By Scott Rideout, President, Converge Worldwide
The events in Ferguson, Missouri, in recent weeks have captured worldwide attention. Opinions of what happened in Ferguson, and the grand jury’s decision, are as diverse as out movement. According to a recent CNN poll, Americans are divided, interpreting the events very differently depending largely on their ethnicity. The resulting protests and general unrest has been unsettling, provoking a groundswell of mounting racial tension in our country.
Like most of you, I have spent hours watching reports, reading news articles and searching blogs of trusted leaders while praying for God’s wisdom to know how to respond. As I’ve watched, listened and read the reports, it came to my attention that in a season when everyone seemed to have an opinion, the voice of Anglo evangelicals has been noticeably silent.
Because Jesus commanded us to be one, as leaders we must speak to any issue that has the potential to challenge our unity, create distance between our leaders, disrupt our progress and disintegrate trust. As men and women of God, we have a responsibility to try to understand each other. We need to listen and learn from one another.
We have a great opportunity to learn and to lead
Converge is a powerful movement that stands on four values. We are spiritually dynamic- our desire is to live in spiritual vitality, to be led by God in the power of His Spirit and in alignment with His will and His word. We are missionally driven-everything we do is for the sake of the gospel. Our minds are always on advancing of the message of God’s redemption and reconciliation to all people. We are relationally devoted-in order to accomplish our mission; we band together to support, encourage and challenge one another to move forward “united in spirit and intent on one purpose.” We are convinced we are better together.
Our fourth value is we are culturally diverse. Although we began as a Swedish immigrant movement, we value how God has blessed us to become a movement with an ever-widening variety of heritages and backgrounds. Our diversity as a movement gives us the opportunity for greater strength and a more holistic perspective. It allows us to move past cultural Christianity with greater understanding of the wider ramifications of the gospel message as it pertains to people of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities.
Converge is already leading the way for the body of Christ in racial reconciliation. God has blessed and positioned Converge, as a growing movement of churches, with some of the best leaders of African-American and multiethnic congregations in America. I applaud the actions of these leaders, along with many of our district leaders, who are already getting ahead of this issue. I have begun to come together with these leaders to learn and listen with the desire to make real progress on racial reconciliation as a movement.
Will you join me in developing a personal growth plan in this area?
Step #1 - Be Humble. Humility is the key virtue of the Christian life. Humility is the soil from which all other Christian values grow. “God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble.” Ask God to open your heart to acknowledge the problem, open your eyes to see the need and open your minds to know how to respond. When others share their perspective, be both teachable and patient with those who are of a different opinion. Be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. Choose to take the attitude first communicated by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “I have decided to stick with love, for hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Step #2 – Become a learner. Let’s decide we have not cornered the market when it comes to understanding this issue and choose to become students. In the last few months, I have begun a personal growth trek by reading the autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., and Oneness Embraced, by Dr. Tony Evans. Friends who are more acquainted with the subject have suggested other books such as Let Justice Roll Down, by John M. Perkins; Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, by Soong-Chan Rah; and Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, by Mark DeYmaz. Our Great Lakes executive minister Dr. Dwight Perry has a great book on the issue called Breaking Down Barriers: A Black Evangelical Explains the Black Church. The point is, do something!
Step #3 – Begin a dialogue. Personal transformation will not happen with simple intellectual pursuit. We must reach across the divide in relationships. Engage in personal interaction with someone from a different ethnicity, preferably a church leader. Explain your desire to learn and grow. Invite him or her to coffee. Listen, ask questions and learn.
Step #4 – Don’t stop there. Keep the dialogue going and let it inspire meaningful action. My prayer is these humble beginnings will move us from dialogue to friendship and then from friendship eventually into ministry partnership. God willing, these partnerships will result in transformed congregations that in turn will transform our communities and eventually transform our world.
The gospel is a message of redemption and reconciliation with God, but also with man. Let’s lead the way in this effort to show the unifying power of the gospel across the racial divide as we move forward in helping people meet, know and follow Jesus by starting and strengthening churches worldwide.
Thank you again for the privilege of serving the Converge movement.