Browsing articles in "post-black thought"

The Multi-ethnic Christ and Metropolitan Missions

Oct 20, 2015   //   by efremsmith   //   post-black thought, race, reconciliation  //  No Comments

Christ was born into a world of violence. All the male babies that looked like Him were to be murdered because of the revolutionary threat of His birth. Christ was also born in a setting of poverty; the Roman Empire was participating in its own version of industrialization and urban development. Christ was multi-ethnic; he walked this earth in human form as a Jewish and Hebrew man. Christ was multicultural; his family tree is rooted in modern day Israel, Palestine, The Sudan, Libya, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Iraq. Christ is God; ultimately Christ’s heritage is found in the beginning with God and as God according to John 1, but as the Son of Man, he came into this earthly realm as a multi-ethnic human being. With all of this being true, Christ is reflected in much of urban America.


Cities are collaborating with suburbs to become larger metropolitan areas. For instance, San Francisco is part of the larger Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco Bay Area. This is why the San Francisco 49ers professional football team can play in a home stadium located in Santa Clara. You can live an hour away from Downtown San Francisco and still consider yourself part of the Bay Area. This is happening across the United States. As these metropolitan areas grow they become more multi-ethnic and multicultural. In the midst of this, suburbs become like cities and rural areas become suburban bedroom communities. The farm lands are shrinking. There is an economic and business development strategy connected to all of this. As businesses grow, the metropolitan mission field grows. Is the same true globally?


I have often written and preached about the mission field being an ever increasing multi-ethnic, multicultural, and metropolitan one in the United States. To a degree, this is true around the world. Currently over half the world lives in an urban setting. There are missiologists who believe that global cities will grow to the degree that the vast majority of people will live in metropolitan areas. I realize that this isn’t the case for many people today. Many unreached poor populations live in villages and small towns, but will this always be the case? Shouldn’t we just assume that mission field is becoming more and more urban?


Ultimately time will tell if I’m really on to something here. But I’m preparing the Church to for the metropolitan mission field. The way in which we reach the unchurched, raise up indigenous leaders, plant churches, and make disciples should assume that we will do so in a global multi-ethnic, multicultural, and metropolitan mission field. The true Christ of Scripture is relevant for today’s multi-ethnic, multicultural, and metropolitan mission field.



The Urgency of Reconciliation

Mar 9, 2015   //   by efremsmith   //   post-black thought, race, reconciliation, spiritual growth, the church  //  3 Comments

This post will briefly include a number of random thoughts, but what will tie them all together is the ongoing need for the movement of reconciliation.

A predominately White (or possibly all-White, I don’t know) fraternity at Oklahoma University is caught on tape yelling a racist chant at the top of their lungs with much passion. Though I believe the Fraternity nationally and the University are responding appropriately, there remains the question of what is proactively working on college campuses to forge a more reconciling and harmonious community? At the same time it raises the question of what is going on in families and religious institutions? Are families and churches actually sending some young people to college without the abilities, competencies, and skills to positively navigate an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural world? Or could it be that families and churches aren’t having much of an influence in this area even when they try? In too many cases the initial reaction by the dominant culture is to believe that the racist attitudes coming from the fraternal chapter at OU either represents a small group or isn’t really racism at all, but simply ignorance. Using ignorance over racism is the equivalent of getting a lesser charge after committing a crime. For some, it’s a way to argue that a crime was never truly committed. What I know for sure is that there is an urgent need for reconciliation.

While, I was preaching at New City Church in Downtown LA a couple of Sundays ago, a homeless man was shot and killed by LA police just a few blocks away. I can’t speak into the details of what happened, but it’s ironic that while I was preaching at a multi-ethnic church that includes homeless people, business executives, artists, and other diverse children of God, once again a tragic incident took place between the police and the community. What I know for sure is that there is an urgent need for reconciliation.

This past weekend we recognized the 50th anniversary of the Selma March that is also known as Bloody Sunday. I saw a picture of President Obama and a number of Civil Rights legends walking together across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. What I found out later was that former President, George W. Bush was cropped out of the picture shown in some newspapers. Why? What a wonderful picture of reconciliation that would have been.

