President’s Perspective: Building Racial Bridges — It’s a Gospel Issue

Sunday, Feb. 11, is designated as Racial Reconciliation Day across the Southern Baptist Convention. Why is this important for your church in your local community? At the core, this is a gospel issue. America is scarred by a racial divide that is devastatingly persistent, and the only pathway to reconciliation is the Cross of Jesus. Government, politics, and education are incapable of doing what only the gospel can. Racial division is a spiritual evil with only one antidote, Jesus Christ himself. So why a particular day and what should be done?

The answer begins with the sad reality that, for generations, Baptist churches have generally reflected the cultural racial divide more than bridging it. This is beginning to change, but we cannot ignore or erase the history which has left a mark on our churches and communities. When the church is divided along racial lines, this cripples the one organization God put on earth to bring the hope of the gospel. Rather than simply responding to the latest crisis, God has called churches to proactively lead the way toward racial reconciliation. Christians must be the biblical peacemakers, ambassadors for Christ at every point. This vision must get to the local church, which is why Racial Reconciliation Sunday is so valuable.

Faithfulness to Jesus Christ calls churches to understand the heart of God about racial unity, opening God’s Word to enrich hearts and minds with his truth.  Colossians 3:11 describes a new community where “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” As the church of Jesus Christ makes disciples, then Christians must actually follow Jesus over the racial barriers. What will it take to see this happen? First, disciples of Jesus must have a biblical vision of racial reconciliation as a gospel issue. Second, disciples must practice spiritual disciplines to develop a heart capable of building these bridges. Third, disciples must humbly acknowledge blind spots and grow to love neighbors of another race and culture. Without a heart renovated and humbled by the grace of Jesus, racial reconciliation is impossible.

A number of churches have made this a priority and have made enormous strides. Many churches have developed friendships with congregations by doing pulpit exchanges and joint services. These kinds of initiatives are a great starting point. Lake Murray Baptist Church and Mid-Town Fellowship Church (at Two Notch) have worked on many levels to build a partnership, including a special celebration on Racial Reconciliation Sunday. The two pastors, Ant Frederick and Josh Powell, have developed a deep friendship that has led to many opportunities for their churches to work together for the gospel in Columbia. A growing number of SCBC churches are intentionally multicultural, something rarely seen just twenty years ago. There are many options for how to recognize Racial Reconciliation Sunday, but please don’t stop with one Sunday! The key to racial reconciliation is to build relationships across racial lines. Initiate a relationship by humbly building a bridge, using tools like respect and listening, and reflect the image of Jesus to a lost world.

Marshall Blalock is pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Follow him on Twitter @BlalockMarshall.