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Over a year and a half ago, the DBA Vision Focus Team and their spouses gathered to look at the future of Denton Baptist Association. One of the key areas we considered was the Vision Statement for the association. We looked at our current statement, evaluated it and revised it. The following vision statement was formulated during that meeting: Denton Baptist Association is a diverse network of churches connecting all peoples to the Gospel.
I distinctly remember that we had a hearty discussion over the word diverse. It was something that the association valued in the past and something that the team wanted to continue to include for the future. The revised vision statement was approved by our Executive Board during the May meeting.
Over the last few weeks I have been thankful we wanted the word diverse to continue to be a component of our statement. I am convinced that as Director of DBA, I must continue to reach out to all people groups. I recently discovered from a neighboring association that they did not have any diversity in their association. When I mentioned other ethnic groups, I was told their association did not have any of those groups in their association. I am blessed to be part of an association that welcomes churches of different ethnic and language groups to join us in spreading the gospel in Denton County and beyond.
As great as diversity can be, there is also a dark side to diversity in our culture. Recently, several pastors in our association met together and shared how they had been treated differently because of the color of their skin. My heart broke as I listened to Larry Willis, Pastor of Morse Street Baptist Church, Denton speak about “the talk” he had with his sons. When he mentioned those words, I assumed he was referring to the discussion that I had with my sons about sexual abstinence. While Pastor Willis had that talk with his sons, that was not what he was referring to. In this talk he instructed his sons on what they were to do if they were stopped by the police. He told them they were to stop the car, put it in park, turn on the lights inside the vehicle and place their hands on the dash. While the information was great advice, I knew from his passion that these were rules that he followed due to his own experiences. He shared that he too had been a victim of some of these traffic stops simply because of the color of his skin or the specific car he drove. He had experienced racial profiling. Unfortunately, he is not alone, for I have had conversations with other friends who are African Americans who shared very similar experiences.
I know there are members of the police force that cringe every time they hear a story like this. They have spent their lifetimes acting responsibly and lawfully. They are followers of Christ who have never acted in such an improper manner.
But the truth remains, many of us grew up in a racist environment. We have lived our lives within “our own tribe”. We have not ventured outside our group to understand the unfair reality of differing ethnicities. For me, that is where the problem lies. Hear the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:1-3: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I have preached this passage in the past and applied it to the local church setting. As I read it the other day, I realized I needed to apply it to the church as a whole and specifically to the network of churches that make up Denton Baptist Association. While there are many attributes in this passage we are called to practice, the one that resonated with me at this time in our world was “bearing with one another in love.” What a powerful phrase. As I read it, I had a visual picture of someone who was hurt and needed help walking. I pictured placing my arms around my brother’s waist and he in turn placing his arm on my shoulder as we walked together. Bearing with one another in love also involves sitting down to listen and empathize; praying for one another and in some cases speaking out for our brothers and sisters who bear God’s image that have been wrongly hurt and accused.
Our culture is at a crossroads, so I challenge you as followers of Christ to begin having one-on-one conversations with your brothers and sisters in Christ who are a different skin color. Bear with one another in love and seek to understand the world through their eyes. Be an agent of change through the transforming power of the gospel. Don’t wait for others to start – begin today and see what a difference your actions can make.