John M. Perkins
Baker Books, 2017. 218pp.
John M. Perkins has been a trailblazer in the civil rights movement since the 1960s. In Dream With Me, Perkins shares how the world has changed for the better since he began, how the work of racial reconciliation is not yet done and how he is deeply encouraged to see the next generation continue the mission. Perkins, in memoir fashion, recounts the highlights and lowlights of his work over the decades. From his work with the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) to being confronted with his own prejudice against poor, uneducated whites. He recalls the three Rs that have shaped his ministry: relocation, reconciliation and redistribution. He writes, “Relocation is imitating Christ who ‘made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…’ (Phil. 2:7) so He could show us the full extent of God’s love. Reconciliation is God bringing people into relationship with Himself and other people. Redistribution is caring for others’ needs as we care for our own” (88).
Perkins shares how the death of his son Spencer continues to drive him forward in the pursuit of racial reconciliation. His vision for a holistic response to poverty, racism and injustice requires the church to become communities of love. He shares his hope for the church, writing, what “if we actually considered our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities and classes to be vital members of the body of Christ, what a great witness we would be for the world in which we live!” (199). Throughout the pages of Dream With Me are the reflections of a man who has long labored to see racial reconciliation become a reality in America and who continues to believe that it is possible with Christ’s church at the helm and God enabling grace.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Chances are, like me, you have not labored for over five decades for the cause of racial reconciliation. For some, this is an issue you have wrestled with and sought to learn about. For others, racism and prejudice is something you face daily. And for still others, this is something that is most often out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Yet the issue of racial reconciliation is baked into the heart of the gospel such that Christ tears down the dividing wall of race-motivated hostility by his death and resurrection (Eph. 2:11-22). Perkins provides a hopeful perspective on the work of racial reconciliation by championing the church to embrace its foundational role.
Perkins shares anecdote after anecdote of how God has worked in and through the church and para-church ministries in bringing change. It is both encouraging and inspiring, as Perkins gently and pointedly exhorts believers—of all races and colors—to keep pursuing God’s purposes in building a multiethnic and multicultural bride.As I have personally labored in a predominantly mono-cultural setting, Perkins challenges me, and fellow pastors like me, to pursue reconciliation as an overflow of our mission of reaching the lost and discipleship. He writes, “reconciliation is most successful when churches treat it not as a project or an event but as a way of life. It simply becomes the congregation’s commitment to evangelism and discipleship—it’s how they fulfill the Great Commission” (81).
Perkins’ experience and perspective would be a great benefit for any pastor seeking to learn, grow and pursue racial understanding and reconciliation. The church has an important task before us—remain committed to the main things (e.g. Great Commission)—while also not neglecting the vital and essential out workings of the gospel that ought to reflect in our churches. May God give us all the grace to persevere in this vital work.
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