I am honored to be leading a workshop at our National Conference. The topic is
“The Gospel as the Foundation for Racial Reconciliation”
Under-represented groups continuously cry against injustice and inequality throughout our societies. Sin is the cause of injustice and inequity. As an immigrant from Jamaica, I will begin with my own story of learning about racial injustice and inequality in the USA. We will seek to lay out a pattern for racial reconciliation and justice based on our dependence on God’s Word. First, we will look at the issue by addressing the:
A pattern of racial reconciliation in the Scriptures
The rise of the inferiority myth
The black church and the backdrop of the black experience
Then we will suggest some ways to address systematic injustice and racial reconciliation by:
Addressing the Biblical Kingdom agenda
Prophetically declaring the Kingdom impact on the culture
Incorporating urban apologetics in our theological discipline
Practically addressing structural changes that are needed
No matter where we emigrate and what injustice we face, God has provided the right balance to deal with these issues. We are all made in the image of God. We are recipients of reconciliation by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We, therefore, have the suitable characteristics to lead reconciliation.
I want to thank Damion R, Adan Coleman, Jerome Gay Jr., Toney Evans, Dr. Eric Mason, Voddie Baucham Jr., and the Urban Apologist Community for resources that served as receipts to this workshop.
Several years ago, I needed information relating to Africa’s contribution to Christianity. I also wanted to be more informed about the rise of the Black conscious community and the Black Religious Cults. Also, this was in part to counter the statement “Christianity is a white man’s religion.” I was introduced to Brother Damion, who introduced me to Tomas Oden’s book, “How Africa Shaped the Christian mind. That started my journey into unbelievable discovery and understanding.
This introduction was the tip of the spare. I later got connected with the Urban Apologetics Community (UrbanApologetics.org) and Jude 3 Project. From there, I connected with Adam Coleman. This brother is the real deal.
Thanks to everyone for your invaluable contribution to my workshop.
The gospel message is all about Jesus and what He did and is going to do. Peter summarized this in Acts 10:37-41. The commission to go and preach was given by Jesus in Acts 1 and the authority and power to preach was given in Acts 2. The revelation for mission was given in Acts 10 that laid the foundation for the selection of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:2 where the Holy Spirit instructed, after they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” Paul later became the face of missions to the Gentile world. The gospel must be grounded in the Bible and consist of the message of Jesus’ life, work, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return. Those who have first received the Gospel Message must carry out this message, and the Church is the organism that has been authorized to deliver this message. The work of the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus in John 16:6-11, is clearly at work in the story of Peter and Cornelius. Jesus said “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” The Holy Spirit was going to convict the world, in this case Cornelius. In the case of Peter, the Spirit’s ministry of guidance and revelation of truth was demonstrated. Finally, the Spirit wanted Peter to present Jesus to Cornelius. This ministry of representation, according to John, is demonstrated through us who represent Christ here on earth.
We understand that the gospel message is sent to the world, not just to one group of people. Matthew 28:20 said, “go into all the world” and in Acts 1 it gave more detail as to the meaning of the world: “And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Again we see the Holy Spirit taking the lead in first equipping the messengers before they were sent. Those in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were anointed by the Holy Spirit and sent to bring the Gospel message. They sometimes struggled with the fact that many were accepting this message, but that did not stop the spread of the Gospel. Peter was one who struggled with seeing the world outside of Jerusalem and the Jewish context.
The Holy Spirit however, gave him a lesson; this lesson was that God is impartial and all need the Gospel. As the Holy Spirit taught Peter, we need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts on this matter as stated in Acts 10:15, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” We are to be willing to take the gospel message to the world, and have no exception. Once Peter understood the message, he was able to go into Cornelius’ home and present the gospel and fellowshipped. This was a remarkable accomplishment, a Jew not only going into a Gentile’s home, but he was staying for a while and eating with them. The food was not declared clean by Mosaic Law but by the fulfillment of the Laws through Jesus Christ. He was truly a missionary. A missionary is simply a messenger, bringing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. As we endeavor to bring the gospel and assume the mantle of a missionary, there must be an understanding of contextualization of the gospel, wherein the message does not change, but the application of the message in the local context will vary. This is true of Paul in Acts 17 when he spoke to the Athenians about their monument to the unknown God. Paul used their context and presented the Gospel. In the July 2010 Christianity Today issue in the article, “Love where you live”, J. R. Kerr said, “A city gets transformed when neighborhoods marked by the gospel are redeemed. To do that, we need to stay 20 or 30 years.” This missionary enterprise is an investment, or a life commitment.