A polarizing and deeply divided government won’t solve this issue. Extremist tenured professors who drown out their moderate peers on college campuses won’t solve this issue. Parents who use the colorblind approach to dealing with race won’t solve this issue. Pastors who don’t believe race is an issue in this nation or refuse to preach on this relevant issue won’t solve this problem. Cable news talk show hosts who make millions of dollars to put out demonizing and divisive rhetoric night after night won’t solve this problem. It will take an army of loving, patient, non-violent, proactive, urgent, steadfast reconcilers that will solve this problem.

Reconciliation is not a soft response when it’s a biblical reconciliation. The reconciling mission of Christ contains love, truth, forgiveness, deliverance, liberation, and justice. The problem is that some try to address issues pertaining to race with some of those elements and not the powerful combination of all of them.

Reconciliation will build trust between the police and the community. Reconciliation will end violent hazing and dismantle racism within fraternal organizations. Reconciliation will dismantle the predominately segregated foothold within the Church of the United States of America. We are not yet a post-racial society and we may not fully realize that until the second coming of Christ, but we can create outposts of the Beloved Community on college campuses, in cities, and within the Body of Christ. The army of reconciliation is in need of more soldiers.

Ferguson and A Way Forward

I write this post right after the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. The Grand Jury has made the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson when it comes to the shooting death of Michael Brown. There is television evidence showing that already violence has erupted in Ferguson. We need a way forward in the United States of America that brings about healing, justice, peace, reconciliation, and transformation. My faith still leads me to believe that the best way to realize all of this is thru the non-violent advancement of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the most excellent example of the declaration and demonstration of the Kingdom of God. The Church is the front line vehicle for this to be realized today. I also believe that people of good will also have an opportunity to seize a reconciling moment if they so choose.

Though this is a tense, divided, and violent moment in our nation, there is a way forward that people of all races, classes, and political ideologies can grab a hold of. But we must look deep into our hearts and ask ourselves how we desire to move forward. Do we want to continue to participate in a deeply divided nation by race, politics, and class? Or is there something on the inside of us that not only desires something better, but provides a push in our soul to participate in this something better? This something better is the Kingdom of God or what Martin Luther King Jr. called, The Beloved Community.

One of the ways we move forward regardless of your personal opinion on this situation is to grieve with the family of Michael Brown. This is biblical. We are reminded of this in the Gospel of Matthew; to grieve with those who are grieving. We are also called biblically to love, forgive, and extend grace. Too many Christians are using this moment to extend political ideology and not the traits of the Kingdom that we are to represent.

Another way forward is for the privileged to listen to and learn from those who are different from them and have a different opinion than them. This is not the time to judge, argue, and patronize if you are privileged. This is a time to listen, pray, learn, and show an amazing humility. This is a genuine way for the Kingdom of God to be expressed. As an African American male, my heart is heavy. This is all very difficult to take in and yes, I wonder if the African American life carries value in this nation. I need my Brothers and Sisters who are not African American to walk with me, pray with me, listen to me, and grieve with me. This kind of reconciling approach is a way forward.

Yet, another way forward is for the Church to not ignore this issue. The Church must be a force of racial reconciliation and righteousness. The Church must acknowledge that we live in a broken world. This not only includes broken people, but broken systems as well. We must bring to bear the love, grace, transformative power, reconciliation, and justice of God upon this reality. The Church must be a bridge over social troubled waters of brokenness and division. Pastors who ignore these realities in their preaching and shepherding ignore the mission field outside their church walls. The Church must build a bridge between the police and under-resourced communities. The Church must build bridges between the haves and the have not’s. The Church must see, care for, and empower the Poor, the marginalized, and the undervalued. This is our biblical responsibility. The Church should not wait for unfortunate circumstances, but should be a constant force of transformation. We must prayerfully grab hold of this moment and find our way forward.


Why The Color of Jesus and Noah Matters

Mar 4, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   post-black thought, race, reconciliation, spiritual growth, theology  //  1 Comment

With the films Son of God and Noah coming to theaters, I will once again share my thoughts while also grieving over the continued portrayal of Jesus the Christ as European. The Noah movie, featuring Russell Crow as Noah, has me extending my thoughts to the broad portrayal of biblical characters as White. Some have responded to some of my Facebook posts as if this is strictly a Hollywood problem. American Christianity as dominated by the Anglo Evangelical and Mainline Church has participated in a significant way in lifting up the White Jesus. Others argue that the recent Jesus is Latin. That may be progress to some, but still is far from the Christ of Scripture.

