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A Departure From Evangelicalism? (Pt. 2)
Last week I wrote an article discussing the increasingly popular sentiment being embraced by many black Christian leaders and members loosely associated with reformed theology—namely, a departure from white evangelicalism. I must admit that I was a bit tongue-in-cheek with my definition of evangelicalism, and I understand that most of the Black leaders and congregants I’m speaking of are not leaving the foundational doctrines and teachings of the bible. I acknowledge that they are primarily departing from the notion that good ecclesiology is only found in predominantly-white churches and the way that they do things. Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. stated, “evangelicalism is as much of a culture as it is a theological movement”. I understand why a lot of people didn’t jibe with my definition of evangelicalism.
Any church that preaches the gospel and strives to live out its implications is a good church, regardless of its racial makeup.
What I Wasn't Saying
Now that we have that out of the way, I want to offer some clarity to my original post. Here is what I was NOT saying:
I was not saying that all Black Christians are required to stay in predominantly-white churches under all circumstances. One of the primary pushbacks I received on my original post was that I implied that black and brown Christians staying in predominantly-white churches was the only way they could be in step with the gospel. That was far from my intentions, and I tried to make that clear in my post. I was responding to those whose attitude seems to be: “white people don’t agree with me on social issues or ecclesiology, so I’m done with them!” I find it more wise to call those white Christians who are guilty of the sin of elitism or racism to repentance and give them time to repent. Then, if there is an unwillingness to repent and church discipline does not take place, according to Matthew 18, then there is a good reason to leave that specific church. This does not call for a dismissal of all predominantly-white churches or believers; that would contradict the numerous passages in scripture calling for the unity of believers (John 17:23, 1 Peter 3:8, 1 John 4:12, etc.)
I was not saying that predominantly-minority churches are bad. I’ll be brief here. Any church that preaches the gospel and strives to live out its implications is a good church, regardless of its racial makeup. I’ll say it again: Any church that preaches the gospel and strives to live out its implications is a good church, regardless of its racial makeup. I appreciate my brothers in predominantly-minority and multiethnic churches. I am thankful that black and brown Christians have found a way to worship God together in spite of the hatred poured on them for hundreds of years in this nation. I rejoice in the fact that Christians from Latin America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and every nation across the globe can faithfully worship God in their cultural expression for His glory alone (Rev. 7:9). I pray that you do too.
I was not saying that the only people who have sinned in this situation are Black Christians. It is well-known that racism has been a stain on the American church since its foundations. It is well-known that some white Christians owned slaves. It is well-known that many white Christians sat back and did nothing during the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation. Predominantly-white churches don’t do everything right. White Christians aren’t the final authority on all matters of doctrine and theology. Many of us have been hearing and reading this in books and blogs for the past couple of years. Therefore, my focus was not to point out what some white Christians have and haven’t done. My intent was to address the “new level” of freedom to constantly and unlovingly speak negative words about our white brothers-in-Christ and the isolation that could come as a result of such an emphasis on their flaws.
Instead of seeking to understand and love one another, I fear that Christians in this nation will never learn what it means to “weep with those who weep” and “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15–18) when that weeping and rejoicing pertains to believers of another race.
What I Was Actually Saying
The purpose of my original post was dual in nature:
First, I want to call those departing evangelicalism to be more specific when they address the issues they are seeing in the church. Rather than merely saying “evangelicalism is the problem” and vaguely defining the terms, I am asking for specificity and clarity in the conversation. I am asking for what is meant by “leaving”. I want to know what aspects of “white evangelicalism” they are specifically speaking of. There needs to be a thoughtful calculation of the potential outcome of such actions. That is something that doesn’t seem to be addressed in any of the conversations that I have seen up to this point.
Secondly, I want to ask black and brown Christians in predominantly-white circles to consider striving to persevere in their local churches rather than departing from them. Instead of a mass exodus of minorities, I want to see Black Christians work to educate white believers on their history and struggles in the church and the larger society. I fear that a mass exodus of black and brown Christians would further exacerbate the racial tension and confusion in the Church rather than fix it. Instead of seeking to understand and love one another, I fear many Christians in this nation will never learn what it means to “weep with those who weep” and “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15–18) when that weeping and rejoicing pertains to believers of another race. This could mean that Christians of all races would only sacrificially love those who look like and love them. Even unbelievers know how to do that (Matt. 5:46–47). In Christ, we can do far greater.
A Call To Live Biblically
The call in my original post was not a blanket or general call to every minority Christian in every church. It was a specific call to those struggling right now. I am pleading that we be biblical in our dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ—no matter the hue of their skin. I am imploring that we focus on Christ and the gospel when we meet disagreement and misunderstanding in our churches, regardless of the racial makeup or church culture. I am earnestly asking—Black Christians, specifically—that we pursue unity with the same fervor that we desire white Christians to show in their pursuit of unity in the Church.
May we never refuse to see the genuine efforts of others because we fail to take the plank out of our eyes before searching for their specks! Let us never be willing to throw away gospel-centered obedience when discussing racial unity! Let us never expect others to be walking in step with the gospel while failing to do so ourselves (Gal 2:11–14)! In the words of Curt Kennedy, “Both us have a few sin issues that we know need addressing… both of us think we’re both right and the other’s wrong because they’re stubborn.” We all need to search ourselves and see that we are looking to love Christ and love others more than ourselves.