By Joy Allmond
Ferguson. Baltimore. Charlottesville.
In recent months, these places have garnered headlines and brought racial problems before the eyes of the nation. Unfortunately, racism goes much deeper than these public events.
“Racism is of the heart,” says Trillia Newbell, community outreach director for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, during the ERLC’s recent conference in Nashville.
“This is a church issue because of Genesis 3 [when sin entered the world], but it’s also a church issue because of Genesis 1—God has created us all in His image. My hope is that the church would be ahead of the culture on this issue.”
Newbell and several others addressed racism and the church on a panel titled “All God’s Children: Growing Kids who Embrace a Biblical View of Racial Unity.”
Here are a few ways church leadership can play a role in coming alongside parents to raise the next generation to value biblical racial unity, according to the panelists.
Cultivate a heart for the nations
“Racial diversity is important to discipleship,” says Afshin Ziafat, lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas.
“The gospel matters because God loves all people. I want our church to have a heart for racial unity. But our churches should reflect the communities we’re in, rather than trying to have a certain amount of people from each ethnic group. The question is, do our people have a heart for the nations?”
One way to cultivate a heart for the nations among church members, Ziafat says, is through missions—specifically missions targeted toward an unreached people group.
“There was a family from my church who went on a mission trip to India, and when they returned home, they were more eager to go meet their Indian neighbor,” he says.
Use the right leaders and volunteers to engage people in issues
Jason Paredes leads Fielder Church, a multiethnic church in Arlington, Texas. “The journey itself is ugly and chaotic and beautiful at the same time,” he says.
As God began bringing various races and ethnicities to the church, Paredes’s predecessor worked to put the right people in place.
Multiethnic ministry “wasn’t his space, but he was good at empowering me to step in. Everyone needs to know what they can contribute,” Paredes says.
This empowers all church members. “When the children in the church see that modeled, they know they don’t have to be black, white or whatever. They can just be who they are in their culture, while at the same time being part of the movement.”
Faithfully teach the Scriptures
Ziafat explained scripturally how racism is anti-gospel. Faithfully teaching what the Bible says on the subject can make an impact on the church for current and future generations, he says.
“Racism is an affront to God because we are made in his image,” he says. “It’s also an affront to the gospel to have a divide with another race; Ephesians 2 says Jesus is our peace and He breaks down the wall of hostility.”
Ziafat denounced racism as an affront to eternity. “When we get to heaven, as Revelation 7 says, people of every tongue, tribe, and nation will sing, ‘Salvation belongs to our God.’”
JOY ALLMOND (@joyallmond) is managing editor for Facts & Trends.