Though there is a part of me that hopes these two films will point people ultimately to the authentic Christ of the Scriptures, I still grieve that we as Christians are okay with a false Jesus used as the on-ramp hopefully to the real One. Isn’t this really saying that we okay with a lie being the road to truth? You would think my fellow Evangelical Brothers and Sisters would have a real problem with that one. Some believe that at the end of the day the color of Jesus doesn’t matter; it only matters that He is the Son of God. Okay, let’s sit with that one for a moment. This creates a problem when living within a theology of knowing Jesus the Christ as both the Son of God and Son of Man. I deal with this issue on a deeper level in my books, Jump: Into a Life of Further and Higher and The Post-Black and Post-White Church. In short, Matthew 1 and John 1 provide us the biblical foundation for understanding Christ as both human and divine. The way in which Jesus comes to earth socially, ethnically, and politically all play a role in understanding who He is as the Lamb that was slain. Understanding His Jewish and multi-ethnic identity and what that meant to both the political and religious power structures has major meaning in the biblical narrative and how He gets to the cross. It also sets up the reconciliation and multicultural Christ-centered movements we see in the Book of Acts and the writings of Paul. The Great Commission is not just stated by Jesus, it’s embodied by the multi-ethnic Christ. This is all powerful stuff. The White Jesus represents something else all together.

The White Jesus unfortunately points us to colonization, American slavery, and a privileged religion that wrestles with how to missionally relate to people groups the Jewish and multi-ethnic Jesus gravitated to naturally (John 4). The White Jesus keeps the Christian Church captive to the social matrix of race. When people say, it doesn’t matter what color Jesus was, my reply is, “then why does the Bible take the time to tells us in detail his multi-ethnic family line in Matthew 1?” I also say, those who made Christ White in the first place seemed to really care what color He was or really cared about what color He needed to become. Watch the movie 12 Years a Slave and then meditate on the significance of a European Jesus verses the Jesus of Scripture.

With a White Christ comes a whole army of White biblical characters from Adam and Eve, to Noah, to David, to Esther, and Paul. The authentic ethnic and multicultural presentation of biblical characters gives the church greater missional credibility to reach an increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural reality.

Beyond Just Trayvon Martin

Jul 15, 2013   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, post-black thought, race, reconciliation, spiritual growth  //  9 Comments

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him’…When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

-Matthew 2:13-18

The following is just a few of my thoughts. It will take more time for me to share more of what’s on my heart beyond this post.

The death of Trayvon Martin and the not guilty verdict given to George Zimmerman must be placed in a larger context. Based on the responses by some, there are those that are not willing to dive deep into this context. Even though I am saddened by this, I will provide the larger context anyway.

We live in a sin-filled and broken world. When Jesus was born, this sin-filled and broken world included the mass murder of boys who looked like Jesus. Today, because we still are presented with images of Jesus being European and White, we are unable to see that those boys were ethnically profiled by the powerful and privileged Herod just because of what they looked like and because of the threat of the significance of Jesus’ birth. Jesus was not born a person of privilege and power from an earthly point of view. The Roman Empire was the earthly government that represented the people of power and privilege. Jesus would have been considered today a minority, a person of color, should I say a Trayvon Martin.

Just for what he looked like Jesus would have been followed in malls, with the evidence that people that looked like him steal. Jesus would have been followed around the city because of the evidence that people that looked like him break into houses. Even though we can be pretty sure that Roman citizens committed crimes as well. Christians will never be able to understand the significance of the death of Trayvon Martin as long as Jesus remains White and is not presented as the Hebrew, Jewish, Asiatic, and Northern African that He was in human form. Jesus walked the earth as a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and minority human being who most importantly, was God in human form. Understanding this truth is the key to racial righteousness and reconciliation. This is the on-ramp to peace, transformation, and the dismantling of the sin of racism, prejudice, demonizing, and division.

The mass murder that took place after the birth of Jesus could be seen today as the combination of the problem with the number of abortions committed each year and the mass murder of young African-American males. Herod could call for the mass murder of Hebrew boys because not only was he threatened by Jesus’ birth, but ultimately he had no value for young Hebrew male lives. Today, there is not a collective value of African-American boys. If there was, George Zimmerman would not have followed Trayvon Martin. If there was, police would not profile them the way they do. If there was, there wouldn’t be so much Black on Black crime. If there was, more African-American men would be raising their African-American sons. If there was, the music industry wouldn’t keep presenting Rappers who show the worst of African-American male stereotypes. I could keep going.

