In recent years, racial tensions have torn at the fabric of this nation. From city streets to university campuses, an atmosphere of simmering resentment reminds us that we don’t live in a post-racial society. The reality of this is even evident in many of the churches in which we worship.
This became apparent to me personally during my first year as lead pastor of (then) First Christian Assembly of God. It was April 2001, and Cincinnati was burning. The unrest started when police killed an unarmed teenager of color. The city was slow to respond, and the anger spilled into the streets. The local government instituted a 6 p.m. curfew for several days to restore order.
God had been working in my heart for years that our church needed a big change. We worshiped at the geographic heart of our city, just one mile from the fires and breaking glass during that week of unrest. Yet the congregation was a homogeneous 98 percent white commuter church.
Not only was there a demographic dissonance for me, there was a biblical dissonance. Hadn’t Jesus died to create “one new humanity” through the power of the Cross (Ephesians 2:15)? Couldn’t a reconciling Church be the missing component in our nation’s racial strife? Was the racially segregated church unwittingly contributing to the problem? Even worse, were we as the American Church actually devoid of the most compelling evidence that the gospel is true (John 17:20–23)? These questions caused a wrestling in me that led to a major transformation for our church. Those changes didn’t come easily, and there were a lot of things to learn along the way to becoming Peoples Church Cincinnati.
Today, our congregation is rich in stories and testimonies of racial reconciliation. Allow me to share a snapshot of what we’ve experienced.
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(taken with permission)