Sometimes God interrupts our plan with his own. One of the things that seemed to be on his agenda for CRM during World Wide Conference was to challenge us to make room for those who are different than us, and repent of any prejudice we were carrying in our hearts. The themes of honor, blessing, and reconciliation for the sake of the gospel emerged over and over again. God got our attention.
On the third day of the conference, Ethne staff member Colletta Rhoads vulnerably and powerfully shared how racism has gotten in the way of the Church’s witness. She issued a bold call back to God’s Kingdom values—that there’s room for everyone at God’s table. We were challenged to not see racial division as a peripheral issue, but as something that undermines that very gospel we are trying to share with the world.
For many people, it was a “kairos moment,” something God wanted to challenge us to take very seriously in our own lives. And hundreds of staff came forward for an extended time of prayer and repentance in response to what Colletta shared and how God was moving in their hearts.
Because of this, we wanted to share Colletta’s message here, to invite others to join us in listening, praying, and pondering how to live out the Kingdom values of reconciliation and honor more fully.
Read the message Colletta prepared instead of watching...
Good morning everyone! For those that don’t know me, I’m ColIetta Rhoads. I have been serving in South Africa for almost 10 years. I grew up in the States as a person of color and in a 24 hour plane flight I found that in South Africa I was view as white. The Lord has used my experience as both a person of color and a “white” person to grow in me unique perspective. I was asked to share around the topic of “More and different leaders.” I’m here because it’s a topic I’m passionate about. So before I share I want to call our spirits forward into leadership and bless them to receive from the Lord.
Eight years ago at WWC we as an organization took steps to intentionally bring more women into leadership. Sam said “as an organization we are too old, too male and too white.” That statement gave me a lot of hope as a young woman of multi-ethnic descent that there might be space for me here. In a world where ethnic division and conflict dominate headlines daily, how we as followers of Jesus respond to ethnic diversity is of increasing importance.
So, are we talking about this because it’s in the news right now or we want to seem cutting edge? These are both tragically insufficient motivations. Today I want to put forth three reasons to take seriously our journey as an organization to embody God’s kingdom—every tribe, nation and tongue—and the impact this has on our work.
First, racial reconciliation is a gospel mandate.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people group when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Our hostility toward each other was put to death. –Ephesians 2:14-16 (highlights version)
Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. –1 John 3:18 (NLT)
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. –Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)
The scriptures on the screen reveal this truth.
To live unreconciled across ethnic, racial, economic, age, gender, national or political lines is in direct disobedience to the word of God. The body of Christ can’t be comfortable existing in a mono-cultural body and assume we are living the full gospel. Robert Oldham Fife asks the question, “How can an inclusive message be mediated through an exclusive group”
So one, racial reconciliation is a gospel mandate
The second reason is that disunity of any kind makes our gospel witness to the world unconvincing. John 17:23 says, “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me.” Disunity sends a message that our Lord is not greater than the society that keeps us divided.
If we want the world to see Jesus, we must address our disunity, our attitudes of suspicion toward the “other” and our prejudice. These things directly impact the credibility of our evangelical witness.
Let me take you back to the 2010 conference again. We talked about the balance of word, deed, and power. We came under the conviction that we were lacking in our fluency of the supernatural. We were living a truncated gospel.
I humbly put to the Church at large and missionaries in particular, that we are also sharing a truncated gospel when we present a Jesus who has nothing to say about the skins he put us in and the division and oppression that has resulted from our differences.
Leaving any disunity unredeemed by Jesus impacts our witness.
Now, reason three to take this challenge seriously. It’s because our enemy does and he has stolen a lot of ground pitting people against each other because of their ethnicities. Look, the enemy is out to kill, steal, and destroy, right? He will use whatever works to accomplish his destruction. Keeping the royal priesthood paralyzed from action due to fear, indifference, guilt, shame, anger and ignorance around ethnic wounding and division has been a victory he has been allowed for far too long.
Race, this concept of “otherness,” is a spiritual battleground that has left the world and the Church wounded. In large part because we the Church have too often neglected our role in healing and have been the perpetrators of racism, prejudice and cultural oppression.