The United States of American began with the devaluing of Black men and women in order to support the economic engine of slavery. I don’t want to take away from how this impacted Black females at all, but the focus of my thoughts here are the impact on African-American males. I know what it’s like as a kid to be in a 7 Eleven and be accused of stealing when I didn’t. I know what it’s like to be pulled over by the police for no reason. I know what it’s like to be followed around malls by security acting like they’re a part of the SWAT Team. I know what it’s like to be on an elevator and a White woman holds her purse tighter. I identify both with the minority Jesus of the Scriptures and with Trayvon Martin. Now, don’t read these thoughts wrong. Trayvon Martin is not Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God, but as the Son of Man, he walked the earth looking like Trayvon Martin and in today’s reality would be treated as such. If I wear a hoodie today and walk in a major shopping mall, I could be treated as such.

Even with all this, I am hopeful because I know that the Kingdom of God is near. I realize that race is a man-made social construct influenced by Satan to keep the children of God from understanding their true identity and purpose. I will continue to fight with spiritual weapons to bring the reconciling message of Jesus Christ to the lost and the broken. I will not give up.

Denying Race

In this same month that a movie on Jackie Robinson, who integrated major league baseball years before the Civil Right Act is released, a high school in the state of Georgia has its first racially integrated high school prom (google it, if you don’t believe me, I saw this on a cable news and entertainment station, Headline News this morning). This is happening in a nation that some claim to be post-racial. Think about this, students in Wilcox County, Georgia had to fight for an integrated prom. They received backlash from some and some of those folks held their own White Only Prom.

There are many of my evangelical Christian Brothers and Sisters that don’t want to deal with race, believing that we are either now in a colorblind and post-racial reality, or think that talking about race is only about bringing on “White Guilt.” My purpose in dealing with issues of race is four fold-

1.) To show that race is unbiblical and was never from a Scriptural standpoint, God’s idea for defining humanity.

2.) To show the race structure and racism individually and systemically for the sin and demonic force that it is.

3.) To create healthy ways to raise awareness and have discussions about race, so that the church can be fruitful and effective in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural mission field.

4.) Through ministry initiatives of reconciliation and righteousness, create a movement of Kingdom Community.

This mission will be difficult for the church if evangelicals on one hand want to promote the Jackie Robinson movie, “42” as great, but are silent about segregated high school proms in the Bible Belt. We can’t have real movement around Kingdom citizenship and community if there is still a great fear from some Christian White families that their daughters are at risk of being asked to prom by a Black or Brown young man. Why else would you want a prom to be segregated? I also wonder if the same churches in the Bible Belt that are silent on segregated proms are still practicing the homogenous principal when it comes to church planting and revitalization?

I realize that there are many churches that are striving to be Christ-centered, multi-ethnic, and reconciling communities. I think of church like Voice of Calvary in Jackson, Mississippi and Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas in Little Rock. There are many others in the Bible Belt that are champions of developing Reconciling Churches. At the same time there are still too many evangelical leaders denying the reality and impact of race in the United States and beyond. Because of this the church is not having the Kingdom impact it could on issues such as immigration, incarceration rates, and disparities in the areas of housing, employment, and education. The issues of race at the end of the day are much bigger than the high school proms that will take place around the country this weekend.

The Color Of Jesus

I received some negative feedback for speaking against The Bible cable series on the History Channel. I have to also acknowledge that I  found many like-minded Sisters and Brothers as well. My two issues were with parts of the series that didn’t seem to line up with Scripture and the way in which biblical characters were ethnically portrayed, especially Jesus. Once again, Jesus was presented as European. The series at first, seemed to make progress in comparison to other movies on the Bible in terms of providing greater ethnic diversity more in line with the Scriptures. But, then we came upon Jesus. The European and White Jesus.

