From the Elephant Room website:
Two of the largest churches in America, both in Dallas, one of America’s largest cities—one church is almost 100 percent black, the other almost 100 percent white. Is this a problem? What factors, beyond local diversity, are widening this divide? What causes such obvious segregating of the races? In what ways does being a minority worshiper hinder worship and service in the church? What churches are achieving success at breaking down these walls, and how? What do you see the other pastor doing better than your church does it?
Session 5 - Come Together
Graham, Jakes, Driscoll
You’re both in Dallas and you’ve got huge churches. Who wants to go first.
To me the way to destroy racial divide, which still exists, is to get the roof off and let God in. We tried to do that about 10 years ago when we got our churches together to pray. It was an incredible experience.
Contextually for me, I was born in 1950. I’m old enough to remember asking why does that water fountain say white and that one say colored?
Thankfully, in a home there was prejudice, I had to overcome my upbringing as a Christian and a pastor.
Prejudice is ignorance. We have to know one another.
We have a long way to go. There is still a lot of racial hate in hearts and churches. There are churches that are dead or should be dead because of hate.
I grew up in a town where there was not a person of color into I got to college. That was the context.
When we are in the trenches together, serving, that’s what took it to a whole new level. Talking and preaching about reconciliation cannot compare to living it out. When I know you, I can love you. When I see Jesus in you and you see Jesus in me, we’re color blind.
My church is making progress in this area. We have some 60 groups in our worship. Some of the change has come through music changes and a changed atmosphere.
You can’t integrate your church until you integrate your life. Otherwise it feels stage and people feel like props in a play.
Certain cities like Dallas are more challenging than others. But we have to tackle this.
20 years ago, Caucasians would have been dominant in Dallas, not minorities are close to 50 percent.
I love that Jack pointed out that racism does still exist, but I want to hit the lower tier. Most Americans are not racists, we’re just used to what we’re used to.
Slavery was really a financial decision. Out of that comes ideologies. You have a perpetuation of the civil rights movement that put us together with lunch pails working together. Even though we lived in our comfort communities, we worked in diverse communities. As we move into technological ages, we have moved back into our comfort zones.
When you write the books you read, your truth will always be distorted. You need cross pollination. In the absence of it we have cynicism that is detrimental to this country and the body of Christ.
If you’re going to remain relevant, you have to not only say it would be “nice” if we got together. The embarrassing thing is we’re not doing even as well as the night clubs in integrating.
It’s not racism. It’s comfort.
Is that idolatry?
Absolutely. It begins with music and leadership. It’s easier, I believe, for African Americans to integrate with whites than whites to integrate with African Americans. Because we’ve always had to do it.
Whites have never had to walk into a room where they were the minority. That doesn’t make you racist, but it does make you comfortable.
As we talk about this issue, it’s a complicated one.
This issue is bigger than blacks and whites. It’s Latinos, all people groups.
If we don’t change, we’ll find ourselves in a position where we acquiesce to a state of racism, moving from comfort to racism.
There is so much misperception because you are educated by who I am by the books you write about me…what arrogance, do I ever get to define me?
We have to talk, but you also have to be willing to listen. So that we can begin to untangle the way that we’re fed information so that we can get down to what is really true. If we don’t get down to what is really true, do we really have gospel?
When Jack’s church and mine got together we sang some songs.
Who’s singer was better?
There are some white folks who can sing! (laughter)
We don’t just have intolerance but rather apathy. If you grade your own paper, you always get an A.
We work with a great organization called Bridge Builders to help build a bridge back into our community to build houses, create job opportunities, etc. Not just the white folks coming in, but us working together to glorify God.
When the world sees us working together, loving each other and serving, that changes everything.
Crawford, share a bit of your story.
My great grandfather was a slave. Fast forward, I grew up in central Newark, NJ. Interestingly enough there was more cultural diversity in the 1950’s than now. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood. All the way up to 12 years old I never knew I shouldn’t like people different than me…until I got to high school when some black friends mocked me for hanging with white friends.
My dad said, Boy, don’t you ever let anybody tell you who your friends should be.
This takes courage. I’m disappointed with the lack of courage in the church today.
There ought to be something diverse about your Christianity or else it’s not authentically Christian. That’s what Paul meant when he met with Peter. You violated the truth of the Gospel.
We need to kick this discussion up. We have to teach more about the implications of the Gospel, which is far more different than praying a prayer but living out a distinct gospel in relationships.
In this day, it should be like the day of Pentecost where we’re all saying the same thing. We’re not there. But we need intentionality.
In Hawaii, integration was thrust upon us. We learned to all get along. Now we don’t see color of skin, it’s just us. And I love that.
We have to get to Pentecost. That has to be our goal.
It has to be intentional. The first beginnings have to structured. Structure can decrease and maturity increases.
Bishop Jakes, is being comfortable a sin?
We can’t fulfill the great commission in our community…he said go into all the world. You can’t pick the houses. On a certain level it is a sin, but it has to be identified.
When you label something as racist people get images of sheets and burning crosses. But when you say, who’s in your life? Who do you hang out with? Then you have to come out an analyze.
You can't trust what you see when you come into my atmosphere because you see with your historical eyes. You have to be humble enough to come to ground zero and begin to understand how I think, not just what I did.
You have to become a student again. Here’s the sin, the sin is in the pride that stops us from admitting that we don’t know everything. The sin is the arrogance that we must always be the teacher and not the student.
The thing that God hated the most is pride.
As a white pastor in the south, how can I build a diverse church?
Build relationships, ask questions, be intentional and bring people on staff that are diverse. Don’t pose. Give people an opportunity to serve Christ in your church.
How do you make people of varying ethnicities feel comfortable in your church?
When I was in high school, I joined the gospel choir because I liked it so much and the people in it so much. I was the only white guy. In college, I was the only white guy in my dorm. We loved those guys.
At the end, I said, did you ever think a white guy from SC would get to be friends with all of you. I’ll never forget, one guy looked at me and said, “But Steve, you ain’t white. You’re latino or something.”
I had Bishop Jakes come into my church and preach because I love him and his ministry. That was the heart. It can’t be we need a black preacher.
But I need to go back and address some of my failures in this area. I started with a completely white leadership team. I asked, how did I go from the only white kid in a black gospel choir to a mostly white church. We’re looking into this.
We’re in the suburbs and most people are ignorant about Chicago.
I’ll never forget when my friend took me around the schools in his area. He said that we were tearing up our track at our high school because we didn’t like it, but they didn’t have lockers. I was simply ignorant of this.
There are some things in African American churches that are far superior than white churches. When we bring African American worship into our church, the volume went up because the music is much more in touch with emotion and mind.
The great thing about heaven is that it will bring all the best from all expressions together.
We have 3 minutes left. I’m giving them to Bishop Jakes.
We have to talk about these things and find people mature enough to do it. Simply say, if I say something stupid, tell me. Cause you will because you don’t know.
God uses multiculturalism mightily. Examples: Moses, Paul. It is very important if you’re serious about being used by God that you understand that God is bigger than you.
If you’re serious about saying I’ll go, go beyond your zip code and see how God works.
The preceeding were summary notes from the Elephant Room. These are not direct quotes but rather a play by play intended to give an overview of each conversation at this year's event. I encourage you to watch this year's conversations once available for fullest context. - Jake