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History’s Next Chapter

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“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Col. 1:18).

Scripture reminds us that our Lord is in charge and in control of His Church. He is the author of all life—Creator and Sustainer—and His Resurrection guarantees our resurrection to glory. Therefore, we are to acknowledge Him as superior in all things. We do not dispute this truth theologically, but practically we continue to misapply it.

Anyone who has walked with Christ for any length of time recognizes the daily challenge of dying to self and living for Christ. In many cases, what we choose to do or not do is based on what is best for “self,” even though we convince ourselves we are doing it for Christ. Yet the people who seek first His Kingdom are who He welcomes home with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Each year during Black History Month, I purpose to learn something new concerning the contributions of African-American believers in advancing the Kingdom. I am regularly impressed with how many people of color significantly contributed and sacrificed to spread the gospel and whose stories are regularly omitted from church history books. I wonder, Why are so many authors excluding these stories?

These men and women of color were far more courageous than many of us will ever be. They had learned the secret of dying to self so they could go and preach Christ, offering real freedom to others in need while they themselves were being denied basic freedoms at home. We owe them a debt that can never be fully repaid, but we are still obligated to show our appreciation. We owe a response of gratitude that will redefine what Black History Month will look like for the next generation.

Responding Appropriately

I visited the National Lynching Memorial (a.k.a. National Memorial for Peace and Justice) in April last year and was reminded afresh of how recently in our history people exactly like me were brutalized for sport. Sadly, professing Christians often participated or watched with fascination, much like fans today watch a cage-fighting match. We cannot excuse the silence of those who came before us. We can use our voices today to speak up on behalf of the disenfranchised and marginalized in our communities, showing the love of Jesus for those who often feel like outcasts.

A casual observer of the church in America will notice how we quickly remove Christ from His position of preeminence when unresolved issues from the past and present are top of our daily news feeds. My heart grieves as I listen to my brothers and sisters respond along political lines more often than from a biblical worldview.

Whenever a violent crime is committed against an African American and the perpetrator is from another ethnic group or dominant culture, invariably people’s emotional responses are not always overcome by the correct spiritual response. Initially, it feels like the attitudes and power structures that promoted slavery in our country are still strongholds that must be torn down. If we have not died to self and daily taken up our cross to follow Jesus, we will never see clearly how the Lord wants us to respond in ways that lead to healing and reconciliation.

As a teenager, I watched the speeches and activities of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and those of Malcolm X and his followers. We had a choice to make about how to act, react, and initiate change for the better. As teenagers, we asked, “How could a nonviolent response be more effective than the immediate results of a violent response? Why is the church as segregated as society?”

Some of my friends made the wrong choice because Christ was not preeminent in their lives, and the thought of dying to self to advance a greater cause was not their reality. The logical response does not always align with the biblical response, and learning to acknowledge Christ as preeminent in situations of ethnic disparity is an ongoing challenge.

Working Together

As I reflect on Black History Month this year, I find myself looking forward more than I am looking back. I want to believe that Black History Month will look different in the future because of the steps we are taking now.

Hopefully, during the next decades (if our Lord has not returned), it will be a challenge to name all of the African Americans who have been chairman or vice chairman of the C&MA Board of Directors, district superintendents, or C&MA presidents or vice presidents. I was encouraged by the recent election of Kelvin Walker as the Metropolitan District superintendent—the first African American to hold such a position in the C&MA. Even so, the list is incredibly short now, but because of initiatives like the Manifold Group, Envision, and the reconciliatory work Reggie Screen of the South Atlantic District is doing among people of different social backgrounds and ethnic origins, we are raising a generation of multicultural leaders who will lead with excellence in the days to come.

While no one wants to see leaders of color through “spiritual affirmative action,” we should recognize that Christ wants all His created ethnicities to bring Him glory, and we must not allow our cultural comfort zones to hinder others from ascending to leadership roles. Our mission is too great to allow anything to hinder our working together.

Sports teammates have learned to pass the ball to the person wearing the same uniform color, regardless of his or her skin color. The victory is shared together as a team. There is no excuse for the Church to not demonstrate teamwork better than any other group of people on planet earth.

Only those who have died to self have the capacity to live life as the Lord Jesus Christ has ordained for us and serve together without prejudice. Are you ready to write the next chapter of church history in a way that will honor Christ as it is discovered by the next generation?

1 response to History's Next Chapter

  1. Excellent article, Ron. God rejoices in diversity (it’s His idea), and we should work to ensure that what He loves has a place in all we do as His people. May God forgive us the past and empower us to build a better future, one that reflects Kingdom values and principles.

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