I had an interesting conversation with my wife and daughters last night. My youngest daughter asked me if I was trying to make Jesus Black because I’m Black. She also said that the White Jesus is the only Jesus she has ever known and that it would be challenging to see Jesus any other way. I told my family that it is not my intention to fight for a Black Jesus, but for the authentic Jesus of the Scriptures. I fight for the real Jesus, who was a North African and Asiatic Jew. This multi-ethnic Christ, is the great reconciler and brings new life. Now of course, it is more important that Jesus is the Son of God and is God (John 1), but shouldn’t we also want to know the Son of Man as He is presented to us in Matthew 1 as well? There is no biblical evidence to prove the European Jesus that remians the mainstream Jesus. I am not anti-Anglo, I just yearn for the real Jesus. What surprises me is that there are so many Christians who don’t seem to yearn to know the real Jesus.

I believe that our ability to bring the good news of Christ into an ever-increasing multi-ethnic, multicultural, metropolitan, and global mission field is hindered by the continued promotion of the false Jesus. I have had communication with some Christian leaders that seem willing to verbally fight for the defense of the false Jesus. Others, just seem apathetic to the whole discussion. It seems that for a great number of Christians, a colorblind approach to Jesus is the best route. Why can’t the best route be biblical truth?

The best on-ramp to this route is to repent of the false Jesus and all that has come from it. The false Jesus justified slavery, Jim Crow Segregation, and the racially segregated church in the United States. The fact the 80% or more of churches in the United States are still racially segregated may be rooted in the continued promotion of the false Jesus. This is why we need more than ever, the real Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of a cable series on the Bible. The real Jesus is multi-ethnic, multicultural, and most importantly, the Son of God. If Jesus was walking in physical form on the earth today, He would be called a minority and a person of color. He very well might be pulled over by the police for driving around the wrong neighborhood after dark. He might be followed around the shopping mall by security. This is probably why we would rather have the false Jesus, because the real Jesus forces us to have to deal with issues of class, race, and ethnicity. The multi-ethnic Jesus’ treatment of women in the Bible causes us to have to deal with gender issues. The multi-ethnic Jesus’ treatment of the woman caught in adultery could cause us to both stand on Scripture and extend the love of God to the GBLT community for instance. The real Jesus forces the church to become a suffering, reconciling, liberating, and transforming movement all at the same time.

Maybe this is why we want the false Jesus. It’s so much easier to live in comfort.


The Serving and Suffering Church

As we move towards Good Friday and reflect on the suffering and death of Christ, I have been thinking of how the mission of the church should be aligned more with the suffering. This begins with what is at the core of a church’s theology or ecclesiology.

I recently read once again Dr. J. Kameron Carter’s book, Race: A Theological Account. These words from his book bring forth the main issues he deals with-

* The modern invention of race (especially as both a sociological and theological construct).

* Whiteness as a theological problem.

* The problem of Christianity being severed from its Jewish roots and remade into the cultural property of the West.

* Showing where Black theology falls short in dismantling Whiteness and the Western hold on Christian theology.

* The theological work of understanding dark flesh beyond the pseudo-theological gaze of Whiteness.

* The need for redirecting Christian theological discourse.

* The theological problem of our time in not simply race in general, but Whiteness in particular.

* How Christian civilization become Western civilization and vice versa.

* How Whiteness continues to reign as the inner architecture of modern theology.

*Why Christian theology must take its bearings from Christian theological languages and practices that arise from the lived Christian worlds of dark peoples in modernity and how such peoples reclaimed the language of Christianity, thus Christian theology from being a discourse of death- their death.

From all this insightful, yet deep academic language  of Carter, let me provide some practical words. In the West, the model of successful church is a church of power and privilege. I am in no way against the large church. My issue is with a church mainly aligned with the pursuit of power and privilege, held captive by primarily political and corporate structures. This is not about the demographic of a church. It is possible to have a church made up of mainly highly educated and upper-middle class to upper class people and be a serving and suffering church.

A serving and suffering church is one that through it preaching and teaching, budget priorities, and ministry models is about life and community transformation. This happens when a congregation is able to read the Scriptures authentically. This is possible when we see the nation of Israel, Jesus, and the 1st century church for what it really was; a suffering, minority, and oppressed people under multiple empires of power, yet  blessed and empowered through a covenant with the one and only true God.

