold). [1] 

Many times in the ancient world people entered into mourning with other—even if they didn’t know all the details. The main issue is this: someone is hurting.

Where do we go from here?

Regardless of the outcome, this situation carries so many elements of past high-profile cases involving blacks in our country as well as the over all weight of the issue of race. This only reinforces some of the pain of the experience with race that too many African Americans I know feel, including myself.  Additionally, the faulty response of non-empathetic brethren exacerbates the pain. 

Just as some of the very high profile civil rights cases made way for greater progress for civil rights, so also the Mike Brown case was for how civil the rights of ethnic minorities has come.  Cases and verdicts act as reference points for similar cases in the judicial system.  They help perpetuate the outcome in light of similar issues being taken into account. 

Even with the outcome of the current case being what it is, you’d expect, “how can I pray?” “Help me understand the emotions you are dealing with”?  “Help me to understand how you are processing this?”  “I want to empathize, but I’m struggling!”  Understand this, all of us interpret facts in light of our social experiences.  Even Van Til believed that the Christian and the non-Christian have different ultimate standards, presuppositions that color the interpretation of every fact in every area of life.  Because of the experience of many minorities with racism, when there is a scenario that mirrors and reeks of injustice, there is going to be a sensitivity to how “facts” are handled.

So what should we all do?  Do this: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:19-20 ESV).

In other words:

• Whites: mourn with hurting blacks and listen…
• Blacks: mourn, be angry and do not sin…
• All people: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The cross is a meeting place of conflict.  Let’s go to the cross together and deal with issues.  Jesus died on the cross to face our sin and brokenness, not to ignore it.  Let’s head there together.


[1] Arnold, C. E. (2002). Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans to Philemon. (Vol. 3, p. 76). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.