Race still matters in America, despite many people's protests to the contrary. That we have a non-white President shows the array of possibility for all people in this country, but closer to home for many of us is the reality that we live in racial bubbles that do not readily pop. Instead, we take our bubbles out and push through the aisles of the grocery store hoping our bubbles don't get squished too hard against other bubbles.
Then, for many of us, we retreat into a bubble-safe zone on Sunday. It's called "church." While we can hang whatever explanations on that fact we'd like to, most Christians live in that reality. Most of us also recognize that something's not quite right there—racially isolated sinners worshiping God apart from each other when we know eternity will look very, very different from that.
How do we adjust for that? How do we change the reality that is into what it ought to be?
The first tendency may be to simply accept the way things are as the way things will be and not bother with change. The next tendency is to change the appearance, change the practice, without considering how or even why to make the changes.
Yet as Christians, we have to base our decisions on more than just the need to feel better about ourselves. We cannot excuse inaction, but feeling doesn't cut it. Our lives are supposed to be grounded in the Bible and led by the Spirit. it is the Spirit of God that is convicting us and bringing that unease about the status quo. We need to search the Scriptures to base our actions on the foundation of God's Word.
That is the express goal of Matthews & Park's The Post-Racial Church. They write to highlight the need for rekindling a passion for racial/ethnic reconciliation through Christ among His people. The effort is to shine a light first on the need and then on the direction for reconciliation.
The book was a challenging read for me. The church I pastor is essentially monolithic in ethnicity. Honestly, there's not many folks in the church that aren't related to the ground around here. And the community isn't diverse, either—it's not a matter of divided churches in a divided town. It's a lack of option. Problems of race and ethnicity are big-city issues and far away problems (even with 'far away' being ten miles), not things that are here and now for us.
So, the book was challenging because it lit up issues that I have tended to downplay. With marriages falling apart, kids with needs, and an aging church population with shifting needs, is there really a need to consider how to reach people that don't live here? This book hit me with a resounding "YES" answer to that question.
Within the covers of this book are chapters addressing large-church issues like missions and worship and chapters looking at one-to-one issues like marriage and family. Each chapter address the biblical passages and examples related to the issue at hand. The chapters then conclude with a "Thought Provokers" section intended to help the reader put into practice what they've read.
In all, I would strongly recommend this book. It was challenging to read: some of the terms and style reflect that this is from Kregel's Academic and Professional group. Other parts are challenging because they shine light into places that it's hard to have light shined on. Get through it. It will make good reading for a church staff group or small group study.
Note: Disclosures! reflects my policy on book reviews, though it may be out-of-date with names of publishers. Kregel provided this book in exchange for the review. They do not exert any influence on the content, only the scheduling.