In the West, the Church is held captive by man made kingdoms and power structures both political and economic that has caused an identity crisis and has led to a mission that presents an incomplete gospel. When this happens you get a church divided by race, ethnicity, and class. You get churches more consumed with a Christianity covered in extreme individualism and capitalism coming in the prosperity gospel and some forms of evangelicalism. Blackness and Whiteness are unbiblical, man made social constructs of the West. There would be no Blackness without the creation of the false identity of Whiteness, which is a construct of pursuing power and dominance. Blackness in turn is the servant and casualty of the identity of Whiteness. When the church dismantles Blackness and Whiteness, it is able to go beyond a church of power and victimization, to one of serving and suffering for the glory of God and the advancement of the Kingdom.

This is why we need a church that doesn’t just identify with resurrection Sunday, but also with the suffering of Good Friday. Resurrection alone can lead to a Tower of Babel Church that uses the living Jesus to rise to earthly power. The church that can also identify with the suffering and serving Jesus is one that shuns the kingdoms of this world and puts it attention on the advancing of the Kingdom of God. This type of missional church must put itself in close ministry relationship with the poor and suffering not just for outreach purposes, but for its own Christian formation.

Thoughts on Bloodlines by John Piper

Oct 15, 2011   //   by efremsmith   //   post-black thought, race, reconciliation, the church, theology  //  26 Comments

First of all I want to share my love, respect, and honor for my Brother, Dr. John Piper and the ministry God has given him in Minneapolis and beyond. I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and served in Ministry there in various capacities for almost 20 years as a youth pastor, associate pastor, and church planter. I have seen up close the ministry fruit of Dr. Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis. I know of many African-Americans who lives have been transformed by God thru that ministry. I also know of African-American pastors who have been given the opportunity of ministerial leadership and development there. I know of African-American and Christian hip hop artists whom have been mentored by Dr. Piper. Praise God for all of this. Most recently Dr. Piper has released a book on the topic of racial reconciliation called, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. Here are my thoughts after reading this book.

First, as one who is involved with a growing group of humble leaders speaking, preaching, writing, teaching, and advancing multi-ethnic and missional ministry, I am excited that Dr. Piper felt led by God to write this book. Someone of his stature writing on this topic will only bring it more into the forefront of the evangelical movement where he is so well respected. As an evangelical myself, I see how important this is. Within evangelicalism multi-ethnic and urban ministry and racial reconciliation, especially when led by people of color has been marginalized greatly.

Leading multi-ethnic and urban ministry is not new for Dr. Piper. He has served in this area for decades and has been preaching on this topic from his pulpit for the last ten years. What is new is Dr. Piper bringing his passion, personal stories, and theology around racial reconciliation onto his national and global ministry platform thru the writing of Bloodlines. I have spoken at many conference on reconciliation and multi-ethnic ministry across the evangelical spectrum and have never known Dr. Piper to attend or speak at one of these conferences. I’m not aware of a book prior to Bloodlines where Dr. Piper has made racial reconciliation the central issue. I don’t believe this is criticism, but truth.

Because I’m from Minneapolis, I’ve known of many times when race was a major issue in the city. I’ve been a part of many of the discussions and initiatives to bring about racial reconciliation in Minneapolis, I don’t remember Dr. Piper being involved in these discussions or initiatives. This is why thru facebook and twitter, I welcomed Dr. Piper into the discussion of racial reconciliation and multi-ethnic ministry. This was not a “shot” but a welcoming praise. When I was in Minneapolis I worked very hard to meet with and partner with Dr. Piper. I met with many of his associates to try to make this happen. I know Dr. Piper is very busy and has a number of people trying to meet with him, so I get why our partnering never happened. I am thankful though that before I left Minneapolis to serve as a Superintendent within the Evangelical Covenant Church, Dr. Piper came to visit the Sanctuary Covenant Church where I served. Okay, really to the book now-

I like the way the book begins, but not so much how it ends. I love that Dr. Piper shares his personal story. I love that he shows biblically that Jesus took on ethnocentrism as He walked the earth in human form. I love that he goes into great depth to show that race is not biblical and racism is a sin. The book shows his commitment to racial reconciliation within the church he leads in Minneapolis. His commitment is shown, though he doesn’t share in great detail in the book, thru the multi-ethnic staff he has built with his church board over the years. He shares that he has struggled in living this out in the community where he lives, which happens to surround the church he leads. I am moved by knowing more of his personal story. It’s why I wish I could have gotten to know him more personally when I lived in Minneapolis. I praise God for his commitment to urban ministry.

