Racism & The Great Commission Resurgence

In his original message Axioms of a Great Commission Resurgence, which A Great Commission Resurgence Declaration is based, Dr. Danny Akin listed as Axiom #6 "We Must Dedicate Ourselves to a Passionate Pursuit of the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Across Our Nation and To All Nations, Answering the Call to Go, Disciple, Baptize, and Teach All That the Lord Commanded."

Under that axiom Dr. Akin writes concerning racism within our convention as a whole and its connectedness to the accomplishment of the Great Commission:

Southern Baptists were born, in part, out of a racist context and have a racist heritage. That will forever be to our shame. By God’s grace and the Spirit’s conviction, we publically repented of this in 1995 on our 150th anniversary, but there is still much work to be done. The Southern Baptist Convention remains a mostly middle-class, mostly white network of mostly declining churches. If you doubt what I am saying look around today, visit a State Convention, attend an annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting, or drop in on 99% of our churches on any given Sunday. We can integrate the military, athletics and the workplace, but we can’t integrate the body of Christ! Shame on us!

Until we get right about race I am convinced God will not visit us with revival. The call for a Great Commission Resurgence will not move heaven, and it will be scoffed at by the world for the sham that it is! “We will love you and welcome you if you look like us and act like us!” What kind of gospel madness is this?

Starting at home we must pursue a vision for our churches that looks like heaven. Yes, we must go around the world to reach Asians and Europeans, the Africans and the South Americans. But we must also go across the street, down the road, and into every corner of our local mission field where God in grace has brought the nations here.

Dr. Akin is definitely not the first to point out the inconsistency between a desire for the accomplishment of the Great Commission to the nations and a failure to have real and widespread racial reconciliation within our local churches at home. I am about to finish reading Thabiti Anyabwile's excellent book The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors.

Part Three of the book deals with the life of Francis J. Grimke. In an address given in 1910, entitled "Christianity and Race Prejudice" Grimke points out the race prejudice that existed within white churches across America, the inconsistency that reality has with being a Christian, and what was needed to change the sad state of those churches.

He concludes his address with these words:

As I look over this land of ours everywhere I see churches, and these churches in full operation, on weekdays and on the Sabbath. There seems to be no end to religious activities of one kind and another--meetings by day and meetings by night, preaching services, prayer meetings, revival meetings, religious conventions, men's gatherings, great missionary meetings for the conversion of the world, for carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth. And yet right here in America, in the midst of all this missionary activity, this religious zeal, this seeming devotion to Jesus Christ, race prejudice stalks on unhindered. Race prejudice flaunts itself everywhere, unrebuked, as if the Kingdom of Christ has nothing whatever to do with it, as if it were a thing entirely apart from it. The church is anxious to bring the world to Christ, overflowing with enthusiasm for the conversion of the heathen, and yet indifferent to battle this giant of evil right here in Christian America!

On the top of the Central Union Mission Building in this city, near Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, is a great sign. It consists of a star, and under the star in large letters are the words, "Jesus is the light of the world." It is illuminated by electricity and night after night it flashes out its message to passers-by. It may be all right to put up such signs, but that is not the way to teach men that Jesus is the Light of the World. The way to do it is not through colored electric lights but through life--by living the religion that we profess, by showing our daily walk that He is our light, that we are walking in the light, are being transformed through His influence into likeness to Him. Thousands of such electric signs scattered everywhere , piled up to heaven, are not worth as much as one life that is being saved by Christ, commending Him to a sinful world.

Grimke states that in light of the race prejudice that exists in local church, and predominantly the white local church, the church has to options. Either she can stop associating herself with Christianity completely because her practice is completely inconsistent with the beliefs of Christianity and the reality of the Gospel or she should repent and live differently--bringing into harmony her life with the principles of the Gospel itself.

Grimke points out that the church has done little, if anything, in fighting this evil because while the white church has grown steadily, the growth in race prejudice has grown steadily as well. The latter is not what you would expect given the reality of the former.

Grimke states that this reality should cause the church to ask the question, "What must be the quality of the Christianity presented in their character and lives if such be the case?" He gives three possibilities: 1.)Christianity is no match for race prejudice, is powerless before it; 2.)the Christianity represented in the white churches of America is an inferior Christianity, is not genuine, is not what it purports to be; 3.) the church has not been doing its duty, has been putting its light under a bushel, has not been faithful to its divine commission.

Which of the tree choices did Grimke think was the cause of this? The third, which I think is somewhat accurate, but I would argue that choice number two is actually the cause of choice number three. It is a lack of a genuine understanding and embracing of the Gospel that has led to a lack of genuinely changed lives that overcome race prejudice through the power of that Gospel.

But, I close with Grimke's assessment:

That real Christianity is powerless in the presence of race prejudice is not true; back of it is the mighty power of God. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it. That the Christianity represented in white America is spurious, I am not prepared to say. [I think Grimke might be more prepared to say this today if he could see the state of the church] That the church has failed to do its duty, in this matter, I am prepared, however, to say. Had it been true to its great commission, had it lived up to its opportunities, had it stood squarely and uncompromisingly for Christian principles, the sad, the humiliating, the disgraceful fact of which we are speaking never would have been possible. That fact that in Christian America, in this land that is adding church members by the millions, race prejudice has gone on steadily increasing is a standing indictment of the white Christianity of this land--an indictment that ought to bring the blush of shame to the faces of the men and women who are responsible for it, whose silence, whose quiet acquiescence, whose cowardice, or, worse, whose active cooperation have made it possible. The first thing for the church to do, I say, is to wake up to the fact that it can do something. Its present attitude is a disgrace to it and is utterly unworthy of the name it bears.

