My heart, all of our hearts at Dare 2 Share, were deeply saddened by the killing of five police officers (and wounding of seven more) in Dallas a few weeks ago. All of this took place at the hands of a sniper who reportedly said that he wanted to kill white people. My heart is also broken for Philando Castile being shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota and Alton Sterline being shot by two white police officers, both in the same week.
Two of these incidents were caught on cell phone videos and streamed online. It has helped to accelerate the anger among people of all ethnicities across this nation. From #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter, emotions are running hot in the not-so-United States of America.
So what can a youth leader do about it? More than you might think! Whether you’re in the cities, the suburbs or the farmlands, you can make a difference…and so can your teenagers. You can help to eradicate racism in this nation, one teenager at a time.
Before I share with you four ways you can do this, let me give you just a little background as to why I believe this can happen.
I was raised in one of the highest crime rate areas of my city, in a largely Latino part of town. I felt racial tensions every day walking to and home from school, at my school, and in my own neighborhood. My family was a white family full of body-building, tatted thugs who were known for their willingness (and even desire) to fight the Hispanics in and around our neighborhood. Witnessing bloody fights and hearing racial slurs was commonplace growing up.
But then a church from the suburbs reached out to my part of the city and one-by-one began to reach my uncles and aunts and cousins for Christ…and to disciple them. As a little kid in Northern Denver, I witnessed a slow and steady transformation in my family members.
Although the church and youth ministry that reached my family for Jesus was in a pasty white part of a mostly middle- and upper-middle class town, they had an unusual amount of racially diverse young people in key leadership positions. I was equipped to share my faith, grow in my faith and preach the Word by Latino brothers and sisters. And, over the course of time, God replaced the rampant racism in my family’s hearts with massive love for everyone! At the center of it all was a youth ministry that wanted to reach everyone everywhere with the hope of Jesus.
With all of that as a backdrop, here are the four things you can do to #StopRacism in your students and community:
1. Pray! Pray! Pray!
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20,21
In Christ’s high priestly prayer, he interceded for us, believers from all ages and races, to “be one” as the Father and Son are one! He asked God for unity in the church!
As we join him in prayer for a united church, we will intuitively begin to take steps to make sure we are a diverse youth group. Our teenagers will begin to pray for teenagers of all races at their schools to put their faith in Jesus and reach out to them with the gospel. It all starts with prayer!
Why not spend time praying for God to break down the racial barriers in your youth group and city together as a group this week? This issue is trending on Twitter and saturating our news channels so much it should be impossible for us to ignore.
2. Get your theology straight.
Where did racism come from? We all know that ultimately all sin started in the Garden when Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit on our behalf on passed on to us that selfish seed. But, more specifically, we see its etymology when God confused the language of a once-united, same-language people and scattered them over the earth (Genesis 11:1-8.) The people clustered then collided. Racism became rampant after that.
What’s the solution? Salvation! The red blood of Jesus is color blind. It can save the lost souls from any ethnicity. Galatians 3:28 makes it clear that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
What should the practical outworking of all this be? Fully integrated churches and youth groups! As my friend Derwin L. Gray wrote,
“In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile. But God birthed a group of people on the planet who He recreated in His eternal Son, Jesus, to transcend this racial hostility, injustice and oppression. He did this by means of Jesus’ death on the cross so that our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Derwin L Gray (Pastor of Transformation Church and Author of High Definition Leadership…Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World)