JULY 9, 2016 (Original Publishing Date)
I’ve received so many inquiries from white pastor friends concerning how they should speak to their mono-ethnic churches tomorrow and onward in light of recent events. Sorry to post another long message but I want to share some quick thoughts publicly;
White pastor, You must teach your people about the reality of white privilege. They must understand it. A white Christian’s failure to not understand white privilege is not simply a social issue but a missiological one. The problem with the term “whites privilege” in how it is typically communicated is that if explained incorrectly it conjures up white guilt. It leaves whites (who seek unity with their black brethren) feeling the same way blacks do in regards to their skin color. “I didn’t ask for this, why was I born with something that alienates me from others?” This is not how white Christians should understand “white privilege” at all!
White Privilege, for the Christian, is a providential benefit of God that when properly stewarded allows for white Christians to stand uniquely and promote social justice and ethnic reconciliation in a way that others can’t within a prejudicial society.
Please, take a second to read that definition again. If this definition is rightly understood, than the missional impact that can occur when white’s properly understand this, is massive. In God’s providence, he has chosen to give a certain group of people within the church (the majority group) privilege within society. The fundamental question is how will the privilege be stewarded? Will it be used for self-advancement or Kingdom advancement? Pastor, your people, need to understand that trying to argue against white privilege is like Paul arguing against the privilege of Roman Citizenship. He never did! He embraced it, used it, and advanced the Gospel with it. Similarly, when white Christians come to understand that white privilege is not something they need to deny but rather embrace and steward, they become chief ambassadors against racial strife and greater ministers of reconciliation.
Think of it this way, because I am black; the moment I mention race I am labeled divisive and an agitator. If I speak out against injustice, it is assumed that I have a chip on my shoulder that I need to get over. However, when someone who belongs to the majority culture speaks, one who has the privilege of no preconceived negative assumptions, they are listened to. Yes, they may still be rejected, but they have access to a hearing that I do not do to prejudicial presuppositions. This is what white Churches need to understand; it is the same principle that many came to understand during the Civil Rights Movement. For God to give you privilege within society to speak and pursue reconciliation and not do it is poor stewardship. White Christians should feel obligated to go, stand, and speak on behalf of the oppressed. They have a greater responsibility of doing so because they have been provided a unique voice that allows their words to be heard louder. It is the height of lovelessness to withdraw from the battle and let those with weaker armor and less effective weapons to march on the front lines. Furthermore, whites must be careful that they do not become the judge of oppression. White Christians have not been called to investigate statistics but to love their brethren and advance God’s kingdom in Love. Pastor, you must encourage your people to count the cost alongside those who have already endured it and to know if suffering comes, it is a suffering that has long been felt by their brothers and sisters who have been fighting the battle alone. Call your churches to stand united in love alongside their black & brown brothers and sisters. Pastor, you must lead in these things by example. You above anyone else must not be a man who stands on the sidelines. You need brothers and pastors of color as partners in ministry. Not just privately but publicly. You cannot expect your congregation to develop friendships with minorities if you have friendships with them only in secret. Furthermore, if you have relationships with minority pastors and yet none of ever shared your pulpit, your people will also seek only to have relationships with minorities which they consider to be “safe.”
You can follow me on Twitter @KyleJamesHoward. Also, check out my podcast “Coram Deo Podcast” which focuses on issues concerning Biblical Counseling and Practical Theology. You can search for podcast on any major podcast catcher, listen on the web here, follow updates @CoramDeoPodcast, or just click the artwork below.
Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a Christian counselor. He is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his associate degree in biblical/theological studies and a bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. He currently lives in Atlanta & is finishing an advanced M. Divinity in Historical Theology and ultimately desires to pastor.