Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Church "Outreach" and Baltimore

Ok, White Churches*, let's talk about Baltimore.
Let's talk about Baltimore, and your own church growth strategies.  Let's talk about Baltimore and your own survival.
You've noticed your denomination, your congregation, are overwhelmingly white.  You've noticed this is a problem, and wish it wasn't so.  I'm glad. 
Some of you are even noticing that changing demographics of our country have made it unlikely that predominantly white denominations are unlikely to continue as institutions into the future.
You're developing "strategies" to "outreach" to "communities of color."  And, let's admit it, it isn't working terribly well. 
We have a major "outreach opportunity" right now, in national discussions about race, as protests are happening in Baltimore.  What you do right now publicly matters.  Here's your chance.  Your social media, your sermons, your public conversations.  People of color are watching you.  Now's a moment that matters.
Here are some reflection questions, for leaders (clergy and lay) as we conduct ourselves publicly in the midst of our national conversations on race:
  • Will people watching your comments see that you care about the full humanity of people of color? Is their protection, dignity, and fullness of life as important to you as that of white people?
  • Do you care about, and understand, the concerns, worries, fears, angers, and hopes of people of color?
  • If you don't understand, are you willing to listen?
  • Are you able to see God incarnated in Black culture (and Hispanic, and Asian, and so on) as clearly as in your own culture? 
  • Will you act on what you believe?  Say things publicly, take risks?
Here's the thing: these aren't only "outreach" questions.  They're living our faith questions.  Are we doing it?
I've started with church growth and survival, because we talk as though these are the most important things to us.  But these questions are powerful.  They might change you.  They might change the church.
We might start out trying to "outreach" to people we need, and discover ourselves converted, repentant, forgiven, transformed.
*The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is what I know best here, and my primary audience.  I suspect other white mainline denominations are in similar positions. 

1 comment:

  1. All people of color bleed 'red.' All people of color have broken hearts. The broken hearts are more difficult to detect. Today my color vacillates between 'embarrassed' and "tired." My heart is broken and I'm ready for the bleeding to stop.