On Wednesday, October 26th, Mercy Hill held its “Living Room Conversations: A Gospel-centered Conversation on Race” between a panel of pastors, staff, and church members of varied backgrounds. This post is a part of our Continuing the Conversation blog series that seeks to keep Mercy Hill thinking and talking about issues of race.
It has been a few months now since the panel on racial reconciliation. It was an amazing night filled with truth, prayer, and a unified spirit. There were many things that stuck with me from the evening, but I wanted to take a moment and outline three.
The attendance and enthusiasm of the event reveals a longing for unity.
To begin, the Clifton road campus was full at this event. Now, I know when a pastor starts talking about numbers people assume there is about a 20% mark up! But trust me, the room was packed. And it was packed with both younger and older people. It was packed with both black and white people. One of the reasons this struck me was because the event was almost totally promoted through the grassroots effort of college students at our church. All of this led me to a conclusion that I already know: the gospel really does change everything. The gospel gives us a heart for our neighbor and a heart for the outsider. The Gospel unifies us as brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that nothing else can. We cannot then say we know the gospel and still harbor hatred in our hearts for people of different races. Actually, we should go a step further. We cannot say we know the gospel and harbor apathy in our hearts for people of different races. We know that one day (Revelation 5) we will belong to a multitude of people from every tribe and tongue who worship God. What we believe about then shapes the way we behave now. So many people came to this event, though it was unannounced, because the gospel creates a longing for unity.
The panel started us down a track of learning and communication.
I have personally talked to people who came to the forum and as a result have decided to study race relations and racism. The panel was informative but obviously not comprehensive. We did, however, introduce a range of topics for further study. I myself am continuing to read and learn. In the last two months, for example, I read Losing Ground, Just Mercy, and The New Jim Crow. I was also able to complete the documentary Many Rivers to Cross. Did I learn something from each of these resources? Yes. Did I agree with everything in them regarding social policy? No. But the point is, the panel sparked in me and others a desire to dig deeper in understanding the plight of the marginalized in our society. Obviously, there are eyes through which I haven’t seen and can’t see. I am a middle class white American man. That is who I am. I can’t be anything else. But what I can do is push to gain knowledge and understanding about race, injustice, and poverty.
There were clear next steps given to put action to the conversation.
What a shame it would have been to talk through these issues with openness and candor but then not be given the opportunity to practice what was preached. The action steps were simple; be in community and serve in community. At Mercy Hill both happen in community groups. Groups are the organized system we have designed to create the opportunity for organic relationships. In group you share life and in group you serve. What better picture can we as believers give to the world than when people of different races walk together in life and serve the kingdom in partnership? When we do that, Jesus said, “the world will know that it is God who sent me” (John 17:23).
-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)
Read the previous Continuing the Conversation blog series posts here:
- Continuing the Conversation: 9 Ways the Gospel Answers Racism | November 02, 2016
- The Church as a Safe Place for People of Color | November 09, 2016
- Why are Black-White Race Relations Given Prominence in the U.S.? | November 17, 2016
- All Lives Matter or Black Lives Matter? | December 01, 2016
- Prejudiced Hearts and the Mountain of Racism | December 21, 2016
- Dying to My Flesh and Its Color: Postures of Humility | January 05, 2017