(105) We need to talk about race – Jesus walks – social welfare to social justice | Ben Lindsay

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(105) We need to talk about race – Jesus walks – social welfare to social justice | Ben Lindsay

a warm welcome to the race and diversity stream of new wine breaks out 2020 my name is mike royal and i’m your host today and in this second seminar i’m delighted to be joined by ben lindsay. I had the privilege of hosting an evening with ben lindsay in aston birmingham where he came and spoke to us about his new book we need to talk about race i pray that ben’s words speak to you and challenge you today i’m gonna pray now father prepare our hearts as we hear from ben help us to listen deeply holy spirit speak deeply into our hearts and minds so that we might be changed and transformed by the words we hear in jesus name we pray amen. i’m going to hand over now to ben lindsay hello and thank you for having me for this race and diversity stream my name is ben lindsay i’m ceo of a charity called power the fight which empowers communities to end youth violence and i’m also author of a book called we need to talk about race understanding the black experience in white majority churches today what i’d like to talk about is how churches go from social welfare to social justice particularly in the context of race and diversity and the title of this very short talk is called jesus walks for more in-depth understanding of some of the concepts i’m talking about i’d recommend that you read chapter seven of of my book which is also entitled jesus walks for a little bit more of an in-depth look at this issue the social justice lawyer in a book called just mercy a guy called brian stevenson said this you can’t understand the important things from a distance you have to get close for the uk church to really understand racial injustice and how that impacts the community and what we are meant to do about that we’re going to have to get closer to the issue in a way that we’ve never really done before and we have to be honest we’re in a situation this this cryos moment where the opportunity the window is open for the uk church to engage in that way show less apathy and more empathy in the way that we’ve not done before 12 words which will always stay with me are this he is dead ben Myron has been stabbed and he is dead that was a text i got from one of my closest friends about his stepson a young man called Myron Yarde who was murdered in south east london in new cross in 2016. i’ve known Myron since he was one years old and Myron’s death was the impetus to launch the charity power to fight you see knife crime in london disproportionately impacts black people i will never say or subscribe that i too that the misconception that knife crime is a solely black issue but in areas like london it disproportionately kills black and brown children yet the response from the uk church in this area of knife crime has been slow to non-existent and the same can be said with the fight for racial injustice and in the light of george floyd the time for silence is over up until George Floyd’s murder if you even whispered racism in the context of a church people wouldn’t quite know what to do while some parts of the church in the u.s have historically been voices of challenge to societal injustices impacting black people we think of the civil rights movement in the in the 1960s obviously martin luther king comes to mind the uk church has appeared to be very silent on the issue the effects of issues such as the increase in racism and hate crime particularly after brexit anti-semitism islamophobia

xenophobia extremism and immigration problems of people of colour are not often seen as pulpit worthy topics but are faced in the daily life of ethnically diverse communities so here’s some questions could this apparent lack of engagement from the local church be a clue to why some black and brown people struggle to feel at home in white majority churches can we attempt to build racially diverse churches while ignoring race and systemic racism as factors in societal issues can silence on these matters instead of promoting reconciliation actually reinforce feelings of alienation and voicelessness could traditional churches learn and adapt their social action strategies to help create a diverse and integrated congregation you see it’s very much about social justice or social welfare there is a well-known african proverb well at least i think it’s african always sounds better when you say african proverbs and we’ll go with that a well-known african proverb about a man who was walking past a river and saw a child drowning and he jumped in and saved that child the next day he was walking along the same patch and he walked past the river and he saw two children drowning and he jumped in and saved them the next day the same guy was walking and he saw three children and this time he was only able to save two the next day he saw four children and so on and so he suddenly thought to himself you know what i can’t do this on my own i need to get the rest of the village involved and before you knew it day after day more children were being found in the river and more people were beginning to help and they were saving a lot not all but they were saving a lot of them until one guy i don’t know maybe he had a degree maybe he was a wise elder or maybe she was a wise elder or a wise person in the village walked past and said i like what we’re doing but what about if we go upstream and find out who’s throwing the children in the river in the first place you see is the uk church’s approach to social action like the first half of this african proverb is their tendency for the church to put time energy and resources in the wrong places which leads to burnout firefighting and the community dissatisfied with the efforts of the church because the real societal issues are not being addressed like most black and brown men in this country i spend a lot of time in barber shops and those barbershops you tend to have lots of conversations mainly about football politics music but also religion tends to come up quite a bit and the multiple the times the many times i’ve been in these situations and the conversation tends to come with when i acknowledge that i’m a christian uh those barbershops tend to in unison ask the question why do these pastors these these leaders never engage with issues which black people are suffering from where are these church leaders who are fighting for justice and they’re here to correct oppression you see the first response in the african proverb that the idea of pulling children out of the river is what we would call social welfare the longing to save the children in the river is the correct response there’s an immediate need nobody wants to see the children suffer the children are drowning and someone needs to help there is an immediate need and an immediate response is essential this is what we see with jesus people are hungry he feeds 5 000 people immediate need an immediate response however the second response isn’t one of social welfare is one of social justice

