I Lament and Repent of Racism as a White American Pastor

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no waters.”                        Jeremiah 2:13

The Gospel and Race

“I lament and repent of racism as a white American pastor.” These were the words I spoke to a black church while preaching in South Africa nearly 20 years ago. The response I received was humbling. The history of Apartheid in South Africa became my history as a minister of reconciliation. Five families came to me while at lunch saying “Thank you, Pastor. I have never heard a white man repent in Church. You blessed me with a hope for change.”

The verse from Jeremiah 2 reveals the broken condition of my heart to individually forsake God’s living water of his word and put my trust in false systems. Race is sacred and designed by God to reflect his image (Gen. 1:27). Racism is a sin that originates in every human heart (Gen. 3). Repentance is the gift of God for individual and systemic forgiveness that every heart needs to know freedom. James 1:19 calls every person to “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” These biblical truths mobilize my heart to lament and repent to seek healthy race relationships.

So what is wrong with the Church? I Am. As a white leader, I take responsibility to ask forgiveness and seek Christ.  So once again, I lament with our American Black families of a history of 400 years of suffering and harm. I lament how I as a leader of the church need to listen as Jesus listens. I repent of how I as a leader of the white majority church unconsciously and automatically impose my story of change onto other people. We are one blood as Acts 17 communicates and we have 3 Billion people on this planet who do not know the Gospel of Jesus Christ nor God’s Biblical story of Change.

A Call to Obey the Great Commission together

I love what David Platt says on why we the Church are not obediently engaged with the Great Commission. From Numbers 13 he says God’s people have, “Magnified the problems of going into another land and minimized the promises of God to provide.”

Click here to listen to David Platt at Radius International Mission Conference call for we the Church to repent of “Seeing the Obstacles instead of the opportunities”. The Great Commission is great because we must work together as one blood to believe that the promise of God is greater than the problems of culture. Jeremiah rightly speaks of our American culture that is in desperate need of the Word of God. May the great commission begin with us right now individually and in our churches by building a multicultural unity.

Thursday, July 23rd at 7 pm we are beginning an 8-week zoom cohort on the book Multiethnic conversations. We want to encourage church elders and leaders to join our Central District Acts 13 Multicultural team to empower gospel transformation among All people with 5 outstanding leaders. Please join Renato Jimenez, Andre Turner, Worku Geremew, George Tluanga, and myself for an hour each week to dialogue together to bring unity and mobilize the great commission. Our Multicultural team heartbeat is for we the Church to live as one family in Christ and follow Jesus on His Great Commission (Eph. 2:11-22).

Please click here to read of systemic change in our EFCA denomination. We are one of the most multicultural denominations in America. Yet, we are also honest enough to see we are broken. We still have a long road to walk in generational racism and cultural assimilation. In a Fallen world our structures and systems are broken cisterns and we are in daily need of Grace for the Gospel to transform our churches. We believe the solution is found in Gospel Community. For this reason, we are inviting All People to join us in being Kingdom Catalyst for Multiethnic Conversations in our Central District beginning July 23rd via zoom.

One of the topics of our July 23rd discussion will be the recent Cancel Culture letter published in Harpers Magazine on July 7, 2020. Please click here to read A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.

The Biblical Story of Change

The Big narrative of the Biblical Story of Change is Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. Brian Fikkert of The Chalmers Center has written an excellent book Becoming Whole. I am in Brian’s 4 week Community crash course and he recently challenged us as Churches, “If we were to ask 10 people in our church why did Jesus come to earth?” Brian says very few would turn to Luke 4:43:

Jesus said to them’ “I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other towns as well for I was sent for this purpose.”  

What we often see in American Churches is that some people want the King without the Kingdom, and some want the Kingdom without the King. What happens with this imbalance is we do injustice and create more broken systems. The goal of the Biblical story of change is that each of us serves as Priest-Kings to restore human flourishing.

The Great Commission is God’s plan and there are over 400 scripture verses that speak of the heart of our Heavenly Father as a defender of the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners. Tim Keller says, “God’s business card throughout scripture is that He loves the poor, fatherless, widow, and foreigner.” If that is where the heart of our Lord is can we ask the Lord to be men and women after his own heart?

Here are 5 practical first steps to ask the Lord for his heart for All People:

  1. In early May, before Floyd George was killed three of our EFCA leaders that I highly respect released a video on how to address racism in your local church. Click Here to watch this EFCA video by Eddie Cole, Cedric Brown, and Alex Mandes.
  2. Sometimes we have cultural blindness to our own broken systems and it is helpful to see racism in other cultures. As you know I am a Coach, sport is a shaper of identity and teamwork that is a key part of my story. I was highly impacted recently by the ESPN showing of Australian Dream about the life of Adam Goodes an Australian Football Legend who is Aborigine. Here is a link to the trailer and is free on the ESPN app right now.
  3. Ravi Zacharias provides excellent structural thinking on Cultural change and says, “Race is Sacred, and Sexuality is Sacred”, Watch Ravi on this 10 minute video.
  4. Our family was honored to learn community by living the postApartheid community transformation in South Africa from 1998-2012. Nelson Mandela lived to be 95 years and lead the transformation of a broken cistern to seek One people in South Africa. The movie Invictus is another classic story that will help you look at how does cultural change happens both individually and corporately?
  5. Lastly, our All People Multicultural team is here to walk with you in your churches to make Kingdom disciples among All People. Please join us on July 23rd as we are starting a Central District Zoom Forum on Multiethnic Conversations. Watch this blog for our Multicultural team blogs. To purchase the Multiethnic Conversations please click here. Please email [email protected] if you would like to join us for the 8-week cohort.

In Acts 13:22 we read “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David was simply an earthly picture of the coming King Jesus Christ calling us to be a Kingdom of priests to serve as a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9).

Please email me to join the All People team in the Great Commission to bring God’s story of Change within our Central District to see the Gospel transform racism and cultural brokenness to seek first Christ Kingdom and His righteousness.