TG&R: Next Steps for CGs

Last week pastor Leonce Crump, Jr. spoke at our Conversation on the Gospel and Race about how Vintage, as a predominately white church, can be a more diverse church, support minorities in the public sphere, and erode the effects of racism in our lives and the lives of others. FYI, we’ll be posting the audio from Leonce’s talk and Q&A very soon, so stay tuned.

I had to write it down to make it personal: I can’t not care.

One of the biggest things that stood out to me from the Conversation was about halfway through, as Leonce was addressing apathy and talking about our responsibility towards our neighbors. He talked about the corporate nature of salvation, how we’re saved not individually but corporately, as part of the family of God. Because we’re family, we can’t not care about things that harm and oppress our family members. Speaking as a member of the white majority, when my brothers and sisters in minorities experience far more social and economic barriers than I do, when they are disdained because of their ethnicity or skin color in a way that I have never experienced, that should move me. I had to write it down to make it personal: I can’t not care. I don’t know about you, but in my normal week-to-week, when I’m trying to pay bills, remember to get my car’s oil changed, and make time to hang out with friends, I typically don’t think about others’ problems. I think about mine. Apathy towards other people’s problems is self-preservation, it’s energy conservation, it retreats from empathy in order to focus on the self. I don’t care about other people’s problems because I’m using up all my care on myself.

“I can’t not care” was the most humbling part of the night for me, because it revealed my own misaligned affection, and because “I can’t not care” has a Gospel tone at it’s core that I needed to hear. I’m supposed to make other people’s problems my own problems because Jesus made my problem his problem. I can’t not care because Jesus refused to not care. And seeing that my problems nailed Jesus to a cross, I can never take up my cross to follow him if I’m too busy looking out for myself.

Advice for CG Leaders from Michael Darbouze

If you were able to attend the Conversation, hopefully you’ve had some time over the last week to reflect on how that impacted you. In addition to this self-reflection, I hope you’ve begun to consider how this affects the way you lead your community group. Following Leonce’s talk I got a chance to catch up with Michael Darbouze, lead pastor of Vintage Church Durham, about how to apply this content to our community groups. He recommended three things, which I found super helpful:

1. Understand the problem

Becoming a student is the best place to start. Doing so requires humility, and in this case that means being willing to admit that you don’t know everything about race in America, and that you might not yet know enough to have an informed opinion. Pray for a teachable spirit, and look for resources to grow in your understanding. If you haven’t read anything about race, read something! Check out our book recommendations for ideas on where to start. If you aren’t a reader, look for podcasts on the subject from folks like Acts 29, Gospel in Life, or The Gospel Coalition (here’s a great one from TGC by Charlie Dates).

2. Understand your people

To engage as a group, start by considering where your group members are on an idealogical/engagement spectrum concerning race and racial reconciliation. Are they uniformed, disinterested, knowledgeable, engaged? Are they willing to learn but don’t know where to start? Your own journey as a leader can be of benefit to your group members as you share what you learn, and vice versa. Many of you will have someone in your group who is more knowledgeable than you on this subject; think about how their expertise could help your group. As you study scripture together every week, consider how it might relate to this topic. Pray together for compassion, awareness, and opportunities to engage with others who aren’t like you. This requires ongoing dialogue, openness to talking about racial issues, tact in knowing when and how to talk about it, the safety to work your thoughts out aloud, and above all, humility. You’ll notice that some of that can naturally occur during your normal Bible-study discussion each week, and some will happen outside that study. That means your group needs time to engage outside Bible study, which dictates the way you hold your gatherings (to allow for time before and/or after study) and the way you spend time around each other outside those gatherings (by talking about meaningful things rather than just shooting the breeze). In summary, the point of all this isn’t to toe a party line, but to be willing to be transformed by the renewing of your mind in the context of your community. (Romans 12:2)

3. Press in

As you’ve grown in your understanding of the problems facing minorities in our country, and grown in your understanding in the context of your group, find areas to press in and engage with folks who aren’t like you. One super tangible example Leonce gave was opening your dinner table. Hosting someone from a different racial or ethnic background than you is a great way to grow in empathy and pursue unity. As a group, locate social spheres in which you can relate as peers to people who are different than you, and then figure out how to engage in those spheres. Maybe that’s through things block parties, neighborhood service, sports leagues, community meetings, school functions, etc. Having increased your knowledge and perception, the key here is to increase your empathy and willingness to step into uncomfortable spaces for the sake of unity.
I hope you found Michael’s three steps as helpful as I did. Just so you know, we’ll continue to post resources from our Conversation on the Gospel and Race here, along with other resources to help you lead your group well.