A Pastoral Letter From Phil: Leading In Racial Reconciliation
From time to time we post a letter from Phil intended to provide guidance to Vineyard pastors and congregations as they respond to challenging issues affecting our churches across the country.
National Director of Vineyard USA
Extending the Kingdom of God through church planting and missional living.
Friends and Fellow Pastors,
Many of you had a challenging weekend and past few days, speaking into current events with the wisdom of Christ. What we just witnessed in Charlottesville, VA is one of the great evils that stalk our nation.
Many of you as pastors had to lead your church while at the same time processing the many emotions that were stirred in each of us by the images and news broadcasts coming out of Virginia.
Once again we were reminded that the nature of evil is that it is incessant, usually overplays its hand, and is always taunting the people of God onto a battleground.
Each Of Us, Doing Our Part
I want to let you know we are praying for each one of you as you model, teach, and guide your congregation to become a profound and loving answer to racism and hatred in your own town or city.
We begin by allowing the Spirit to uproot evil in our own hearts, as our speakers reminded us at #VineyardTLO.
Then, hatred, racism, and injustice must be met with love, listening, learning, and repentance. There is no shortcut. I have become aware that I have to do MY part; there are no passes on this one for any of us.
A Few Pastoral Thoughts
At Together, Leaning Outward in July we continued to take steps forward in our quest to become a Movement known for actively encouraging ethnic diversity in our congregations across the US.
Here are some pastoral thoughts as you continue to join Jesus in speaking and acting locally on this issue.
1. Pastor from a place of confidence on racism and hatred.
We are on the moral high ground, and the Jesus-High-Ground, when we explicitly stand against any form of racism quietly stirring in our community.
All are worthy of love and dignity, as we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Building on this truth, Jesus said, “Love your enemies…” (Matt. 5:44), and it’s only by the power of the Spirit any of us can do it. Then, we consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), enabling us to live as peacemakers between people (Matt. 5:9).
We speak and act on these issues in loving, effective, Kingdom ways, and we lean in. I’m praying for you as you confidently speak with your congregation on the issues surrounding seeing the image of God in other human beings, and living a life of love with those who are different from us.
2. Teach your congregation how to think about racism.
We know that discipleship is about more than dispensing truth (or our opinions) to people in seats. Truth that is simply spoken, stated, or posted may satisfy our need to say something – but what we say is not always owned by the listener.
Discipleship is about training individual Christians how to think and act like Jesus when faced with today’s most challenging and provocative issues.
Focus on creating sermons and resources for your ministries that shape how people process issues and tragedies like Charlottesville. Then, instruct them on what Kingdom-action might look like in your community.
3. Access resources available to support you.
We all have resources we turn to in times like this. We’re continuing to create Kingdom-specific resources for you on this specific topic. Avail yourself of them as you guide your church into greater wholeness in this area.
b. CONFERENCE SESSIONS – Specifically, our recent national conference #VineyardTLO audio (free) / video (for VDM members) and last year’s Better Together: Race, Reconciliation, And The Multiethnic Church conference audio (free) / video (for VDM members).
c. HARD CONVERSATIONS – I can’t overstate that this is one of the most important Kingdom resources we’ve created to to disciple your congregation as they learn to converse with people with whom they disagree. Booklet and Sermon Series. http://bit.ly/2vzDF1P
d. OTHER PASTORS – Follow your fellow Vineyard pastors online for sermon material and ideas. Ask one another for input. Keep using a Kingdom filter as you take in responses from other leaders in the Christian world. As Wimber said, “Take the best and go.”
Let me conclude with a quote from Josh Williams, a Vineyard pastor at the Elm City Vineyard in New Haven, CT, spoken during one of our afternoon sessions at the National Conference.
“Speak the truth that God created all of us in His image, and there is no supremacy in God’s Kingdom except the supremacy of the King.” – Josh Williams
Let’s continue to hold high the words of Scripture in our churches, serving our congregations as leaders actively modeling what it means to see God’s image in everyone (Gen. 1:27), love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), and to stand in the gap (Ezek. 22:30a) as intercessors for our towns, cities, and nation.
To the Greater Glory of God, and the well-being of people,