By / Jun 28

Racial reconciliation is a pertinent issue to a culture in search of peace and hope. As followers of Christ, we must engage our culture with the grace and truth of the gospel, knowing that in Christ, we have the ultimate power for true racial reconciliation and unity. 

For more resources like this one about how you can take steps toward greater racial unity, visit ERLC.com/racialunity.

By / Oct 27

At the leading edge of most cultural movements in our country’s history, you can find a single commonality, youth. The civil rights and anti-war movements were carried on the feet of passionate baby boomers; Generation X took up the mantel for the third wave of feminism; and my own generation, the millennials, made their mark during Occupy Wall Street and the #MeToo Movement. 

The current teenage generation is no different. In fact, Gen Z has already proven themselves to be a generation to watch. In March of 2018, Gen Z walked onto the cultural stage when they organized and led one of the largest youth protests to date, the March for Our Lives, in Washington, D.C. And this was only the beginning. The past two years have shown us time and time again the growing passion, power, and influence of this teenage generation.

And if history holds true, Gen Z will carry the torch of justice then pass it along to the generation following after them. This is why we cannot afford to stay silent with our teens on issues of race and racial injustice. However, before we dive into how to talk to teens about race, there is one other important note to make about this generation. 

Gen Z has not only been identified as a generation of justice warriors but it is also America’s first truly post-Christian generation. In his book Meet Generation Z, James Emery White unpacks evidence that reveals this generation’s biblical illiteracy. He describes Gen Z as a generation raised “without even a memory of the gospel.” 

When justice is found outside of the gospel, it is not true justice. And when the gospel we speak is void of justice, it is less than biblical.

So while Gen Z may be a generation consumed with the idea of justice, they are also a generation who knows little of its Author. This is why we, who know the God of righteousness, must speak about issues of justice with our teenagers. When justice is found outside of the gospel, it is not true justice. And when the gospel we speak is void of justice, it is less than biblical.

But where do we begin? 

First, we have to keep in mind that this will not be a one-and-done conversation. If we are going to  approach the conversation of race with teens, we must be willing to commit to walk the path of justice with them also. It will be a labor of love—a good and worthy labor—but a labor nonetheless. 

Second, the most common fear I hear from parents and leaders before broaching the conversation of race is their lack of knowledge. They believe they “are not the right person” to have this conversation. But this is exactly what our enemy desires us to believe. Praise God who has filled you with his Spirit and given you a stewardship. If he has placed you in a role where you have influence in a teenager’s life, then you are the right person for this conversation. 

Third, while conversations about race will necessarily involve a discussion of systems and structures, they are not primarily about those things. We should seek to do our homework so that we understand this world’s systemic brokenness. But conversations about race must always be, primarily, conversations about people—conversations about the beauty, value, and dignity of women and men made in God’s image. That’s what our students most desperately need to hear.

Finally, we must keep our conversations rooted in the Scriptures. Walking the full path of justice with our teens will mean seeking biblical, historical, cultural, and self awareness in the conversation. Each of these areas matter as we engage our teens in conversations about race, but their order matters as well. Our teens must see us view each cultural moment through the lens of the gospel, not viewing the Bible through the lens of each cultural moment. So be sure to begin there, by rooting your conversation in the storyline of Scripture. Allow God’s Word to do its intended work, revealing the dignity of humanity in light of God’s heart for his creation.

Step forward in faith. Be a learner. Focus on God’s love for people. And above all else, make certain that your conversations with your teen are anchored in the confidence you have in your own union with Christ and your belief in the gospel’s power for reconciliation. Reconciliation with God is the very message we are called to carry (1 Cor. 5:17–20). And it’s only with confidence in his redemptive work that we can freely grow in our own awareness of history, culture, and self, all the while inviting our teens to journey with us.

This post is the third in a three-part series by the family ministry staff team at Redeemer Fellowship Midtown in Kansas City, MO. Part 1 (on courageous christianity) and Part 2 (conversations about race with toddlers and preschoolers) posted at the Gospel-Centered Family website. 

By / Aug 28

This week marks the 57th anniversary of the original March on Washington. This event, held on Aug. 28, 1963, helped to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

Here are five facts you should know about the landmark civil rights protest march.

1. The event—officially known as the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”—was organized by the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement: A. Philip Randolph, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, and John Lewis. Bayard Rustin was chief organizer of the march. 

Although the organizers disagreed about the purpose of the march, the group came together on a set of goals: passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; immediate elimination of school segregation; a program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed; a federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring; a $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide; withholding Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination; enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from states that disenfranchise citizens; a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas; and authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.

2. The event took a staggering level of logistical effort. Organizers and officials planned for a crowd of about 150,000. But on the day of the march over 250,000 gathered together on the National Mall. To get to Washington, D.C., protesters took more than 2,000 buses, 21 chartered trains, 10 chartered airliners, and uncounted cars. All regularly scheduled planes, trains, and buses were also filled to capacity. On the National Mall, over 100 portable toilets were set up along with 16 first-aid stations. Eight 2,500-gallon water tanks were set up, which fed some 21 portable water fountains. Additionally, spouts were attached to fire hydrants so marchers would have access to drinking water. Volunteers prepared some 80,000 boxed lunches—sold for 50 cents each—consisting of a cheese sandwich, an apple, and a slice of cake.