 Collin Hasen, “Love Where You Live” Christianity Today, July 2010, 36.
As we deal with the issue of living out the missional call the Church has to effectively deal with the attitudes of the congregation to be more “holistic” in their approach to missions, while being theologically consistent with the Biblical mandates. It will require an understanding of the theology as it relates to missions: Church, world and Kingdom of God, this is call the holistic approach. There are several themes that are illustrated in the Bible relating to different aspects of missions that can be seen throughout Church history as documented by Henry Chadwick in his book The Early Church. Two of these themes are the understanding of the main object of mission and the structures involved. Jan A. B. Jongeneel also defines thesein his book, Philosophy, Science, And Theology of Mission in the 19th And 20th Centuries. We have to have a solid theological foundation that rest on the gospel message dealing with the Great Commandment, Commission and Compassion.
It is therefore helpful to explore some of the definitions that are used to define missions, since these definitions are somewhat slanted to the theological view of the authors; it is pertinent for anyone or group that is embarking on the journey of being missional to posit a working definition that will follow them throughout their journey. One cannot define missions without defining the Kingdom of God. As we seek to clearly articulate this meaning it will be helpful to consider these meanings as they relate to eschatology (study of end times) and the ecclesiasticalogy (study of the church). Entrance into the Kingdom of God is clearly defined in scriptures; what is its meaning within this context of your journey? Of a fact, the full gospel message is about is about Restoration is the focus of the new era; Gabe Lyons in his book The next Christians spoke about telling the full gospel story, God’s story: creation, fall, redemption, restoration and ultimately consummation.
Church History is a hidden treasure of practical and demonstrative information relating to missions and the Church’s understanding and application of missions. The early Church took the commission very seriously because they believed that Jesus would return in their lifetime; armed with this conviction they wanted to take the gospel message to the entire world as they knew it. The foundation of the early Church was about advancing the Kingdom of God by spreading the gospel message. Throughout Church history there were many who benefited from the advancement of the gospel and they were sometimes willing supporters because of other reasons apart from the gospel. What they found were that people were converted into the Kingdom of God and living a life that was admirable and these new converts became responsible citizens, workers, neighbors, and employees.
In the first 100 years we saw the purely Jewish Christian Church developed into the majority Gentile Church. It was the Apostles’ commitment to the Great Commission empowered by the Holy Spirit that led to the spread of Christianity during this time. They were also obeying the Great Commandment and demonstrating Compassion but the foundation of their missional quest was the Gospel Message. Later, The Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church took up a similar thrust and once again missions were at the forefront of their endeavors. The birth of Protestantism came from a desire to become more like the Christ of the Bible. They originally were not actively involved in missions because of their efforts to codify their doctrines during the reformation. On the other hand, the benefits of their sound doctrines and the codification of these doctrines was the catalyst for the future generations of Protestantism who were now adequately armed. Their desire for missions as their focus, led to the spread of the Gospel everywhere they went. While the effect of their actions was originally felt in the west and the subsequent colonies, it later spread throughout the rest of the world, literally. Historically missions had at its core the gospel message; everything was done to advance the gospel.
We more forward to the Great revivals and the birth of Pentecostalism where these periods were marked by the desire to be like the Christ of the Bible and those involved in these movements participated in missions, as they perceived it with emphasis on the gospel. There is an ongoing struggle for those who are seeking to be true to Jesus’ command to present a holistic missional approach to the gospel. As the Church grew, some sections were more tilted towards just the commission, others were more tilted towards compassion and still others were more focused on the commandments. However, there is a consistent theme that undergirds all of the generations throughout Church history and that is missions’ main purpose is to bring the gospel message to all those who have not yet received it. These missionaries would travel to foreign countries and suffer great feats determined to see the natives transformed and accept the message they brought. They were holistic in their approaches; focusing on the Great Commandment, Commission, and Compassion. The holistic approach to missions is necessary to fulfill the call of God on our lives.
