By / Feb 9

February 25, 2024 is Racial Reconciliation Sunday. We created a free downloadable bulletin insert for use in your church.

Color Color Two-up Grayscale Grayscale Two-up

What is racial unity?

There are many misunderstandings about what racial unity is and what it entails. We might think, for example, that unity means uniformity, or sameness. But that would be incorrect. Or, we might assume that unity requires minority groups to assimilate to or be wholly subsumed into the majority culture, surrendering their own God-given distinctives for the sake of unity. This, too, would be an error.

The unity that Christ has accomplished for us doesn’t require uniformity or assimilation; it is a constitutional reality that we can either embrace by the Spirit or ignore in our flesh.

Instead, racial unity is the reality by which members of every nation, tribe, people, and language, having been redeemed by Christ, adopted by the Father, and sealed by the Spirit, are bound together in Christ as “one new man” and welcomed into the family of God together as brothers and sisters.

Racial unity in the SBC

In the SBC, one step we’re taking is through the Unify Project, an initiative led by pastors Fred Luter and Ed Litton that “provides simple, practical, and effective resources that can be adopted by churches across the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.”

Our churches are yearning for unity, but often struggling to bring it to fruition among their congregations. Our communities are scarred and in turmoil. What are we to do? It is the Church to whom racial unity has been conferred, and by whom racial unity can be displayed and, through the Spirit, offered to a watching world.

So on this Racial Reconciliation Sunday in 2024, may we humble ourselves and pray that the unity of God’s heavenly Kingdom would be on display in our churches and be on offer for those who are so weary of our divided society and so weighed-down by its effects.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Jan 25

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Racial Reconciliation Sunday.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Feb 3

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Racial Reconciliation Sunday.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

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 / Jul 1

My family always looks forward to the Fourth of July. I grew up on the east coast only a few hours from our nation’s capital. Many times when I was a child, my parents would take us to see family outside of Washington around the Fourth. To celebrate Independence Day, we would venture into the city to watch the massive fireworks show near the Capitol. And looking back, I can still remember the sense of awe and wonder I felt in those moments. To me, those songs and fireworks in that city on that day, that was America. 

But it is little wonder I grew up believing I lived in the greatest country in the world. My dad has always been an American history buff. And every time we visited the district, he made sure my siblings and I learned all we could. I remember being mesmerized by the city’s stunning monuments and memorials. And in addition to spending countless hours in the Smithsonians and other Washington museums, I also traveled many times to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s homeplace, and stood at the feet of the much-larger-than-life statue of the Great Emancipator in the heart of the city. There was so much to take in, and each visit left me overwhelmed. And as I grew, I fell in love with America’s story.

Learning to see differences

But something else happened as I grew up, too. 

I’m from a majority-minority city. Like many places in the South, my hometown is divided, not merely along figurative racial lines, but literally by railroad tracks. In our city, there was a white part and Black part of town. And the railroad tracks marked out the boundaries.

I went to public school. From elementary school, I had always kept a pretty diverse friend group. That became even more true by the time I made it to high school, when as a freshman I was the only white student in the drumline. Up until that point, I had never really paid much attention to race. I knew about slavery and a little bit about Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, but I mostly assumed that all of that was settled and behind us. Growing up, I knew that I was white and some of my friends were Black and others Hispanic, but I never recognized any real differences between us. 

By the time I made it to high school, I began to notice that some of my friends had a much different experience than me, which showed up in a lot of ways. Some of my closest friends lived in real poverty. Others lived in homes without a father. Many of them had encounters with police before they were old enough to drive. And those are just a few of the more obvious things.

Over the last several weeks, our country has been thrown headlong into tumult over racial injustice in America. By now, we all know and recognize the tragic events that brought us to this moment. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are but the most recent in a decade-long, high profile series of Black Americans losing their lives from clashes with police, or, in some cases, armed citizens. And it seems we’ve reached a tipping point.

A cultural tipping point

Each one of these deaths was a tragedy. But for years, each one has been litigated and debated in the court of public opinion. And rather than empathy and compassion, often the response has smacked of tribalism and self-protection. That was before we watched a young man named Ahmaud Arbery lose his life on video, due to some kind of deranged vigilantism. His death shocked the nation. And only a few weeks after the release of that video, the footage of George Floyd’s death began to circulate. Seeing George Floyd die under the weight of a uniformed police officer’s knee as he begged for mercy was simply too much for too many.

For years, Black Americans have been crying out about issues related to racism and injustice in America. Decade after decade, they’ve begged for a response to police brutality and for criminal justice reforms aimed at correcting a system that deals out unduly harsh punishments in cases where it is hardly warranted. And in the aftermath of these most recent fatal tragedies, we’ve seen crowds of thousands descend upon urban areas across the United States, in cities large and small, demanding justice.

Those cries have not fallen on deaf ears. In ways I never anticipated, we are watching not only individuals but institutions respond to these demands for change. And in the last several weeks, I’ve seen many white Christians take the opportunity to listen, to seek understanding they’ve never had before, and to ask what they might do to make a difference. Likewise, I’ve seen many of my Black brothers and sisters take the time to share, speak, and educate others about what it’s like to be Black in America today.