3. Event organizer Bayard Rustin recruited 4,000 off-duty police officers and firemen to serve as event marshals, and coached them in the crowd control techniques he’d learned in India studying nonviolent political participation. The official law enforcement also included 5,000 police, National Guardsmen, and Army reservists. No marchers were arrested, though, and no incidents concerning marchers were reported.

4. Representatives from each of the sponsoring organizations addressed the crowd from the podium at the Lincoln Memorial. Speakers (dubbed “The Big Ten”) included The Big Six; three religious leaders (Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish); and labor leader Walter Reuther. Along with the speakers, the marchers were entertained by celebrities, including Ossie Davis, Joan Baez, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Jackie Robinson.

5. King was the last speaker because no one else wanted that slot, since all of the other speakers assumed the news media would leave by mid-afternoon. King agreed to take it and planned to speak for four minutes, but ended up speaking for 16 minutes. He improvised the most recognizable, memorable part of the speech for which he is most famous, according to his speechwriter and attorney Clarence B. Jones. Although King had spoken about a dream before two months earlier in Detroit, the “dream” was not in the text prepared by Jones. King initially followed the text Jones had written but gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King nodded to her, placed the text of his speech aside, and veered off-script, delivering extemporaneously what is referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous orations in American history.

By / Jun 23

All at once, our collective hearts were broken. We watched as his last breath left his body. These days, my tears are always right there, ready to be unleashed. Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and then George Floyd. 2020 has us reeling. Resonating with so many around the world, we’re connected by an undeniable ache. Grappling as a culture with the fallout of the sin of racism, we’re being forced to recognize the countless indignities that have always been inconsistent with God’s design for humanity. Loss, weeping, mourning, agonizing, demonstrations, passion, anger, unrest—this newly emerging landscape is almost unrecognizable. We must accept that who we are as a society has already been changed. 

Acknowledging the pain of the generations before us—abused, dismissed, and denied justice—we can’t forget that they labored for us. Despite their hard-fought movement toward “liberty and justice for all,” they’ve had to witness that effort hindered in its progress. Their requests weren’t idealistic, and MLK’s dream wasn’t silly, because they reflect God’s vision taken from his Word. So then, we ask, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” because today, the losses appear insurmountable. 

We hear God’s calls for us to comfort, but we choose to cross-examine instead. Christian infighting and finger-pointing bombards our timelines while calls for justice go unheeded. Unbelievers watch and wait for our response. How do we as Christians choose the gospel above all while doing the hard work of consoling and serving those who are hurting, those who we may not even agree with? Why is unity so hard? How do I, as an African-American woman and a mother to a young man in the South, inoculate myself against the bitterness, fear, and rage all around me? Where do I place my hurt? 

The psalmist wrote, “Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber” (Psa.121:1a–3). Returning to these words many times through the years, I again find comfort for today and renewed hope for tomorrow. God is awake. He is active. With his omniscient view from his throne, he sees all. And with his intimate knowledge of our hearts, he has a purpose for all. God didn’t do this, but he can most certainly redeem it. 

Glimmers of hope 

Amidst these hard months, we’re watching positive shifts take place. Good things are happening, gifting us with glimmers of hope that peek from the shadows. Within my own processing, the sting has been tempered by this hope. For so many of us, our pain has been a catalyst offering the opportunity to look past ourselves and to recognize others and their suffering. Others have experienced a fresh boldness, compelling them to donate their resources and influence to affect necessary change. Arising from the tragedy created by racism, many are experiencing an unprecedented connectedness to others. The gospel is being preached, and scales are falling from once-blinded eyes. Hearts are being massaged, and ears have been primed to hear.

Hope has been the currency that has sustained me in this heavy-hearted season. This currency has investment value for my community, my work, my home, and my soul. Hope can bring healing and resilience to broken situations, and it has pressed me to pursue peace even as we pursue justice. I’ve learned there’s no peace without a storm, no victory without a battle. Pain has a way of guiding believers right into the center of God’s purposes for us. Within God’s plans, pain has worked as a refining fire that he’s used to reshape me. Using our struggles, often he produces in us passions with which to pursue him while blessing others. 

What we’ve been seeing is the hand of God moving despite the backdrop of evil and brokenness. I’m having conversations with many who’ve never had to confront the realities of the harsh systems their black and brown brothers and sisters have had to endure. Hearing from those around me, we’re using this moment in history to educate and then walk through beautiful discipleship conversations in our homes and with our families. Leaders are being forced to acknowledge their ignorance, indifference, and even complicity. This generation of future leaders, including my own, are being enlisted, identifying injustice, and are empowered to use their voices, minds, and communities to broker change. 

More work must be done. Inspired by Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Mamie Till, Harriet Tubman, and others, I aim to be a person of peace, a part of the solution. I’m compelled by Christ to be a bridge-builder while the soil is tender, seeking to “act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly” with him as an active calling. We’re still broken, but God doesn’t slumber. And so, we don’t lose heart.

Growing up in the African-American church has steeped me in this rich theology. Our songs so often challenge the hurting to endure weariness, placing their hope and trust in God. Written as a poem, these words from “Lift Ev’ry Voice” became an anthem. Not one of war, but of struggle. Not of division, but of unity. Not solely of lament, but also of inspiring hope. 

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land. 

By / Feb 25

Trillia Newbell, author of United, illustrates how the church can be the catalyst for improving race relations.