The second half of the book is the problem that I have. Dr. Piper presents Calvinism as the theological framework for living into racial reconciliation biblically. I must respectfully disagree with him. He states in the book that Jesus deals with ethnocentrism, but then presents a theology rooted in Eurocentric ethnocentrism as the solution. In Dr. Piper’s commitment to racial reconciliation he can’t just have great love for theologies developed by European men. By presenting Calvinism this way, he actually goes against what he is writing about. Structural racism exists in the church in the United States because theology is dominated by White theology. Just because some African-Americans are sold on Reformed theology and seem to have no regard for theologies developed by Africans and African-Americans doesn’t mean its the best frame work for reconciliation. This is actually assimilation, not reconciliation. What makes the Evangelical Covenant Church strong is that White leaders are allowing the theologies and ministry practices of so-called minorities to come into this Swedish immigrant denomination historically and give it the second wind of becoming a Christ-centered and multi-ethnic movement. The key is that these theologies and practices not compromise the evangelical foundation of the movement.

Piper also only offers politically conservative and Republican solutions to dealing with structural racism. He only offers school choice and welfare reform as solutions. These are political solutions not biblical ones. Matthew 25, John 4,  Matthew 9,  the Book of Leviticus, the Book of Exodus, and the Book of Nehemiah are better frameworks for dealing with structural racism. Still, I believe it is good that Dr. Piper has written this book and I hope to both have healthy conversations with him and hope to see him speaking and writing even more on this important topic for kingdom advancement in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural world.

The Gift and the Captivity of the Black Church

Sep 14, 2011   //   by efremsmith   //   post-black thought, race, reconciliation, the church  //  4 Comments

I love the Black Church. I was raised in the Black Church. I was licensed and originally ordained into ministry through the Black Church. I learned about preaching, Kingdom justice, singing, a theology of celebration and suffering, and community leadership all within the Black Church. I’ve met Civil Right Movement workers, former gang members turned community development leaders, school principles, praying grandmothers, theologians, fraternity and sorority members, and committed fathers in the Black Church. I learned how to respect and honor African-American women in the Black Church. In many ways I am a product of the Black Church.

The Black Church today must become a Post-Black Church. This does not mean the end totally of the Black Church. What it does mean, is that for the Black Church to be healthy and missional into the future it must be able to advance the Kingdom of God in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural reality. We cannot prophetically call the White Church to racial righteousness and reconciliation and in turn let the Black Church off the hook. Both churches are equally held accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Scriptures. The Post-Black Church is one that is willing to share the gifts of the Black Church with the broader body of Christ without losing its soul. It’s a church that provides alternative methods of worship, evangelism, discipleship, and mission to all those within its surrounding community regardless of ethnicity. It’s a church that will provide a more holistic and justice focused model of global missions. In some cases this is already going on.

The Post-Black Church must move this direction by truly becoming even more of an African-American Church. Then it must grow into a multi-ethnic and missional church. This will lift up the fact that race in the form of Blackness and Whiteness are ultimately man made social constructs never intended by God. The Post-Black Church can take the lead in kingdom advancement in the United States and beyond. If this doesn’t happen the Black Church will become enslaved to the same elements that hold the White Church captive (To learn more about this read the book, The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah). In many cases this is already happening.

Too many Black Churches are being held captive by individualism, capitalism, and consumerism. This combination can lead to empire building instead of Kingdom advancement. This happened through the drift theologically into the Word of Faith Movement and the Prosperity Gospel. Some Black Churches have moved away from the theologies of Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King Jr., Tom Skinner, and John Perkins, and James Cone. Some Black Churches can’t hear the voices of Vashti McKenzie, Jeremiah Wright, Gardner C. Taylor, Calvin Butts, Floyd Flake, Frank Reid, and Brenda Salter McNeil. Instead some are captivated by television preachers promising wealth, rooted in a “casino theology.” Others want to grow large churches so badly that they’ll follow the theology of the closest mega church. Sad indeed. This has led to an institution that has historically been a champion of freedom, to become enslaved. The Post-Black Church is not just about sharing the theologies and ministry models that have made the Black Church missional and unique, but also the freeing of a church enslaved. I love the Black Church and I want it free.

A freed African-American church can lead to the freedom of the White Church from its captivity. We could use the help of Asian and Hispanic churches as well.

More on this topic in the future.