A Christ Centered Church in A Race Centered Culture

Recently the issue of racism has surfaced it’s tenaciously ugly head in America and has brought with it acts of violence and evil that are sure to offend the heart (and stomach) of every believer. We see evidence of this in the way our social media accounts, denominational newsletters and church prayer lists have been bombarded with concerns over these evil acts. Pastors, missionaries, and church leaders have all weighed in on this issue, obviously motivated by the question of “How should the church respond?” Many, no doubt, have done an exceptional job of speaking the truth of God’s Word over these events. 

However, something remains unsettled. 

While we (believers/church) have done a great job of recognizing evil as it is represented in the form of racism, we still continue to engage every Sunday in the most segregated hour of the week. We remain ineffective in bridging the gap between races for the sake of the gospel and find ourselves struggling with historical racial sin.  And let’s face it, we still think reaching our ethnically different neighbors for Christ will require us to develop a new musicological strategy before we can simply engage in a conversation. We, at least in part, don't know that it is possible to be a Christ centered church in our race centered culture. 

It is possible.

It is possible for our churches to begin representing the whole of the communities that we minister in. It is possible for every Christian, regardless of skin color, cultural context, and past personal racial tensions to effectively reach all people for the sake of Christ. 

 How are we to be a Christ centered Church in a Race centered culture? The Answer is really rather simple. It has everything to do with the believer’s identity in Christ. The church must affirm that the most important defining characteristic of a man is His eternal state. We must take ownership in the fact that, while our creator God is not color blind, and in fact created us all uniquely for His glory, our higher unifying identity in Christ is the only thing that should distinguish us.

This identity must become the basis for our existence.  Paul says it best when speaking to the saints at Colossae, 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
— Colossians 3:1-11

Don't you just love that last verse? “Christ is all and in all” and therefore there is no greater value placed on any characteristic of man than that of knowing Christ. What a beautiful truth! Think of it like this, every man has an innate desire to be valued, to be of worth. The sad reality is that when man looks at himself and addresses the temporal characteristics of his fallen state, he is left feeling worthless. None of our earthly characteristics can fulfill our desire for worth. It is only when we meet Christ and are given our new self, that we are able to experience true value based on Christ’s redemptive work in our life.  And get this, when we as the church try to reach others based on temporal characteristics, we will never find true success.  

We must learn how to operate from the basis of our identity in Christ as believers and nothing else. We have to know who we are in Christ and move boldly in that reality.  Why? Because it’s only then that we are able to engage in relationships based on no other pretense than that of the eternal state of an individual. In turn we are able to ascribe to a person value not based on temporal things but based on the value through which God assigns to us. And is there any greater value than that? When the church is able to do this, our communities will be changed, and the truths of the gospel will be alive and well among us.

Disclaimer: Obviously this blog is not an exhaustive dissertation on the issue of Race. There are myriads of conversations to be had concerning the issue. However, it must be THE starting place. Not A starting place but THE starting place. - Matthew Morgan 

Matthew Morgan is a church planter and family man in the rural MS Delta.