 For a more detail information on this subject read Henry Chadwick book, The Early Church (The Penguin History of the Church), (Revised ed. Boston: Penguin (Non-Classics), 1993), 13-20.
 Jan A. B Jongeneel, Philosophy, Science, and Theology of Mission in the 19th And 20th Centuries: A Missiological Encyclopedia: The Philosophy And Science Of Mission (Studies in the Intercultural History of Christianity), (2nd Rev ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2002), 88-93.
The challenge to be truly missional requires that persons consider themselves to be disciples, and begin to engage their communities in their everyday life, to be incarnate. This has posed a challenge to the church and seeks to answer the question: how will missions and being missional in the 21st century be any different from the Colonial Periods? The challenges that seem to be facing the Yonkers churches are similar to those which face the North American Churches. Some of these challenges are diversity of the harvest, an increasingly large harvest, lack of harvesters, lack of focus in the Church, a dying Church and an unclear presentation of the Gospel. In the Book of Luke chapter 10 verse 2 it reads, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” This was Jesus’ view of the many souls that were not saved. This picture is true today of the North American Church and begs the question “Has the Church lost its focus of the Great Commission?” Many churches are declining, and even dying, while the ‘unchurched’ population is increasing. Ed Stetzer and Mike Dobson state that three denominations – Assemblies of God, Nazarene, and Southern Baptists – all reported a decline in their membership. While many churches in these denominations are growing the greater portion is declining.
We do not have to travel miles and overseas to some foreign country to locate the mission field. Right here, literally in our backyards, the world has come to us, as Sadiri Joy Tira, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization senior associate for Diasporas, said, “The world has become borderless.” The next challenge that Jesus identified was that the laborers are few (Luke 10:2). Many churches lack disciples or self-feeders (Christ-centered persons) that are harvesters. According to Ed Stetzer and Mike Dobson in the book entitled Come Back Churches, 70 to 80 percent (70-80%) of North American Churches are in decline and 3,500 to 4,000 U.S. churches close their doors every year. To be truly missional requires a holistic approach that includes the Great Commandment, Great Commission and the Great Compassion, this I call “The Circle of Mission”. It is about ministering to the total person and requires an investment into person’s lives of our time and our finance.
 In their book Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples, Geiger, Eric, and Thom S. Rainer, researched and present a clear and detail picture of the North American Church community. The book is published by Kiev Russia: B&H Publishing Group, 2006.
 Mike Dodson, and Ed Stetzer in their Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can, Too evaluated 300 churches that were declining and undertook a process that led to their turn around. The book is published in New York by B&H Books, 2007.
 Sadiri Joy Tira, “Evangelism vs. Missions” Christianity Today, July 2010.
A week has past and I have had some time to reflect on the sermons that were given during our anniversary celebration. It is amazing how God works. We selected for a theme; “Back to Basics: The Great Commandment, Commission and Compassion. The scripture reference for our focus was Matthew 28:18-20. We had three speakers that really presented the word. We were challenged, encouraged, and edified. We were left with a sense of awe at the presence of God in our midst.
Our first speaker on Friday night was Rev Soviniour, pastor of Faith Deliverance Tabernacle. He reminded us of the need to get back to our first love. This is the initial state of love between God and us. This is where we were when we first became Christians. The zeal and fire that was in our bellies outpace and negativity. We would be the first to volunteer, we prayed frequently and we would not shy away from telling our stories. He reflected on John’s vision, in Rev 2:1-5, to the church at Ephesus. They received a commendation and condemnation. They were doing good works but they had drifted from the initial state of love. Not that they had lost their love for God but they had gone cold, they lack that initial spiritual passion.
