So now that The One Movement Launch Conference is over, the question is, “How do we take this message of unity back into our churches?”
For some of us the passion for unity has been life-long and definitely part of who we are and why we are. For others of us a fresh fire has been lit; we have been awakened to the deep passion that our Savior has for oneness in His Body and that He prayed so fervently (as recorded in John 17:20-23) would be the hallmark of those who would follow Him.
I have a dear friend, Helena Barrington, who once wrote a very prophetic song entitled, “In our Time.” The lyrics of the chorus are very profound to me:
“Every generation, demands a demonstration
Of the church of Jesus Christ, relevant to its time.
We are determined to be that demonstration
In our time, yes in our time.”
The question then becomes, ‘What should the church look like?’ We need to see with Jesus’ eyes. Jesus sees a church that demonstrates His love toward God, toward ourselves, toward our friends, toward our neighbors, toward both ‘the lovely’ and ‘the unlovely’. He even expects us to demonstrate His love toward our enemies! The bottom line is that Jesus makes it clear that the Father places a high, high value on relationships, and He expects us to as well. This doesn’t mean that everyone is supposed to be ‘lovey-dovey’ all the time, but that even when relationships are broken, we are called to do all we can to repair the breakage. (Matthew 18) He says that there is ‘no greater love than for one to lay down his life for a friend’. Jesus sees a powerful Church: one that is outside its walls winning souls; casting out demons; having signs and wonders accompany believers, looking like the early church did in the book of Acts; a church standing for the righteousness of God no matter the cost, with the Kingdom of God as its priority.
In answer to the question of what do we do to take the message of racial unity back into our churches, I want to say that I do not believe that every church service or every church must absolutely become multi-ethnic. That is not the point. The point is that we must become “Kingdom-minded.” The Kingdom of God involves ALL people. Jesus came to earth to pay the penalty for sin for ALL people. Every person that exists is created in the image of God. Diversity is God’s design, not ours. There is something of His glory reflected in every part of His design, and when we reject another on the basis of their outward appearance, their social, financial status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, education level, or any other temporal status, we forfeit a portion of God’s glory. Our homes, our lives, our churches, and our hearts must be for ALL people if we are after the heart of God. That would make our heart one heart with His!
When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, His priorities were evident for us. His prayer began and ended with the Kingdom in mind, knowing our Father is the King! Think of His disciples; they were a pretty diverse group. There were fishermen, a tax collector, a revolutionary, and a betrayer. Jesus gathered a seemingly random group of ordinary men with not much in common. They didn’t even know how to pray. They weren’t all even saved. What we do learn in John 17 is that the Father gave Him those guys and Jesus accepted them, although many if not all of the church ‘leaders’ of the day would have rejected them.
The first thing that must happen for unity in the Body to occur is simple: Begin by praying. Unless we begin with prayer, I believe our efforts at best will be artificial and short-lived. Jesus left His comfort zone with the Father’s vision in mind, purposing only to do the Father’s will. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Pray that you too will be willing, no matter the cost, to do the Father’s will.
Pray with the Lord’s vision in mind. His vision was, “That they may be one...” Ask the Father to give you His heart. Ask Him what your part is in His plan. (James 1:5). Search the Scriptures. Some passages that might be helpful include: Genesis 1:26, 27; Genesis 11:1; 2 Chronicles 5:11–14; Psalm 133; John 1:1; John 4; John 17:24. Look at the book of the Acts of the Apostles. What happens when the people are one? God blessed those who were in the vicinity with major revival. Read the 2nd chapter of Acts and look again at all the nations represented on that day as having heard the gospel in their own languages. 3000 souls were saved AND the church was increased daily! That’s major revival!
Recognizing that you do have a choice to accept or reject God’s heart and His desire for unity (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5), examine your own heart to determine whether you are truly open to change. Are you willing to go and visit a church where the majority-- if not the total congregation-- is of another culture? Do you have friends, prayer partners, or neighbors who don’t look like you? Did you meet and exchange contact information with someone at The One Movement event that you could follow up with to get to know better? Are you willing to make the investment of time, effort, and energy to go to future events that ‘The One Movement’ and other organizations host that will be designed to build relationships with others who may be of an ethnicity that is not your own?