while some people need to provide an immediate response others need to fight against the structures that are causing the issues those who are throwing them into the river in the first place the uk church has become more accustomed to the first response than the second response professor robert beckford one of the top black theologians in this country or actually just one of the top theologians in this country talks about the difference between social welfare and social justice you see social welfare serving the needs of the community practically and social justice campaigning and advocacy dismantling and addressing the structures that left the community in dire straits in the first place he says this so we’ll visit men in prison but we won’t tackle the criminal justice system how race in sentencing works against us as black people or challenging media for its persistent criminalisation of black youth i think that is short changing the community and it’s short changing the gospel you see my experience my personal experience of white-led white majority evangelical churches there’s an emphasis on personal conversion over community transformation and renewal let me say that again there’s an emphasis on personal conversion over community transformation and renewal we see this alpha pretty much every church will do alpha and i’ve got no problem with alpha because i was saved an alpha myself but when i go back into the barbershops the questions such as who is jesus what’s the holy spirit how you read the bible’s not the questions which the communities i serve are asking they’re asking about the church’s complicity in the transatlantic slave trade they’re asking why we have no church leaders stepping up and engaging with issues of racism where they’re asking questions about where’s all the money which churches get not coming into the communities which are very poor and are suffering you see traditionally white lead white majority churches will do an alpha or will do a food bank and none of that is a problem but some of the black churches i’ve worked with in the past have developed weekend and holiday programs that include culturally relevant workshops projects and retreats for inner city youth here’s a question are the different approaches in white and black churches simply down to theology is that a question is it down to theology in a series of tweets the black american pastor and academic anthony bradley claimed this that generally in the black church you learn about jesus through moses but evangelicals through paul that’s why evangelicals struggle with social issues what is he basically saying the black church look at the lion characteristics of jesus we look at what moses achieved in exodus setting his people free the justice that god served on pharaoh the lion whereas maybe in our white evangelical churches we focus very much on paul and his damascus road experience and the theology very much about the personal relationship you have with jesus it’s not either or but as bradley concludes that he says this if you are leading a diverse church the congregation needs the systematic theologies with the priorities of moses and paul which culminates in the work person of christ in other words christians are called to redeem entire cultures not just individuals if you lead a church in a diverse area this should provoke you to consider how to contextualize the gospel the church should be presenting the lion as well as the lamb of jesus this character see people who are struggling to survive day to day need to hear about the god of justice we’re in this corona

virus new world people need to hear the god of justice who will fight for them on their behalf as well as the god of grace who will provide salvation peace and reconciliation people need to see action not just words and there are examples of many examples of charities and organizations such as power to fight xlp tlg there’s plenty of them out there who are doing this type of work engaging with the real needs of the community pastor doug logan an american pastor who’s written an excellent book called on the block says this developing a biblical picture for missional engagement mission does not simply amount to a profession of theological truths in new context we cannot hope for the mere intellectual salvation of community members abstractly hoping that they will hear our speeches and come to christ instead we must enter into communities physically and emotionally we must enter into their suffering and speak the gospel into their individual broken context we cannot effectively serve broken people and bring them the gospel unless we know their brokenness we have to get close to the issue so let me leave you with these questions can the uk church do more than it’s currently doing in the area of social reform and justice in a local context when white church movements decide to plant or launch new churches in inner city contexts is there enough focus on serving and understanding the needs of the existing communities or do we have this imperialistic empire mentality that we’re just gonna land and do our own thing that’s church growth slick worship generic social action programs a cool website an overseas mission stroke church planting trump making local connections listening to the needs of local families and developing projects strike programs in partnership with the local community this co-produced co designed response instead of thinking that we know what the community needs you see jesus was active jesus walked whether it was to the temple to challenge the religious leaders or to the sea where working class manual labourers earned a living jesus went and engaged with locals to present his hope his mercy and his love jesus delivered practical help like i said feeding the 5000 but he also challenged the social and political structures that resulted in poverty and suffering he did this with king herod and zacharus the tax collector jesus walked and then people followed which is maybe a strategy for us as church leaders or engaging with church jesus walks christians walk and people will follow christians walked into people’s pain then people will follow jesus engaged with the specific needs of the community contextualised his message and renewed culture is the uk church willing to do this for racially diverse communities you see i believe that the church could be a serious serious force for societal change particularly racial societal change and racial structural change which is now more important than ever in the light of what we have seen with George Floyd’s murder in america but we are going to need to engage with and listen to the people who are suffering from racial justice for us to make a real impact i know i said i was going to leave you with some questions but let me give you some bonus ones to think about is your church equipped in understanding the societal issues disproportionately impacting black people locally or nationally do you engage with social action issues that disproportionately impact black people do you feel comfortable enough to start a conversation with one or more of your black brothers and sisters in christ to find out what societal issues matter to them now is the time the church was built for such a time as this you were built for such a time as this the world needs to see the hope of jesus christ

your communities need to see the hope of jesus christ in this moment when racial injustice has come to the forefront god always uses his people to get his message across you see that through the history of the bible here’s an opportunity the window is open show your church show your community that you care thank you very much there was so much that ben lindsey said that struck a chord for me and in particular it was his reference to jesus as being the lion that spoke to my heart not only is he the lamb that was slain for our sins but he’s the lion that roars for justice and in this moment i want us to pray that the holy spirit will create in our hearts a roar for those who experience racial injustice and that we as god’s people will stand as allies with them let’s pray now father we thank you that you are the lion who roars in power and we ask holy spirit that the lion will roar from deep within our hearts that we will be a people who stand up and speak up for those who are oppressed and those who suffer racial injustice help us lord to go away and to reflect to be good allies to repent where necessary and cause us lord to stand with those who are the last and the least in this day and in this generation in jesus name we pray amen thank you for joining us and of course ben lindsay’s book we need to talk about race is available to purchase from all good bookshops thank you you