If you turn on the news or watch your newsfeed lately you will see a story about racial tensions in our country. This issue has become a very hot topic as of late that can often divide us, even divide us in the church. Unfortunately, this divide is often clearly seen on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media with people angrily taking sides. Yet with all of the voices expressing anger and hate, there is a still small voice that needs to be heard: God’s. We may ask, “Where is God in all of this? How is the church to respond?”
With the recent events of this summer where tensions were heightened, our team had a deep sense that we could not ignore this. Undoubtedly, your worship or creative team have felt the same way. At a certain point, normal programming can seem out of place in the light of current events. So, what do you do?
As we processed the best way to tackle this subject, we brainstormed a bit on various options: The first thought was to take a picture with people praying together from our church that represented people from all backgrounds that we could share on social media. The idea was to give our people something to share on social media that was positive and not divisive. But our team didn’t feel like that was enough, but only scratching the surface.
Then the thought was do we shoot a video or capture a story that way? Though a good idea with some advantages to it, we passed on this idea as well, because we felt like it would be too canned… too distant for a topic that needed to be hit head on. Therefore, we decided to do a live interview. We felt bringing this conversation live and in the room was the best idea. And for us, the best idea wins.
But this led to the next question: how do we best represent the issue of racial reconciliation? Who would be the best people to ask to participate?
We landed on two incredible people:
Brandon Watts, Pastor of Epiphany Church in Brooklyn (http://epiphanybk.com) to speak of the African-American experience along with his Christian / pastoral response to recent events and the biblical call to reconciliation. The Crossing is partnering with Brandon and his congregation as they minister in Brooklyn, an area that is undergoing heavy gentrification at this time.
And Jim Seebock of the LVMPD to speak to the tension of law enforcement and the reality of tension there from a Christian perspective. Jim is proud of the work the LVMPD has done to ease such tension and will stressed that community engagement that is taking place to good affect.
We wanted the interview to land towards these four outcomes:
1. Awareness (The church needs to be involved in the conversation, not absent)
2. Understanding (Some perspective from both Shane’s message and the guys experience)
3. Acknowledgment (This is a complex issue. We are merely putting a comma on it, not a period)
4. Engagement (This was specifically geared towards our community partners as a means to engage in our community, improve it, and be “together” in stepping across any barriers).
We did a practice run through of the interview the day before and used the following questions as a beginning point of reference, but the final ones were changed a bit:
1. In light of recent events, what frustrations have you felt watching it unfold and what realizations have you come to that you have had to wrestle with from your unique perspective?
2. What do you wish people knew/understood about your perspective/context that could change the way you are viewed or interacted with?
3. How has your experiences been similar or different to what we may have been exposed to through the media or our own personal lives?
4. Acknowledging that the farther you are away from a problem, the simpler it seems, what can you say to help bring us closer?
5. In 1967 MLK said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” How can we not fall silent as your friends?
6. We just talked about Acts 10:27- Peter being sent to Cornelius- The gospel survived 2000 years ago because racial and social divisions made concessions to culture and to each other for the sake of the cross. It has to start with the church. How do suggest we own the problem as Christians and then what would you say to the church that we need to own- in regards to our Christianity- not as Americans or culturally, but as Christian people?
To see the message in its entirety, see below. To see the interview only, scroll to the 24 min. mark:
To close the service, we felt as a creative team that there needed to be an ending to the service that truly appealed to the heart. We felt the best close was to use a hymn or two that people would know that could bring everyone’s focus back to Jesus and in a way also remind everyone that we are the Church (capital “C”) no matter what our racial or socio-economic background happens to be. We landed on two hymns from which we created a medley… “How Great Thou Art,” and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” We intentionally moved our host moment up to the front of the service so we could simply land and close with this medley.
The response to this service was incredibly positive, but we realize we’ve just added a comma to the conversation, not a period.