“This complicated history of minority and white relations in the U.S. could make it awkward for those within the white majority when they humbly submit to minority leadership in sacred spaces, voluntarily sacrifice their majority status, and serve in sacred spaces under minority leadership in minority contexts. Their willingness to do so is a beautiful, practical picture of the one new man in Christ.”
In my post last week, I offered pastoral advice for White Christians shepherding ethnic minorities in predominately White contexts. In this post, I offer pastoral advice for ethnic minorities shepherding ethnically white Christians in predominately minority contexts.
Of course, overlap exists between the two pieces. For example, both white pastors and minority pastors should shepherd their people with love. However, there are some specific things that ethnic minorities shepherding ethnic majority brothers and sisters need to hear because minorities are members of marginalized groups. I offer three.
- Membership within A Marginalized Group Does Not Give Minority Pastors the Right to De-Humanize White Brothers and Sisters in Their Churches
It’s no secret that ethnic minorities, especially blacks, have been the recipients of systematic racism in this country. Many ethnic minorities have valiantly returned hate with love. But on many occasions in our country’s history, the oppressed and the victims have returned hate with hate.
This complicated history of minority and white relations in the U.S. could make it awkward for those within the white majority when they humbly submit to minority leadership in sacred spaces, voluntarily sacrifice their majority status, and serve in sacred spaces under minority leadership in minority contexts. Their willingness to do so is a beautiful, practical picture of the one new man in Christ.
But it might not be received well by all minority members in those sacred contexts. I heard of a story about a group of ethnic minority Christians who said, as white members listened from a distance in their church, that the church was beginning to be filled with too many white people.
When they hearing this kind of language in their churches, minority pastors should encourage minority members to speak to and about those outside of their minority status in ways that honor the image of God in them. And these minority pastors shepherding those from majority culture should model for their members what this practically looks like.
Minority pastors must intentionally, therefore, not let the racism historically caused by many (not all) in the white majority to cause them to dishonor their white brothers and sisters who’ve chosen to identify and suffer with ethnic minorities in a marginalized Christian context.
- Guard Yourselves from Excluding Those Who Don’t Share Your Ethnic Posture
Minorities know what it’s like to be excluded. Some minorities can’t even count the number of times they’ve entered into predominately, sacred white space and, quite frankly, have felt like trespassers. Many of us who’ve experienced this may be tempted to return evil with evil against white brothers and sisters when they enter into ethnic minority sacred spaces, and we experience the privilege of being the ethnic majority.
We might unintentionally or even intentionally marginalize our white brothers and sisters and make them feel as though they are not part of the body of Christ because they do not share our marginalized minority status in society. But we ought to instead walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-26). One of those lusts is a factious attitude toward brothers and sisters in the body—an attitude that leads us to backbite, irritate, and consume one another (Gal. 5:20, 26).
- Intentionally Look for Practical Ways to Live out the One New Man in Christ in Community with Both Minority Members and White Members
Paul is clear that Jesus died to reconcile Jews and Gentiles into one new man (Eph. 2:11-3:8). This one new man is another way of talking about new creation (Isa. 65:17-25). This new creation has already begun for all of those who have faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus since he’s given to Jews and Gentiles the Spirit by faith so that they can live in reconciled community with each other (Gal. 3:2-5, 13-14, 28-29; 6:15). And this new creation will be fully realized on the last day when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead and brings the kingdom of God from heaven to earth (Rev. 19-22).
Ethnic minority pastors should intentionally pursue ways to live out the one new man in Christ in their minority contexts with both those who share their ethnic minority postures and with white brothers and sisters who do not and yet enter into their ethnic minority sacred spaces. They should also instruct and model for their minority members how to do this.
Of course, even when brothers and sisters from the white majority join minority churches, their white privilege follows them into those sacred minority spaces. And even in minority spaces, the benefits of white privilege can show up and manifest themselves in ways that reinforce the power of living as a Christian in a racialized society.
But my point is white brothers and sisters who voluntarily (and might I add, humbly) sacrifice their majority status, at least temporarily, by joining a predominately ethnic minority church. As a result, they have taken a very practical step to live out the one new man with brothers and sisters with whom they don’t share the same ethnic posture. This step does come with some loss of privileges when the white majority is no longer the majority culture inside of the church. And, if the white members live in community in society with minority cultures instead of predominately white cultures, they too will lose societal privileges.
A beautiful and powerful picture of the gospel would then be for ethnic minority pastors to lead their churches to love and live out the one new man with these brothers and sisters in ways that will build up the whole body in Christ. Too often, racial reconciliation is often discussed from the posture of the privilege. That is, too many Christians think that racial reconciliation means minorities should attend white churches. But in my view, this view of racial reconciliation assumes white privilege. That is, that racial reconciliation can’t happen unless led by or on the terms of the white majority.
What a powerful picture of the gospel when the marginalized and the oppressed treat those from the white majority culture with Spirit empowered, gospel centered love when they enter into ethnic minority sacred spaces. Regardless of the temptations to treat evil with evil, ethnic minority pastors should ask the Spirit to help them shepherd all of their members regardless of their ethnic postures with sacrificial, Christ-imitating love. Thank God for those ethnic minority pastors who intentionally lead their ethnic minority churches to do this.
This article previously appeared on raanetwork.org, and is used with permission.