I want to share a personal example of why we should to grow in our cultural intelligence and sensitivity:
I was attending a CRM event where I received prayer in a group setting. The teaching was trans-formative and I was excited to receive prayer. During the discernment process my Native American identity was revealed. It was immediately clear that the person ministering to me felt they had found a goldmine of satanic activity as they stopped to inform the group of the inherent evil in Native American cultures. As they spoke my insides just melted. The assumption was typical, I’d heard it many times before; If you are Native American, your culture was uniquely sinful. This was one more example of “kill the Indian to save the man”. I tried to stay engaged because I wanted a breakthrough and there is truth that every culture is in need of redemption. But I was shamed in front of the group. So I stuck through the ministry time trying to hold onto the work God might be doing. But, by the time I got to my car, I just cried. I had gone for healing but left wounded.
My story is a personal example of how ethnic wounding can take place but it also happens on group and systemic levels that can have generational ramifications.
Allow me to quote brother in Christ Richard Twiss of the Lakota/Sioux Nation, in response to historic missionary engagement with Native American peoples.
“One effect of this history of bigotry and cultural conquest has been that, to this day, Native North Americans have never experienced the rise of an indigenous church movement or wide-spread revival. Most missiologists agree that after 500 years of active missionary efforts, only three to five percent of the native population are born again Christians.”
Individuals, people groups, and land are in need of redemptive healing from ethnic wounding. The enemy has gained legal rights to wreak havoc and separate people from God because of bloodshed and agreements made due to ethnic conflict.
If we want to see “too great to count,” we cannot neglect an entire demonic strategy keeping people groups in bondage. We must learn how to strategically take back ground and our Christian witness that the enemy has stolen through racial/ethnic strife.
Where have we missed it? Too often, we have been held captive under fear’s assault.
For example, for white people, fear plays off emotions of loss of power, position, control and comfort. We fear being labeled racist, privileged, prejudiced. There is the simple fear of not knowing how to talk about race, injustice and diversity. Fear tells us that diversity will distract from “important” things or bring disunity. Fear says this journey will be a waste of time and have negative financial ramifications.
On other hand, fear convinces people of color that white people will never take seriously our oppression or their privilege. Fear convinces us that God will not bring justice on our behalf. We fear being repeatedly hurt. Fear says that giving grace will lead to more of the same indifference and result in no restitution. So, we have all lost.
Fear of this cross cultural journey is keeping the Church from her birthright as healer to a deeply hurting world. Fear, you must bow to the Lordship of Jesus.
Let us not settle for anything less than who Jesus says we are. We are a peculiar people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood; administering healing and reconciliation showing the world through our diverse unity that he has destroyed the dividing wall between us.
As we engage the Lord’s heart around otherness we are going to see identities restored, territory recovered, healed divisions, a stronger witness, and people coming to Christ because of it. But it will also change us. The journey of making room for others is not separate from a journey toward our own transformation.Continuing to grow our cultural intelligence toolbox will allow us to grow our banquet table from too white, to old and too male to all the nations.
We are not talking “out with the old white males!” We are blessed by those identities; I’ve been blessed by their leadership, guidance and love. Where would we be without the Sam Metcalf’s, the Norris Williams or the Steve Hokes? No, God’s Spirit does not devalue them so others can rise. He gives us new wineskins for new wine. He will help us unlearn the things that have limited our banquet table. He will show us how to grow our table, making more room for the gifting of women, youth and people of every culture. For at Christ’s banquet table there is room for all.
From this place, we will journey to see Jesus move across the Nations. And together we will rejoice saying, “there are too many to count from every tribe, nation and tongue. Look what the Lord has done!”
Father we ask for you to stand in rulership over our unity, identities and leadership transformation. Jesus, Lion of Judah, walk among us breaking chains of fear. Holy Spirit breathe on us anew giving us a new language to speak about otherness. May you rule and reign over us in your goodness. May we rise to live into our true selves and in that place may we plunder the enemy’s camp and bring many into your freedom. Let it be Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Colletta Rhoads serves with her husband and two children in South Africa where they work to see disciple making movements grow and transform communities. Born and raised in Santa Ana, CA, she has a passion for diversity, healing, and reconciliation.