As the IPHC focuses this year on one of our core values, “We Prayerfully Value Justice,” it is critically important to begin by acknowledging that racism is alive in some of the churches we lead. We cannot remain silent about this.
I’m not an expert in this area, although I’ve been a catalyst for racial change. Racism has many tentacles, and this article is not exhaustive on the subject. But I’m convinced that one of the primary antidotes to racism is the body of Christ.
As Oklahoma pastor Craig Groeschel has said, racism is not a skinissue—it’s a sin issue. James 2:9 says it clearly: “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” Racism is not just the presence of hatred; it is the absence of love.
When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, He was addressing the sin of racism in the hearts of the Jewish Pharisees. That story would have made a racist mad! It was the Samaritan—who was despised by the Jews—who did the right thing by showing kindness to the wounded man. Jesus used the story to teach that all people—regardless of race—are our “neighbors.”
Jesus asked the Jews, “Who is my neighbor?” It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t answer the question; instead, He demonstrated how to be a neighbor.
Martin Luther King Jr. preached a famous sermon on this passage. In it, he said: “I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
The essence of being a Christ-follower is not found in our church experiences, giving records or denominational positions. It is found in our love for God and our neighbors. I am convinced the church is designed to be the answer to the ills of our society, yet we live in this tension of knowing what we have been called to do, but not being properly positioned to carry out our assignment.
It’s challenging for the church to effectively address the issue of racism when racism still cripples the body of Christ. We can’t cast out racism and perpetuate it at the same time. For the church to effectively serve a lost world, we must be healed.
I pray the church will experience a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit that will bring conviction and cause us to repent of the racism in our hearts. I am not limiting racism to a black and white issue; we must tear down every wall of hatred and division.
Here are three questions for you to ponder as we ask God to use the IPHC and the larger body of Christ to be a solution to the injustice of racism.
- IS THERE ANY PREJUDICE IN YOUR HEART?
Pastors must be careful. Whatever is in our hearts will come through in our preaching. If you have racist attitudes, they will be spread like a virus to your congregation.
1 John 4:20 says: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
Pastors and leaders must examine themselves first. Are you loving God and your neighbor in a way that reflects the heart of God? Are you loving your neighbors equally, or is there prejudice in your heart toward some? The agape love of God flowing out of the heart of His people is our solution to uprooting racism. It must start with you.
- ARE YOU WILLING TO EMBRACE NEW GROUPS OF PEOPLE?
One of the qualifications of a bishop listed in 1 Timothy 3:2 is “hospitable.” This word in the Greek is philoxenos, which means “love of foreigners.” New Testament leaders were required to love those who were not like them! Do you have this quality?
Are you still learning? Do you have the heart of a disciple who wants to learn more about the heart of God? Or are you stuck in your ways—with the attitude that you already know everything?
The world around us is changing. Your city is not the same today as it was in 1975. Are you intentionally learning about other ethnic groups who have moved to your city or your neighborhood? Are you willing to have conversations with those who don’t look like you? Or do you complain about “those people” who are moving near you?
One of the ways we disarm our fears and ignorance of other ethnicities is by initiating conversations. We can learn so much from each other if we would just talk to each other!
- HAVE YOU LET GO OF PAST HURTS?
It is so important for you to let go of what has wounded you in the past. This is not easy and can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes a pastor can be leading a church and bleeding simultaneously.
You have been called to bring a message of reconciliation. Yet you may be enslaved by past experiences. You may have experienced the injustice of racism, or your parents may have trained you to perpetuate it. You must break the generational cycle.
Remember the words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-33).
You can’t get free of what you are not willing to confront. Learning to let go of the past requires humility. Break free from unforgiveness, hatred, anger, pride, or prejudice and allow the Holy Spirit to bring healing to you. Ask a mentor or trusted friend to pray with you. We don’t have to be controlled by guilt and condemnation.
I hope you are willing to ask the hard questions. Please join me in praying that God will increase the capacity of the IPHC to reach more ethnicities in our nation.
We believe we are being positioned by the year 2033 to experience the greatest harvest of souls in our history. But many of those souls will be multi-ethnic! If the Lord is stirring your heart to reach more ethnicities, or to become more inclusive, please contact me and our team for more help and resources.
Written By: Demetrius Miles
This article was first published in Encourage magazine.