Pete Scazzero pastored New Life Fellowship in Elmhurst, Queens for over 25 years. The church reflects the demographic diversity of Elmhurst – perhaps the most demographically diverse zip code in the country. Over the years, the church has been forced to deal with racism in unsuspected and painful ways. Here’s why, according to Scazzero, this problem is so persistent:
“1. Failure to capture Scripture’s vision of the church as a multi-racial community that transcends racial, cultural, economic and gender barriers.
The gospel is the power of God that bridges the infinite gap between humanity and God as well as the ‘dividing wall’ between races, cultures, ethnicities, social classes, and genders.
2. Measuring success primarily by numbers.
We want to grow our churches. We want it to happen quickly. The problem is that bridging racial barriers is slow and will rarely produce ‘big’ numbers.
3. Superficial discipleship.
We focus on getting people ‘over the line’ into salvation and connected. We don’t spend an equal amount of time equipping them to be deeply transformed in their interior lives. ‘Who can your child not marry?’ The answer to that question tells us a lot about how deeply the gospel has penetrated a person’s life.
4. Failure to break the power of the past.
Sins like racism are passed on from generation to generation. At New Life we like to say, ‘Jesus may live in your heart but Grandpa lives in your bones.’ Each of us – African American, Latino, White, Russian, Jew, Arab, Serbian, African, Chinese, Korean, and Pole – must take the journey of Abraham. We must decisively leave our family, our culture, and our country and learn to do life in the new family of Jesus.
5. An inadequate, biblical theology of grief and loss.
If I don’t deeply feel my own losses, how am I going to deeply enter the world of those who suffer the sting of racism? Trauma is passed from one generation to the next. We see this most powerfully in overwhelming historical events such as the Holocaust and slavery. Unresolved loss gets buried behind a curtain of silence, incubating fear and shame. Biblical grieving powerfully heals and transforms.” Pete Scazzero
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Moving From Head to Heart
- How well is the foundational principle of Galatians 3:28 being worked out in your church? If favoritism is on display, can you show others a better way?
- Are you sensitive to your own prejudices? How much does “grandpa in your bones” still affect you?
- Is your church experience transformative? Are people growing more loving, inclusive, more humble over time?
Abba, teach us a better way in the family of Jesus.
Thanks for reading. Please share! – Bill