When your church creates a safe place to talk about race, culture and the gospel, and all the world is raging about race and culture, and you really want to understand how to better share the gospel in light of race and culture, you should participate.
I’m speaking to myself of course, but if you’re in the Austin, TX area for our next event I’d love to have you join us at our tables of dialog.
In January our church took on this name to better reflect the diversity present. Mosaic Church Austin is a unique gathering of believers who vary widely on political matters, socioeconomic statuses and racial divides. At the core, we are a bunch of broken people seeking God & the work of the Holy Spirit among us. It’s messy, imperfect and beautiful all at the same time.
Christ is the center and the Spirit moves.
“The Gospel And…” series began earlier this year. From what I heard last Friday night, the startup was rough and tensions high. But, rather than abandoning an effort to pursue hard topics further, our leaders took a step back to go slower and with greater care.
They pressed into the hard, listened close and sought a way through.
Across the room last weekend, I saw men and women of varying skin colors wrestling through deep wounds mixed with a superseding desire to see what God might do. We sat across each other not knowing what stories each other held. Or what courage it took to show up at all.
God has a way of connecting hearts around the table and ushering grace in the midst of those willing to give and receive. His Spirit ushered in empathy and healing in surprising ways for many, even in these two short hours.
Questions opened the floor for vulnerability and exposure which most, if not all, of the room entered into. If I remember correctly, the first question was something about what keeps us from engaging in conversations about race.
Secretly, I’ve been longing for conversations with others, particularly my friends who are not quite the pasty white I am. I’ve been desirous of a safe place where I could hear honest answers.
I’ve feared that my passionate heart, mixed with ignorance and a full-on lack of TV watching and news absorbing, would come across wrong. I might offend. I might seem insensitive. I might isolate connections with others I’d honestly love to have, all because I might be misunderstood.
These reasons have strong ties to fear and they hold me back needlessly from learning and growing.
Last weekend, I shared how I’ve watched other bloggers write on the topic of race in a series called #goingthere, originally started by Deidra Riggs. I wanted to jump in, but I didn’t know where to start or what to say. What could I add?
I don’t see much racism first hand. I belong to a culturally diverse church, which I love. When we fostered we had numerous Hispanic & biracial children. While we dealt with a LOT of hard things, fortunately, racism wasn’t one of them.
But just because we don’t experience something for ourselves doesn’t make it any less of a real issue for those around us.
We can ask questions. We can listen. We can show care. We can grow in understanding and seek the Holy Spirit as the source for healing in those spaces.
In our group, I willingly shared my ignorance as well as my desire to not stay this way. Surprisingly, others found this welcoming. An inviting way to help them open up.
Fear held us all back, to some degree, no matter what our skin tone.
I heard from those who are afraid when/if a cop pulls them over. I heard how sometimes in a group setting someone might say something that comes across offensive, whether they know it or not, and all the tension rises but no one knows how to cut it, or maybe they’re afraid to. Or maybe if they tried to speak up, the divide would grow wider.
At the end of our time together around that table, seven of us grew closer in an intimate way that was new to me. We connected through the tender beginnings of vulnerability related to racism, and we paused to pray over immediate needs as well.
Something amazing happened in the span of two short hours, and it was undeniably Spirit led. We stepped into fear and found safety and unity around the Gospel.
Our church took initiative and got us started in these hard discussions. It’s up to each of us to keep the conversation happening.
What if we found someone who would listen well and give their honest responses in return? What if we could learn to allow grace for each other while engaging in challenging and potentially inflammatory topics?
If we want to see healing across divides, we need to provide grace and safety for one another. We need to listen. We need to take it slow, so there is time to process. We need to show compassion when wounded hearts reveal fear. And we need to consider one another as God’s beautiful creation
Lord, we don’t always know where to start, but you so often to tell us to simply take one step, in faith. Prepare our hearts to meet you at our tables. Give us courage to speak up or stay quiet, as you lead. Where there is hurt, comfort our hearts and bring us through the path of healing. May we trust you with every detail, every word, every emotion. You are King. It’s you we seek above all. ~ Amen.