The Power that Jesus referenced in Matthew 28:18, he said, was authority to act. This is different from the ability to do something. Christians have both the authority and ability to carry out Jesus’ commission. This authority was not given in a vacuum, no; it was linked to God the Father. He reminded us “God’s greatest passion is about salvation and that the early church grew in spite of persecution.”
We can restore our first love by remembering that initial state, then we should repent, and then we should return to your first love. Rev soviniour reminded us “if you do not know you are in a mess you will not get out of it.” Once we have amended our ways we should we go in the authority of Jesus and do the work of the Great Commission.
The second speaker was Dr. Michael Frith, Bishop of Family of Christ Church of God and President of Family of Christ Seminary. He began by reminding us that looking back is not always bad. But “In the world of advancement we do always want to look back” to core principles. Thus, the theme is a timely reminder that we need to occasionally revisit that initial state of love relationship with God and look at our core mission. The core of his sermon was that we should go in the Dignity of the power of Pentecost. Dr Frith reminded us that we have the authority to live as Christians, discern purpose of the church and appreciate the authentic power (authority) that is given to the church. Once we love God, as we should, then we would be able to operate in his authority. He reminded us that the Greek word speaking of authority means the right to do. He also,
We were challenged by the reminder, that as, Christians and particular leaders of the church, we are standing as buffers for the people we lead. Therefore we have to have authentic power to combat the trickery of the devil. As Christians, we have to develop and maintain a healthy spiritual appetite. He challenged us to get back to order and purpose.
He encouraged us to continue to follow God’s leading. He challenged us to listen for God’s instructions and “if you hear a voice behind you that means you are in the wrong way”. “It is hard to continue if you have not begun” and eight years represents new beginnings. It is at this time that it is necessary to remind ourselves of the basics of our Christian calling.
The final speaker was Minister Diane Asphalt. She reminded us that we should look to join God where he is working. Once we have return to our first love and begin to walk in the authority given by Jesus then we are ready to join God.
She reflected on the phase in the New Testament that said that the “disciples have turn the world upside down”. After the resurrection of Jesus, He appeared to His disciples reignited the flame of love that was burning low and in some cases gone out. This is recalled by John 21:15, “After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.”
She reminded us that God is always at work and His work is concerning His redemptive purpose in His actions. She continues, “We need to understand the authority of God words, that God has given authority and power; this is the right to do and the power to do. Understanding this divine assignment will allows to “work in is authority but wait on his assignment”. We are not going to walk ahead of God but wait on his directions.
Sometimes, she continues, “God has us simmering at times”, this is where things do not look as if it is changing or there are any movement in my direction. We should wait on the instructions before we make our next move. Like Habakkuk we should develop an attitude of praise, an in spite of praise and “Praise God while you are waiting”. It is this attitude that will help us to walk in his assurance. Like Noah, we will not wait on to be validated by man but as his accomplishments were accepted by God not by men’s standard. Therefore a Noah like attitude will earn God’s approval.
Minister Dianne left us with three points to consider; we should walk in God’s authority, we should wait on his assignment and we should work in God’s assurance
The closing session of our anniversary celebration was the consecration of three leaders to the office of ministers. These individuals have been in training and one on one mentoring for a year and was given their local conference licenses and consecrated to the office of a minister. Ministers from across New York area were on hand to witness this momentous occasion. The presence of the Holy Spirit was clearly present with us. There was a moment of sweet joy and spontaneous worship, not chaotic, but one that seemed to have a director instructing even move.
Even though it was super bowl night, people stayed back as if asking for more. They had fellowship with each other, there was just a sense of genuine love. While there were people from different theological background, this moment seem to ignore those differences and we were just one. Now, I was not present in Acts on the day of Pentecost but it felt like that on Sunday evening.
It was indeed moving to hear pastors and laypeople speak of the challenge to do more for God. There seem to have been a reigniting of the flame of our love for God. To hear person after person say “I got to do more, I remember when I use to… and I have to get back to” is indeed a touching experience. It is really hard to describe the atmosphere in that service but to say you would have had to been there. As a church we were challenged, encourage and energized to continue our assignment here in Bethel Temple of Praise.