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Charlottesville and Citylight Council Bluffs

What has happened in Charlottesville the last few days is atrocious.  The white nationalist movement and in other form of racism is clearly sinful.  And no matter how far away it might seem to our emotions, it strikes incredibly close to many families in our church.  No matter how odd such a rally might seem to a city that is 91% Anglo, the inner roots of racism remain deep in our city.  No matter how distant it might seem geographically, it is near to the heart of God.

The Bible is incredibly clear: any amount, form, or type of racism is contrary to God’s desire.  It is sin.  It is evil.  It destroys lives and cultures and attempts to strip God of the glory He deserves.  The Bible envisions an ethnically diverse local church that speaks of the wisdom of God through its unity and love across cultures (Ephesians 3:1-10).  And the Bible envisions an eternity at the throne of God that is hallmarked by people from every nation, tribe, tongue, and race enjoy Jesus in worship (Revelation 7:9-10).  And what the Bible envisions, is what Citylight Council Bluffs hopes for!  As we multiply disciples and churches, we want to do it in a way that intentionally celebrates and welcomes all cultures to worship Jesus.

This is the vision that grips us, and we’re taking steps towards the vision.  But, to be honest, we do this very imperfectly.  We’re young, we’re learning, and we have a long way to go.  In an effort to invite each of you into our journey (whoever might read this), here’s a look at what we’ve done and where we need to grow.

We just graduated 8 students from our Summer School for Leaders in the Social Justice track.  They scoured the Bible, studied the prophet of Isaiah, read books, and wrote reports all with the goal of understanding and responding to God’s heart for justice.  We’re so glad these leaders are soaking themselves in Scripture so they can help us speak in and speak out when issues of injustice and racism sadly increase.  And we’re delighted to see many in our church posting online clearly denouncing racism and pointing to Jesus with helpful resources.

We have a City Group devoted to understanding and confronting social injustice, especially racism.  The group is called The Justice League, and if you want to learn more, we invite you to join our group.  Learn with us.  Grow with us!

We preach and post on issues of injustice as the Bible brings them up.  For example, as we tracked through Ephesians earlier this year, we made clear that God’s vision for any church (including ours!) is diversity, and we are committed to pursuing this diversity for the glory of Jesus in our city.

We celebrate and honor the many families in our church who have adopted cross-culturally.  This is a beautiful and high calling, and we’re honored that many of these families have landed in our church family.  One way we attempted to help such families was by hosting a seminar on shepherding children from traumatic backgrounds.

We’re thankful for how God has lead us in each of these areas, but we have so much to learn.  While we grow, we also know that we fall short in our desire for God’s justice.  Where can we grow?  Where are we asking God to grow us?

We want to grow in identifying with the people who suffer most.  I’ll speak personally here.  I am a middle-class white man who has never once suffered a racial slur or any sort of racial violence.  When I read about Charlottesville, I think, “That is evil.  They shouldn’t do that.”  But I don’t feel that evil and identify with the victims there or the victims of the same racial profiling and prejudice within our church.  I am asking God to help me not only see racism as evil, but identify with victims like Jesus identified with me.

We want to grow in prioritizing God’s heart for justice.  In a growing church, we worry about chairs, how to develop membership processes, how to find Citylight Kids volunteers, and more.  It’s easy to push racial justice to the background, neglect the emphasis it has in Scripture, or think of it merely as a theological knot to untangle.  But the reality is that racial justice is a matter of life and death, a matter of hurt and healing, a matter of getting arrested on a routine traffic stop or getting a nice smile.  And, most importantly, it’s a matter of God’s glory!

If you want to join us in learning and growing, here are some helpful resources in understanding the clear teaching of Scripture and responding well:

Russell Moore on the Anger of Jesus and White Supremacy

Tim Keller on Race, the Gospel, and the Moment

The Gospel Coalition on How White Supremacy is Spiritual Bondage

A full book on race by John Piper: Bloodlines

A full book on unity and diversity in the church by Tony Evans: Oneness Embraced

Our sincere hope is that as we lean into the Spirit of God we will listen well and learn fast.  We need to listen to real human beings so that we can identify and suffer with them.  And we need to learn, and learning takes time, energy, and planning.  That means prioritizing learning the passion of God for racial justice!  We invite you on this journey with us.  Who is it this week that you can listen to, hear their fears and hopes, and identify with them in their suffering?  And what is it this week that you can learn?  As you watch the news, what is God teaching you in your heart and how can you respond to Him?

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