Ask the Spirit of God to reveal to you any areas where your heart doesn’t match His heart on this matter. (Ps. 139:23-24) Jesus had no problems relating to people of other cultures. He hung with whomever the Father sent him to be with, regardless of what others had to say about Him. The religious leaders in Christ’s time were so arrogant that they eliminated anyone from their presence who was not a disease-free, ‘sin-free’, verifiable Hebrew male. They criticized anyone who violated their standard, even Jesus, accusing Him constantly. They looked down upon women, Samaritans, Greeks, Romans, lepers, the poor, and any others they deemed less worthy than they were. In sharp contrast-- and against the ‘rules’ of the religious leaders--Jesus cleansed a leper, talked with a Samaritan woman, defended a prostitute, ate with tax collectors, and hung out with the poor, lowly and ‘undesirables’. Consider your circle of friends outside of the church, perhaps those on your Facebook page. Are all of them of the same ethnicity as you as far as you know? Do you want to make ‘room’ in your life for more diversity and are you willing to possibly be ‘inconvenienced’ to do so? Are you equipped to share the message of diversity with some of your friends who may not quite ‘get it’ yet?
Set up a time to talk with your pastor to understand his or her perspective on the matter of cultural unity and diversity. Is he or she open and willing to lead the way by extending a vision for cultural diversity and unity in the Christian church beyond the walls of religion and church tradition through a series of messages, followed by some action on the part of your congregation? Are people of other hues welcome in your services? Would a guest minister of a darker or whiter hue, or a woman be allowed to speak to your congregation? You need to know if your church is ready to embrace God’s plan for unity.
Unfortunately not everyone is ready for the unity the Lord longs to see. It so happens that a local pastor recently shared with me that one Sunday he was off and decided to visit a church within walking distance from his home. When he walked into the church, heads turned and he got negative stares. Later a neighbor who was appalled at the behavior of her congregation shared with the pastor that some had asked the question, “What was he doing here?” What would anyone be doing in a church on a Sunday morning? The title alone of an article I recently posted on the GRACISM Task Force Facebook page is unfortunately indicative of some churches even today: “After I Adopted 2 Black Babies, I Realized My Church Was Full of Racists.”
If it seems there are racists in our midsts, it means there is an opportunity for spiritual growth if we will pursue God’s agenda for love and unity in His church. Many people simply don’t know how to work through the issues that seemingly divide us. This is the task of the GRACISM Task Force that I initiated. We want to go into churches and hold workshops with small groups to help them process the conflicts in order to foster unity. We know this is God’s will, and know that Jesus is on our side as we pursue oneness in His Body. Jesus not only prayed for oneness among His followers before He went to the cross, as recorded in John 17, but He still lives to intercede and prays for unity among us. (Hebrews 7:25) If anyone can get through to the Father, it is the Son. Dr. Tony Evans preached a message I heard on spiritual warfare in which he stated that the enemy of our souls knows the importance of unity and he is united against the Church of God. He further stated that we’ve got to recognize that God will command His blessing when we abandon worshipping our ‘own ways’ and worship Him alone. We are to join with God in praying for and actively pursuing the oneness He desires in His Body for a unified Church is God’s goal, and when we become one through Him we will be the most powerful force on earth. I believe we’ve begun to sow seeds of unity through ‘The One Movement’, through ‘Amen to Action’, and through other movements; now we must cultivate the soil so that the power of God can come rushing in and bring the revival that we and Jesus long to see.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus... There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26, 28
Toni Turner, MA, NCC
Toni grew up in a multi ethnic environment. Her neighborhood was multi- ethnic. Her elementary and high schools were in an international setting. As an undergrad she even attended a historical Black College, which was multi-ethnic, with students and faculty. Her only uni-ethnic experience outside of her immediate family of origin was in the denominational church in which she grew up. Toni writes: “In the Bible, I see a vision of the Lord which includes every tribe,nation and tongue. Jesus prayed and continues to pray for our unity. Racism and division should not be named within the true Body of Christ. I choose to align and intentionally work toward that vision — ‘On earth as it is in Heaven’, so that the power of God will shine through His children.”