First off, let’s address a little typo from yesterday that just got fixed…for this exercise we shall revisit this confusing sentence that was early in the post:
I am not saying they are the top five…just limiting myself to the first ten that come up.
You can see that obviously, my original intent was to share ten take-aways, but as I typed out my thoughts to you, they were so lengthy I was afraid I would lose all of you so I limited it down to five.
I went back and changed “ten” to “five” in all the places or so I thought…I obviously missed one. All that is to first apologize for such a silly error and second to remind you that while I love to write and work on a well-thought out, planned, edited piece of writing my life allows only for off the cuff posts 99.5% of the time.
Which is a good way to apologetically introduce today’s book.
Because The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah deserves the most thoughtful and carefully chosen words to convey the impact it had on me as I read it.
Any Christian, and especially white Christians, should be paying attention to the voices of those who are expressing feelings of frustration at being marginalized, patronized, disadvantaged and silenced.
This is a volatile issue with many loud voices speaking into it in the past few years, and offenses fly left and right. And as I sort through the voices, I have prayed to hear from Christians who have a word to lead us towards the racial reconciliation that is needed to honor all people.
The Bible is clear.
One day we will stand before the Throne of God with people of every race and tribe. It will not be a white congregation. It will be God’s perfectly diverse people, worshipping together and while we are on this earth, we must, AS THE CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST learn to worship with all the tribes and races.
Written in 2009, many of the things that Soong-Chan Rah speaks about regarding the voices of the Evangelical church being white and not making room for other voices remains a detriment to the growth of God’s Kingdom. He points to the exaltation of Individualism, Consumerism & Materialism, and Racism that exist within the Corporate church of the West as undermining the Great Commission.
He gives multiple examples of this and I have seen these things myself and was disturbed but didn’t have the language to go with the concern. In recent years, voices of the non-white body of Christ are finding a place within our Bible studies and this is good.
But if we close our ears to these teachers when they expose places where a white system has allowed non-white voices to be asked to conform to a script that is pleasing to us and doesn’t call us to search our hearts for where we have the idea that our way is the best way, then we are stubborn and prideful.
Throughout the book, the author gives practical ways for those of us who are members of the white church. I am imagining many of my white brothers and sisters protesting that you don’t think of the “church” as white or black or ethnic. But I must ask you the questions I was asked as I read this book.
How many non-white theological voices and mentors are you using as teachers of the Bible to you?
Are you including non-white members to your team or conference or workplace to show you are diverse, or to learn from their experiences about how to embrace diversity?
Would you consider allowing a non-white leader to have authority over you?
Is your idea of “missions” to another people group to bring them in line with the way you do church, or to go and listen and learn what they might have to teach you?
When you think of people of other ethnicities and how you can help, is your response to pour your abundant resources into their poverty, or enter into their life and acknowledge that they could teach you a thing or fifty?
As you read these statements, does a defense rise up in you?
It does me too.
And that is the symptom of the disease that we want God to heal.
Pride. Entitlement. My rights. The way things have always been done.
All of this is the enemy of the world-wide church.
So as I walk away with sore toes from this book, I want to change.
I want to use the resource list included in the back and read what some non-white theologians have to say.
I want to listen to Jackie Hill Perry and her husband even when what they are saying is hard for my white, middle-class ears to hear.
I want to remember that my perspective is not the only perspective and that through prayer and action, I can hear God’s voice about this issue that the world has hijacked but really needs the Church and Jesus Christ to lead the way to reconciliation.
That is His thing, you know.
Healing and forgiveness and reconciliation.
I encourage you to consider reading this book to gain some biblical insight into this much discussed conflict in our modern day.
I do want to comment that he does reference the “Emergent Church Movement” in a positive way, regretting that no non-white voices were being heard in the leadership of this. In hindsight, perhaps the Lord was protecting those voices from a movement that went far off track, but then again….maybe if the Evangelical Church leadership represented all ethnic voices, we would be doing much better in carrying out the mission of Christ <3
I need to close with prayer:
Dear God, Thank you for believers of all races who you have called and gifted to open our hearts and minds to acknowledge that each one of us is precious in your sight. Remind us that in Christ we are made One body in Him. We know that the coming of the Holy Spirit came in every language and was understood by all ethnic groups.
We struggle with the language of race. We struggle understanding the weight of past sins and the scars they have left on people. In our arrogance we miss the fact that using resources to help those less fortunate can often really just be an outward show of piety; when instead you call us to be in meaningful relationship with the entire body of Christ.
Teach us to listen before we speak. Help us show compassion to those who have experienced the hurt and injustice of racism. Fill us with your Spirit so that we do not add fuel to ungodly arguments, but instead humble ourselves and seek true reconciliation, peace and forgiveness with our brothers and sisters of different tribes and nations and ethnicities.
Change our hearts and our minds that we might be conformed to the heart and mind of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen and amen <3