Reflecting on the boldness and frank observations of the MLK50 Conference drives me once again to Scripture. No, I did not attend MLK50. My only exposure to the content of the conference has been listening to a number of the messages on various social media sites. Those who envisioned, planned and scheduled speakers are to be thanked and acknowledged for the wisdom and foresight that guided them. Most of us will agree that racial reconciliation is the critical spiritual and cultural issue in our times. Sadly, the truth about right now may be our greatest impediment in solving this social dilemma.
You see, the truth about right now is that a majority of Americans, with the Christian population at the top of the list, have not been or will not be exposed to the facts about the racial divides that continue our positioning as many nations under God. While we boast about the Godly, perhaps Christian foundations of our nation, we remain segregated racially, socially, economically, educationally, and in virtually every other domestic human category. The unknown author of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote about a similar frustration in the early church---
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again
the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone
who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid
food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by
constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:12-24, ESV.
We've been a nation for 242 years. Yet, we are still in our infancy as a people. This "one nation under God" vision of our founders is till a dream. The truth about right now is that we have of yet achieved that degree of oneness.
The truth about right now cuts into my personal life beyond my American citizenship. As a Christian my mission is to make disciples of all nations by being salt and light in the world around me. That translates into attitudes and actions that produce the ideal of reconciliation into every layer of my life experience. This means that the truth of racial reconciliation starts right here in my house. While I am grateful for the bold words and honest assessments of conferences and meetings like MLK50, the deeper truth is that the believing community already possesses God's Word in every aspect of relational dynamics. If Scripture is actually our guide for faith and life, God has already provided tenets of faith and doctrine to govern our human relationships. The truth about right now is that, sadly, we are basically disobedient in fulfilling God's plan for human righteousness. I'm asking myself, how is this so? And, why is it so? Allow me to ponder a little. You know, offer an opinion or two---
1. Racial reconciliation is one of the dreaded topics of church life.
Once again, we typically boast about free pulpits and our aim to declare the whole council of God in our teaching and preaching. Even so, matters of race, social standing, and the inequities of culture are rarely addressed in America's congregations. There may be a sense of guilt over-riding our doctrines about diverse populations living together. Even more, however, there is a fear factor that often keeps pulpits silent in this critical area. Perhaps our instruction to preach the Word and be prepared in season and out of season (see 2 Timothy 4:2) is no longer an operative command.
2. Mission is often defined in church terms rather than Kingdom ones.
Many church and denominational leaders have identified the congregational bubbles in which many churches minister and serve. In far too many situations the mission field is marked by the boundaries of the local church. As a result, the application of truth about racial and cultural issues never extend beyond church property. The four circles Jesus defined for his disciples in Acts 1:8 are often minimized because pleasing the local constituency has become the prevailing mission of many congregations.
3. Many believers are not versed or trained in addressing changing demographics.
Communities are in a constant state of change. North Charleston, our third largest city in area (76.64 sq. miles) has been in a fifty year population adjustment that has changed the demographic profiles of literally every community. I am personally aware of dozens of congregations who have not adapted or adjusted their mission or ministry approach because of these local shifts. This is especially true in areas experiencing minority population growth, even an influx of younger families or people. When I was asked to assist one congregation several years ago, they told me they had declined because the local population had been drastically reduced by industry closings. When I showed them the actual numbers from the latest census data they had to face the reality that their community had not declined. It had changed and they had not reached out to their new neighbors.
Racial reconciliation starts in the Word of God. It is the mission of every believer and church. In the same way, it is simple obedience to God's will, that is, of reconciling the sinful nature of man to himself. And the truth about right now is that it is not central to our mission today.
Wednesday I'll address how God's Word directs Christians to relate to one another. Friday, I'll examine God's Word about our relationships with people who may not share our Christian beliefs.
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