Before reading, know that this blog post is meant to encourage Black Leadership so the first audience it is written for is Black Leaders and potential Black Leaders. Although I believe every Christian should wrestle with the assertions made in this post, be warned that there are certain things stated that a non-black Christian may not fully understand. My hope is that this will lead non-black readers to more discussion and deeper relationship with other Black Christians.
It seems God won't let me forget that Black Leadership (both male and female) is necessary in my ministry context and in the Church at large. My context being college ministry in the United States of America. Answering God's call to build his church in Western culture is tough. It's no secret that we have race problem in America. The #BlackLivesMatter movement doesn't mean the problem is new. It is an age old evil that some are finally digging into. I've heard both national and local voices chime in on this issue. I've learned from both and it's made me do some deep introspection of what God is doing and His call to black leaders. As I hear trusted theologians say "we need to center our call to racial reconciliation in the Gospel", and others say "we must not let this be a trend but something we live", it has made me realize that there is something special about the group of black(and some white) leaders that I've walked with for years. I say amen to "centering on the Gospel" and I say amen to living out our faith past trends, but, if I am to look at my life with integrity I also have to say these are basic fundamental practices of my faith that have always been true. Issues of racism, poverty, gender bias and sexuality have been issues I've always had submit to Jesus and prayerfully and scripturally allow him to transform my thinking and actions. It's only made sense to find God's heart in these issues and live them out. I make this point because it has become painfully apparent that the Church's collective thinking and consciousness, in the West, is immature and deficient.
After attending a couple conferences concerning planting and starting new things, it made me even more aware of God's loving desire to go to unreached places. It also made me aware of His desire and the necessity to raise up Black Leaders. I believe the Church is crying out to be with Jesus as they enter into the rough waters of reconciliation, a place where Black Christians in America know in a unique way. We've walked on those waters for some time now. Let's find out how God is calling Black Leaders to steward this gift well in His movement.
It should be noted that when I say "raise up Black Leaders", I am not saying that there is a lack of black leaders, there is a wealth of great Black Leaders who are doing tremendous work for the kingdom but who are not in the national spotlight. My call is for them to be heard and consulted. There are also young black leaders who deserve attention and development because their future leadership is vital to the life of the Western Church.
Jesus and the Gentile
Jesus always loved Gentiles he encountered. Though he was Jewish and was expected to treat them as half-breeds who were very close to the status of "untouchables", he uplifted them. It was Jesus who sent Paul, perhaps the most influential apostle of his day, to the Gentiles in a time where the Way of Jesus was new. This was a pivotal time for the Gospel and the best was sent to the Gentiles, those who were racially rejected, those who were excluded were being included. I believe that this is not necessarily a model for ministry(although Paul's life and what it cost him to do ministry among the gentiles is a great guide for racial reconciliation ministry) but simply highlights Jesus' desire to see the evil of racial barriers destroyed as part of the Gospel message being released to the world.
One of the deepest sins of America is racism. It is an evil the Church has been terribly affected by, and, an evil that the Church cannot turn their eyes away from. We exist to fight evil and we fight evil with complete dependence on God. Our strategy for racial reconciliation is one of prayer that is matched by our living. I believe that the greatest command of our God is to love him with all of our heart. He is our first and last resort in defeating evil. We also believe that "the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ " A large portion of Black Christians have had to live out this truth while being victims of racial evils that could have easily made them quit the journey. My own journey has plenty of stories of large and micro aggressions concerning race. Racial reconciliation is not a new concept for me and many other Black Leaders. It isn't a concept at all. it is a reality that we've had to confront as we've developed our theology. The solution to the evil of racism lies in this type of leadership that has it's roots in an oppressed people who have depended solely on the resurrected Christ because we've needed resurrection power in order to rise up above the evil of racism. Many, not all, black leaders have had a "Gentile" experience in America. Because of this, Black leaders have the unique experience of resurrection in their history. This is part of the leadership we offer is needed by the Western church.
Jesus and Painting Beauty from Pain
When I sit and meditate on the Crucifixion of my God. When I ask Jesus to pull me into that reality and he grants me that request. I am moved to weeping. It is a cosmic historical tragedy that has not and will not be matched in the life of humanity. But there is also a beauty that I believe will not be matched until we see Jesus and it is when I am in that place of prayer and meditation and I hear Jesus whisper, "I did it because I wanted you". I am reduced to nothing in knowing this truth.
