In this excerpt from Dr. Walter R. Strickland II’s Mobile Ed course, he offers guidance for shepherding your church on race.
It is always difficult to shepherd people but especially shepherding in the aftermath of a highly racialized event. Unfortunately, on this side of the kingdom, there will always be many difficult issues to lead people through as a Christian leader. The hesitancy in leading in these moments is a desire to do the right thing that does not jump into an unnecessary conclusion too soon. There are some ways that you can lead amid this ambiguity in a very powerful way.
Public and corporate prayer
First, lead with public and corporate prayer. We’ve already discussed how corporate prayer is a wonderful part of a worship service, but specifically on issues that are highly racialized, it’s very important to understand that when you pray, you can do it without taking sides.
For appropriate responses
The response can be to pray for how the nation responds or how a community responds to a certain action. Pray that Christ will be honored in how people respond. You can also pray for those upholding the law that God will give them wisdom to bring about peace in these situations because it’s always going to be the burden of law enforcement to act wisely in these scenarios. Pray for wisdom for them.
Also, in the aftermath, you can pray that peace and understanding would reign. In the hearts of all sorts of people viewing these instances—from a variety of perspectives, cultural backgrounds, personal histories, and communal histories—it’s going to be tense or a challenge for people to understand how peace can reign. So pray to that end. Lead prophetically in that way.
Using biblical rather than political language
In addition to prayer, the second thing is to lead with biblical and not political language. [People need to pray] for the humility to listen. Often we want to say that we want to listen to people from a certain perspective—be it political or activistic—but how about if we use the biblical language of [praying] for the humility to listen.
This is always something that each of us needs to do—being slow to speak and quick to listen. Especially in these very polarizing moments, we need to pray that we’ll be willing to listen to somebody. And listening does not necessarily mean you always agree with everything that they’re saying but that you want to affirm them as a person, as an image-bearer.
Also, as it pertains to not using political language but biblical language, we can pray for long-suffering to understand the issues that we don’t understand. There is always going to be something that we don’t understand in these very contested situations. So pray that God would give us insight—either through a person or through the power of the Spirit or even through the Word of God—that we would be able to have long-suffering to understand these dynamics.
Confessing apathy[We must also confess] hard-heartedness and apathy toward those who are hurting. Often, as human nature goes, we’re prone to think, “That’s their problem over there. But in the Scriptures, it says we mourn with those who mourn, we weep with those who weep, and we . . . hurt with those who are hurting because that’s the heart of Christ for them. Confessing that hard-heartedness and apathy is vital to moving forward. [Praying these things and confessing these things are] very good things that every Christian ought to be working toward.
And then lastly, you who are a spiritual leader ought to be a model of this for your people— confessing sin, praying for long-suffering, using humility to listen, [and] exercising that. So as you are leading prophetically—as you’re leading in these moments where you’re trying to send a message not only to the community that’s watching the church but to the people in the church—this is important for us to understand.
Direct statements[T]here might be a call for a direct statement to be made in some extreme cases. And for something that’s in direct contradiction with theological beliefs, there might be a need for a church to make a clear statement on these issues.
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Conclusion[In summary, shepherding your church on race in the aftermath of these events can be done] through corporate and public prayer, through biblical language and not political language, and . . . sometimes, in extreme cases, through direct statements [while seeking] wisdom from the Spirit and other like-minded people. [This will help you] make statements that honor Christ and bring clarity to situations.
- What Are the Best Books on Preaching?
- J. I. Packer on Preaching and Listening to Sermons
- 8 Principles for Planning Your Preaching Calendar
- Are You Using the Same Preaching Illustrations Over and Over?
- Chapter 22: “The Surrender,” from Meals from Mars: A Parable of Prejudice and Providence. Buy the book || Open in Logos
- Chapter 1: “Two Views of Racism,” from Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility. Buy the book || Open in Logos
- Chapter 2: “Tested by Success,” from Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country. Buy the book || Open in Logos
- “Patience,” from Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Buy the encyclopedia || Open in Logos
- Chapter 2: “The Racialized Society I’ve Seen,” from Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism. Buy the book || Open in Logos
- “John Edward Bruce (1856–1924),” from Essential Writings of the American Black Church. Buy the book || Open in Logos
This post is adapted from Biblical Principles for Diversity and Reconciliation in Ministry by Walter R. Strickland II, a 5-hour course from Logos Mobile Education. Pick up the course now!