Sunday, June 29, 2008

Thriving & Church Unity

Church life is critical to my thriving life as a Christian.

Let's get real about worship in American churches.

Many years ago in a conference I sensed a presence of God greater than I had known. I spent much time in prayer and meditation to understand why this sense of God was so profound in that meeting. It hit me later that the group gathered at the conference was the same makeup racially as the community in Georgia where the meeting was being held. As I pondered over this, I was astounded at how rarely this occurs in a local church.

Since that revelation I have prayed for God to use me to bridge the races to come together in worship and as local church members. I live in South Carolina: the "buckle" of the Bible belt of America. At times this racial unity calling has been expensive, but I wouldn't trade the adventure and the blessings it has brought me for anything.

Finally I am a member of a church that all people are represented. From the top leadership all the way down to me in my pew you cannot call us white, black, or any other color or race. We're all present and giving glory to God. It's a good thing.

I believe God calls us to come together in church. These verses speak this to my heart.
John 10:16 Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and ther will be ONE flock and ONE shepherd.
John 17:21: That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

There are only a few books in print that discuss this situation. But let me encourage you to read this one, Winning the Race to Unity, by Clarence Shuler ISBN #: 0802481590

Shuler asks if our Christianity has progressed to the point of rejecting man’s approval, instead seeking God’s agenda. If we claim to be Jesus’ disciple, then it must show in our choices—to be deliberate in going beyond "passive racism" and to learn of God’s heart about racial reconciliation (pp. 73-76).

All I can say is, "You're right about this expensive call. There is a cost; but there is a reward far greater."

He asserts, "It's been said that the most segregated time of the week is Sunday morning. The church experiences the same racial tensions as the rest of society and this certainly does not bring glory to God."

In his book, Clarence Shuler directly confronts this racial divide. He challenges the church to face the issues honestly, and to forthrightly tackle them. He suggests replacing the term "racial reconciliation" with "racial partnership."

He explains: "The strength of the term racial partnership is that, first of all, it implies that equal parties are involved. This is something racial reconciliation doesn’t necessarily do. Second, partnership implies a working together for a desired goal or result. This is hard work because you are forming something out of nothing! Partners starting a business very often have to work through their differences if they are going to be successful . . . most partnerships are formed because the goal can’t be achieved by one person or company. If it could, then there wouldn’t be a need for the partnership. The same is true of us in the areas of culture, race, and even spiritual gifts in some of our own churches. We all need each other—we just pretend we don’t because we are often afraid of what we may lose personally (control, for example) and what the finished product may look like."p. 142.

Anything of value will cost a price.
Shuler adds, "It will ‘cost’ anyone—any church or organization that is serious about and committed to improving race relations among Christians today. This cost will always be more than we anticipate because that is the faith aspect of it. An attitude of flexibility, teachability, and patience must be developed by those of the majority race who desire cross-cultural relationships with minorities. This is something they can learn to do. After all, in order to survive in any culture, minority children must master the system of the majority race without losing their own identity."p. 141-142.

Love to hear from you. Most of the time we Christians won't discuss this subject so I'll understand if I don't get any comments. My commitment to seeing us together racially in worship and in serving our Lord is stronger than decades ago when I first "saw" the dilemma.


MarySnyder-Joy Filled Life said...

So thought provoking and challenging. As a person who grew up in the shadow of desegeration in the deep south, the racial divide was great for my generation. We grew up in the shadow of Birmingham in the 1960s. We were just a bit over ten years beyond the church bombing that killed four little girls. This is the climate I grew up in.

You're right -- we need racial partnership. I want to be colorblind, because I know my Lord is colorblind. I want to serve Him alongside my sisters of color and I want to worship alongside them. I love the African American church -- often so vibrant and filled with joy of Christ.

thanks for this post. I'm going to work on building racial partnerships in my community. Your words encouraged me to get off my fanny and do something.

Kay Martin said...

Mary, you have greatly blessed me with this profound comment. I cannot imagine being that close to that tragic site of the children dying. Yes I agree with you "partnership" is the key word. May God show us the way to come together and be all He calls us to be Together!!!

ThreeGirlyGirls said...

You are right to say that many Christians won't touch this subject. But I will say that I've experienced the same thing, true deep worship in another place and then come back to my home church and go "Huh? Holy Spirit? You here?" I loved that book you recommended I will have to get it!

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

I so agree. I even would go to say that other lines also divide us like denominational lines. God desires the body all nations, races, and believers. Good post!
Much love,

© 2008 Kay Martin

Thrive In Christ

Who I Am In Christ by Neil Anderson

For several months we will center on this book to pursue Thriving in our Christian journey.

Neil challenges us with: "Do you know who you are in God's eyes? We are no longer products of our past. We are primarily products of Christ's work on the cross. Who we are determines what we do.

You are not who you are in Christ because of the things you have done, you are in Christ because of what He has done. He died and rose again so that you and I could live in the FREEDOM of His love."

That's just the introduction. More to follow.