Not everyone, of course, has done this well. Unsurprisingly, some of the loudest voices (on both sides) have proved the most unhelpful. And some, in their zeal, have taken certain efforts or ideas too far. Others have used this moment as a cover for other kinds of subterfuge or wickedness. That is both regrettable and predictable. But to focus on those things is to miss the point. To perceive the best in what’s happening right now is to note both the church and our society making strides in order to see all people treated equally before the law, with the rights, dignity, and opportunities they deserve.

A more perfect Union

Christians in the United States are called to be good citizens (1 Pet. 2:13-17). And ideally, that means Christians will enjoy and have a deep affection for the nation to which they belong. I’m grateful to God to be an American. This country has been good to me and has afforded me incredible opportunities. But over the last several weeks it has become even more obvious that not only has America not always been good for everyone, but there are many people for whom it still isn’t.

And it’s okay to say so. 

Being a Christian means recognizing that our ultimate allegiance does not belong to any earthly nation, but to the kingdom of heaven (Phil. 3:20). That means we don’t have to mask America’s flaws. No earthly government will ever perfectly manifest the righteousness of heaven. And when our nation and its laws fall short of the ideal, we never have to pretend otherwise. Our nation is fallible; our Savior isn’t.

Being a Christian means recognizing that our ultimate allegiance does not belong to any earthly nation, but to the kingdom of heaven (Phil. 3:20).

One of the best ways Christians can celebrate our nation’s independence this year is by renewing our commitment to seek “a more perfect Union.” This Fourth of July, we not only remember the past, but look toward the future—a future free of racism and injustice, a future where all Americans are truly free and equal, and a future where one’s skin color isn’t regarded as a liability. And we not only look, but as Jesus taught us, we ask God even now to make the earth look more like heaven, and to use us to do so (Matt. 6:10).

And as we move forward, the words of Abraham Lincoln are as appropriate for this Independence Day as they were when he uttered them some 150 years ago in his Second Inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

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 / Mar 3

NOTE: 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. To learn more go here.

As the ERLC prepares for the 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit addressing “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation,” I can’t help but think back to my two years teaching U.S. History and U.S. Government at a high school in Nashville, TN.  

The bias of lower expectations

The student body where I worked is over 85 percent African-American, and it is a Title I school.  When I taught, I was told that I would be successful if I managed to simply control my classroom and keep my students inside the classroom and out of the halls causing trouble.  I was saddened that some people defined success for my students as merely staying seated in their desks with no mention of learning, achievement, and preparation for college and career. The broken public education system in which I worked was living proof that often our society sets lower expectations for black students than white students and expects less out of poor students than wealthier students.

These low expectations were shameful to me, as they represented how this school system and society at large had failed these students. I was not a perfect teacher by any means nor was I always successful, but I witnessed children, counted out year after year, begin to succeed in my classroom as I held them to higher standards and consistently encouraged them to the point where they too believed they could meet those expectations.

The important role of education in racial reconciliation

As the ERLC pushes to see racial reconciliation become a reality in our church pews, it would be easy for some Christians to overlook the important role education plays in creating inequity and divisions within our communities. There are important debates happening about the role of the government in educating children, but these debates should not overshadow the reality that millions of children in our country are victims of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

This discrimination is rarely malicious, but its impact is detrimental. Every time we think or talk about “those kinds of schools” or “those kinds of kids” is a time when we are saying the imago dei is not present in every child of every race and class in our country.

Many of our nation’s children simply need to be given a chance and told that we believe in them. They also need teachers, parents, community members, and role models to step into the gap with them. The families of my students were good people who only wanted the best for their children. As Christians, it’s our responsibility to see the imago dei in every child in every neighborhood in our country. What if we cared as much about the education of the children in our towns and cities as we do our own children? What if we could move beyond talking about “those kids” and realized every one of those boys and girls created in God’s image should be viewed as “our kids”?

The call to live for our neighbor’s good

The realities that I encountered daily in my classroom are realities that everyone in our country needs to grapple with more directly, moving beyond lip service and shaking our heads at the latest heartbreaking stories, to a place where we live sacrificially to ensure we as a nation are expecting the same possibilities and opportunities for all of our nation’s children, no matter their race, neighborhood, or socioeconomic class.

Christians and the Church need to be more invested and involved with the educational system that serves so many children who live in poverty.  We must ask ourselves tough questions like whether our words and actions reveal that we truly believe all children from all races and all backgrounds can truly achieve great things in the classroom and beyond.

Stepping into this conversation will not be easy. It will require humility on all of our parts. It will require us to love until it hurts. It will require us to realize our perspectives aren’t the only ones that exist and our experiences are different from others. It will require us to admit that we don’t have all the answers and we don’t have it all together like we display to the world.

It will require listening and learning from others we aren’t used to listening to and learning from. The gospel will truly come alive as Ephesians 4 becomes more gloriously real in our lives, our cities, our nation and our world.