Now, I will admit, gladly that by the grace of God this race prejudice has improved since 1910. However, we must admit, sadly, that is has not improved near enough and its very existence on any level is to our shame and points to a lack of understanding of and appreciation for the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And as Dr. Akin and Mr. Grimke so rightly point out, our hope and desire for a Great Commission resurgence will fail until, by God's grace and God's Gospel, we get this issue right.

May it be so to the glory of God!


Wise Words On Reaching the Next Generation & Ours

Kevin DeYoung, over at The Gospel Coalition Blog, has been sharing an excellent series on how we reach the next generation. In this post, "Hold Them With Holiness," Kevin uses 2 Peter 1:5-8, to stress the importance of a pastor and other believer's personal holiness in reaching the next generation.

Kevin writes,

I love the line from Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “What your people need from you most is your own personal holiness.” I’ve given that advice to others dozens of times, and I’ve repeated it to myself a hundred times. Almost my whole philosophy of ministry is summed up in M’Cheyne’s words. My congregation needs me to be humble before they need me to be smart. They need me to be honest more than they need me to be a dynamic leader. They need me to be teachable more than they need me teach at conferences. If your walk matches your talk, if your faith costs you something, if being a Christian is more than a cultural garb, they will listen to you.

Paul told young Timothy to keep a close watch on his life and his doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). “Persist in this,” he said, “for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Far too much ministry today is undertaken without any concern for holiness. We’ve found that changing the way we do church is easier than changing the way we are. We’ve found that we are not sufficiently unlike anyone else to garner notice, so we’ve attempted to become just like everyone else instead. Today’s young people do not want a cultural Christianity that fits in like a Baptist church in Texas. They want a conspicuous Christianity that changes lives and transforms communities. Maybe we would make more progress in reaching the next generation, if we were making more progress in holiness (1 Tim. 4:15).


Great Quotes/Truths From Matt Chandler

Here are some great quotes and truths from a recent article Matt Chandler did with Christianity Today.

On how authority factors into sanctification:

An authoritative church is very attractive, as long as that authority is used to shepherd and not to bruise. Sometimes I have to talk to people very honestly, and that can be painful. But first I have to make sure they know I love them. Leaders shouldn't wield authority; they should shepherd toward truth.

I tell other pastors that our authority is a lot like our authority as husbands. That means if you have to talk about your authority, you've probably already lost it. I don't tell my wife, "You know the Scriptures say I make the decision; you follow me." If I have to say that to my wife, I'm already in a lot of trouble. The same is true in the church. We are to shepherd with authority but not become tyrants. That is a mistake some guys make.

On what warring against sin looks like:

Sanctification here at The Village begins by answering two questions. What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections? Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They're not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn't take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking.

The same goes for following sports. It's not wrong, but if I start watching sports, I begin to care too much. I get stupid. If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that's a problem. These things rob my affections for Christ. I want to fill my life with things that stir my affections for him.

On what this generation is looking for that has been missing in church:

Transcendence. My generation was raised on a religion of moral control. Do this. Don't do that. And a lot of self-help religion. Feel better. Get out of debt. Six ways to overcome your fears. Seven ways not to lust. Ultimately that message didn't work. It was empty. There was no transcendence. The omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful God of the universe wasn't the focus. I think that's why we are seeing the resurgence of Reformed theology.

On the belligerent nature of the New Reformed Movement:

New Calvinism is a young movement, and young people are often arrogant. Life hasn't had a chance to beat the trash out of them yet. I'll tell the young people in my sermons, "You can't get into theological battles while you still live with your mom." Or, "You can nail your 95 theses to the door once you own one." Before these 20 year olds begin passionately defending their view of Scripture, I want to see that they are being obedient to it.

On the concern of focusing inward:

Some people think it would be cool if we had a coffee shop. But I don't want people getting their lattes here. I want them getting their lattes at the four Starbucks in our area so they can get to know the baristas and invite them into our body. I don't want our church doing basketball tournaments for lost people. Lifetime and LA Fitness already have basketball tournaments filled with lost people. I want our guys playing in those games. We are trying hard to keep the church lean, stripped down, very program-light. There are no frills.

Church buildings teach people. I don't think you can proclaim a great mission about being in the world, and then create a building that keeps people out of the world all week. I'm not against the attractional model, it's just not what we've been called to.


When Laughing Isn't Funny

A few weeks ago, John Piper spoke at a national meeting of counselors here in Nashville. He opened his sermon with a very honest and open look at the sins he deals with in his own life. The crowd, amazingly, finds great humor in his confession.

Listen to the first four minutes or so here.

Very awkward to say the least.

Greg Gilbert gives an interesting analysis and startling application to the local church:

Do you see, at root, what had happened at that conference? Over the course of a couple of days, those conferees had been trained to expect humor from the speakers and therefore to react to the speakers with laughter---all the way to the point that they were incapable of seeing that John Piper was being serious in his confession of sin to them. You can quibble with whether the first couple of Piper's statements were (unintentionally, it seems) kind of funny. I happen to think they were. By the time he gets to about the 3-minute mark, though, there's nothing funny left, and he's moved into very serious stuff. Yet the atmosphere of humor and levity at that conference was so thick---the training so complete---that the people were incapable of seeing it. So they laughed at Piper's confession of his sin.

Apparently the conditioning of that audience to think everything is funny took no more than a couple of days.

How deep do you think that conditioning would be for a church who sat under a funny-man pastor every Sunday for fifteen years?

Something to think about as pastors in relation to the responsibility we have each week to the people God has given us to shepherd.