The life of Jesus was one in the margins, one of rejection, one of death. And at the same time it was one of community, one of inclusion, and one of life. He is our creator who is a master painter who painted beauty from pain. The image I get when I think of this is one of Jesus making us dinner while we spit on him. He washes feet as we betray him. This is the way our God who chose to lead us, a rebellious and abusive people, into the Kingdom.
The call to Black Leaders is something like the life of Jesus. A call to prepare dinner for all people even as you feel like you are being spit upon. The call for Black Leadership is a call for Black Christians to step into leadership that may cause you to be rejected, experience exclusion, and encounter multiple kinds of death. I believe every Black Leader(and black disciples who aspire to lead) should know this and be on a journey of learning Jesus' heart for you in this reality. I also believe that those who lead and disciple Black people have to be on a journey of learning Jesus' heart in this reality and, in your context, understanding what type of support you will need to provide to develop Black Leaders.
Jesus and Global Reconciliation
Lastly, as we consider racial reconciliation, it is important to note that the greatest global evil of our day(and maybe of all time) is that of poverty. I believe this tightly connected to issues of greed and the fallenness of those who have privilege(unfortunately I am not able to give this subject the attention it deserves here). I include myself in this category of "those who have privilege". Which is why when I look to Godly leaders who can lead me in my thinking about poverty I have to look overseas. Recently, at the Underground Network's Core Conference, I was able to hear the testimony of Pastor Robert Albarico(affectionately known as Pastor Vhoi), a Filipino pastor. There was something about his testimony that shifted my heart significantly. Pastor Vhoi leads the work of the Underground Network in Manilla, Philippines. He has lead the start and sustaining of over 180 microchurches there. With very few resources and no spotlight, he is establishing the Kingdom. And his words to us were not of rebuke or a prophetic call to give up more of our wealth(though he has the Spiritual Authority to make such a call), they were instead about God's grace and his appreciation to be part of our Underground family. Somehow when this pastor, who comes from a place where poverty is close, entered into a culture where privilege is prevalent he was submissive. He was lovingly prophetic, even humorous as he shared truths about God with us. In a very real way, He leads the movement of the Underground in the U.S. He leads me in more ways than he could know. I need his leadership. Because of his unique work among the poor, I have a lot to learn from him. The solution to global reconciliation is hidden in his life.
Reconciliation globally and nationally require cross cultural acuity. We know that. I believe Pastor Vhoi showed this to us. He entered into our context and served. This is part of the mystery of Godly cross cultural acuity, having the ability to enter in and serve. This takes strength and a submission first to Jesus. When I look at the problems of racial reconciliation in the U.S., I see the need for this type of submission to be developed. I would argue that many Black Christian's life experience have developed their hearts in this way.
The make up of Black America is diverse. The Black Christian is no longer just African American but there are African National, Afro Carribean, Afro Latino, Bi-Racial and Multi-Racial Black Christians each encountering racial injustice from different perspectives and each carrying a unique Gospel enriched solution to the evils of racial injustice. Being Black in America carries a lot of cross cultural experiences so the call to cross culture acuity is almost a natural skill for lot of Black Christians because it has been our life's experience. It is what we've done our whole lives and has also been part of our theological development. Leaders who can cross cultures well and lead a diverse group of people with love and understanding is necessary in our day. I believe this is a place where Black Christians can and should lead.
Black Leadership is A Norm for God
While viewing a video recording of a panel put together by the Kainos Movement, Pastor Eric Mason said something that he described as "off the map". He said "we’ll know…when black and white racial reconciliation is beginning to take root when a large number of whites can submit to black leadership...and not feel the need to be in authority with them to check their leadership." Reflecting on this statement I wondered how many feel like Black Leadership(and any minority leadership) is a rarity. I wondered this because I am beginning to hear many non-black leaders say that they have had to search rigorously for capable black leaders. But I know a wealth of black capable leaders(and capable leaders of other ethnicities as well). Maybe we've missed the reality of Jesus being an unlikely leader who did not impress anyone and who many thought could not be the messiah because of his birth to a construction worker in the slums of Nazereth. But God's leaders almost always are unlikely leaders. I believe Pastor Mason is correct, and in the mean time, for those of us who are Black Leaders, we must know that God's chosen leaders may not always be accepted but their leadership is significant nonetheless. My prayer is that we prayerfully find power and strength in God's call and that the Church as a whole begins to see with God's eyes. God is making his Church into a special family, somethiing the world has never seen before, but that it needs. God is calling Black Leaders as a necessary part of his redemptive work. We are those with resurrection blood in our veins.