The history of our rural churches often plays a huge role in the identity of our church today. It is amazing how far back some pieces of church identity are rooted. Knowing whether your congregation was on the north or south side of the civil war, may have a key impact on your ministry today.
The other question to answer is: were there churches on both sides in your community or were they primarily on one or the other? What might be the historical understanding of race in your community? In some places, those understandings have changed over the years for the better, yet some communities haven’t completely embraced a colorful image of the Kingdom of God even if they were members of a north church.
We have to look at this as a teacher trying to correct incorrect education. If a child thinks 1+2=4 then you can’t teach him to multiply and divide. You have to go back to the first step of recognizing numbers and their value. It is a process and you need to know where your congregation and community are in the process and take each step one at a time.
We are probably not going to change these historically rooted mindsets overnight, but we can make a difference. Here are a few ideas how to start:
- Pray for change to begin in you, and encourage your congregation to pray for a Biblical understanding of the Kingdom and for reconciliation in your congregation and your community.
- Read, listen, and grow in your own understanding. Seek out people to learn from. Listen to the people of color in your community. What changes would they like to see in relationships with their neighbors and your congregation?
- Preach a Biblical understanding of the Kingdom of God, race, grace and reconciliation. There are some great series resources out there, and feel free to build your own too! Here is a three part series from Seedbed and a 7 minute video by The Village Church which might be used to develop a series of your own.
- Create space for discussion and study together. Check out my resources page for some recommended reading options that might help you facilitate the conversation with your congregation or small group.
Be gentle and patient, recognizing that it is going to take time. Your congregations are grieving and handling a lot of hard and heavy stuff all at once. Start slowly with listening and prayer, and, when you speak, speak with grace and love.
If you need a sounding board or would like some individual encouragement, contact me. I am available for coaching. The first session is free.
If you have other resources or ideas that are working for you, please share them in the comments!