23 July 2006

Experiencing Life at the Margins

The Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye, African Bishop, has this (and more) to say about the American church:
It's so difficult to get American Christians, even those who profess to love missions and their brothers and sisters on the periphery, to actually come and see what is happening where we are. This is especially true of those in the positions of greatest power in the church. I have asked a friend, a pastor of a large church that gives half of its money to missions, to come and spend time on the fringes. But he won't. He wants to spend his study leave in Oxford, in Australia. How can American pastors be leaders if they haven't seen what God is doing elsewhere? Every search process for a senior pastor should ask, "Do you have experience in marginal places, economically deprived places, places with HIV/AIDS? Have you gone to be among them?"


  • My brother, they won't and don't come where you are because they don't and won't come where similar things exist in the urban centers of their own cities. Eurocentrism, Afrocentrism and any other ethnocentrism is a blight on the body of Christ and the church in the US is guilty of it particularly because of the non Christ centered church growth movements. Just havinh a smattering of various hues in the congregation on a sunday morning has nothing to do with being actively engaged in cross cultural ministry. We also ministered in Eastern Europe in Poland, Ukraine and Romania between 1994 and 2001 amongst aall kinds of people including gypsies against whom their is a great ethnic dislike in some countries equal to the treatment of blacks at times here in America.
    I speak from the experience of being involved for over 25 years in inner city urban cross cultural ministry and also being a staff member for 20 years at our city Rescue Mission.
    A dangerous thing is occurring in the body of Christ. Not only is it dangerous, but it is despicable.
    The segregation of the church, ethnically, especially in our urban centers is on the increase.
    I mark the urban church because collectively the suburban church exists as it does because of segregation. Suburban church growth is the direct result of urban flight and majoratively, suburban churches do not reflect a body of many hues.
    Even though some upwardly mobile ethnics have moved to the suburbs, most still travel back to the city to attend church and usually have no ministry in the church neighborhood or where they live. They just “do church” in a segregated fashion.
    As urban centers become increasingly more ethnically diverse, the church is becoming more segregated. The church is actually taking the lead in promoting racism.
    The evidence of racism is not very subtle in our society. The church is not any more subtle in demonstrating racism as a part of it’s culture.
    We should be dismayed by the lack of discretion the church is displaying about this very timely matter.
    While the landscape and the complexion of our nation is nearing a critical mass paradigm regarding ethnic diversity, the church is proving to be unenlightened to the future that is before us. That is why I can say that the church is leading in the promotion of racism in our culture and especially in the context of Buffalo NY, the fourth segregated city in the nation.
    It seems that the secular culture exceeds the church in mixing ethnically.
    It does not matter whether this is only marginally - in the workplace, on the athletic field, in the entertainment industry or in some of our schools. The facts are clear: the church does not, even marginally, reflect the diversive mix, ethnically, that society does. Society has only seen this accomplished, with few exceptions, because of legislation, regulation and plain old fashioned common business sense.
    This lack of prudence regarding the changes that God is bringing to our nation, and particularly our urban centers, is one that will not escape the chastisement of a God who holds his people accountable for the quality of their doctrine and obedience to the Word of God, therefore an effective urban theology cannot be humanistically focused.
    Unfortunately, much of what passes for “theology” in many of our urban churches is humanistic, relativistic and materialistic. It is man oriented and does not have it’s foundation in the great truths of the past that allowed urban ministry to flourish across ethnic and cultural barriers.
    Christ alone, Grace alone, Scripture alone, Faith alone, and to God alone be the glory: these five statements known as the “Solas” are what the historic faith of our Christian heritage is all about.
    But in many of our urban churches, grace and faith are not even defined in a systematic and biblical way. Faith has become human achievement by believing in what one says rather than what God has spoken and revealed in His Word. Salvation by faith through grace is being preached rather than salvation by grace through faith.
    When such foundational doctrines as grace and faith become abused and deliberately mishandled by unlearned men who wrest the teachings of God to their own destruction (2 Pt.3:16), for their own gain and to build their own kingdoms, it should be no surprise that the heart of the Gospel is left to the gutter and abandoned like an aborted baby.
    When a biblical Christology is replaced by nothing but a return to ancient Gnosticism and other false gospels, then is it any wonder that we are failing to see the real decrees and commands of God in the Scriptures, especially in a reconciliation context?
    The cultural distinctives of who we are in Christ should be diametrically opposed to the world’s distinctives. Racism is the cultural distinctive of depraved humanity, in bondage to sin, without hope and without God in this present world (Eph. 2:12). This is why the church has the mandate to pursue racial reconciliation as a major thrust of it’s evangelism/discipleship. You cannot go into all the world until you go through Samaria.
    The church in Jerusalem had to be brought to the place of martyrdom and persecution to begin to preach the Gospel across racial, ethnic and cultural barriers (Acts 7-8:5). Is this what we desire?
    For example: If the majority of the population of the city of Buffalo is Afro-American, and census figures reveal that 60% of the population is, then how is the black church fulfilling the Great Commission? If the population of a specific area of South Buffalo, as a minority conclave is distinctly white, then how is the white church fulfilling the Great Commission? If the population of the West Side of Buffalo, has a large minority representation of Hispanics, then how is the Hispanic church fulfilling the Great Commission and how are any of us obeying the Great Commandment? The Black, White or Hispanic church is not mentioned in the Scriptures.
    You cannot claim to possess the knowledge of eternal truth and withhold it from those who have a different colored skin, dress differently, eat different foods and may not speak your language as well as you do.(Even the Jehovah’s Witnessess’s cult does better than the Church)
    Albeit, there may be circumstances where an ethic church is all there may be but that church needs to go to Samaria at some time.
    They tried to do this in the church at Jerusalem and were in deliberate disobedience to Christ’s command on Mt. Olivet just prior to His ascension (Acts 1:7, 8).
    In my city we have churches that bear names like Mt. Olivet, Calvary, Grace, Faith, Missionary, Emmanuel, and a host of others, that by logo are signifying that we have a purpose to fulfill, but the question is, “Do we?”

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 6:20 am  

  • You've hit the issue right on the head. It's so good to hear from you. All of those reasons are why I'm here at Bethlehem Baptist. I want to be someone that takes a stand for racial reconcialiation. I want to know how to do that. I'd like to talk to you more about this. Perhaps we can e-mail.

    By Blogger K. Elijah Layfield, At 3:19 pm  

  • Good post Joe!
    Thanks for the challenge, brother!


    By Blogger Shane Becker, At 6:45 pm  

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