Throughout the Fall of 2011 I was in the midst of networking in preparation for the planting of The Embassy Church. During this process a pastor in my city invited me to a gathering that featured his mentor, a professor of Missiology at a large denominational seminary, as the keynote speaker. When we were done he asked that I meet with the professor and share insights regarding the church that we were about to plant. I had the obligatory stump speech that allowed me to walk people through our mission in an expeditious manner, but he did not allow me to finish. When I exposited one of our distinctives, “Diversity and Integration,” the professor stopped me and said, “That will never work. You are African American. And I bet you preach in a black style. Black preaching will appeal to African Americans. That should be your target audience.” I explained that my neighborhood is diversifying due to gentrification. The black, white, and brown populations are almost evenly represented in the community. He replied, “That’s irrelevant. If you target everyone, then you are targeting no one. You should set out to plant a black Church.” I asked, “If the church does not integrate, then how will we effectively address divisions among us. In the absence of dialogue between eternal family members, we will never effectively represent the Kingdom that John depicts in Revelation 7:9.” He replied, “First, the divisions among us are overstated. The rift between black and white has diminished. Second, the church will be perfectly integrated in eternity. You should focus on getting people into heaven where God will be the integrator.”
In the aftermath of Ferguson, the words of the professor came to mind. The rift is diminished? Really?! The present divide, which carefully traces along racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and even Christian theological lines, would seem to undermine the veracity of his opinion. In response to the same news we have camps rejoicing, while others battle irrepressible heartache. If a nation can be divided in such a precise and extreme manner, it seems that the Church, the ordained embassy of the Kingdom, should remove its self-imposed blinders and display a sincere belief in the Master’s model prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If Matthew 6:10 is a mantra, is it appropriate for the Church to be so longsighted as to fixate on “getting people into heaven…”? If they are present citizens of the Kingdom, why would we wait before calling them up to Kingdom living?
What is the complication? We are inherently myopic and too arrogant to see the value of engaging anyone from a different perspective. Why? Because, we recognize “Truth” as cold and objective. In fact, we boast in our capacity to accept its objectivity without flinching. Consequently, we only wish to know the details of an encounter between a police officer and a teenaged boy on a Ferguson street. We contend that we need only assess this encounter in a vacuum and let the chips fall where they may. It is not uncommon for majority culture pundits to assert that any protests and angry retaliation among minorities is a display of foolishness, racial bias, and denial. I wish it were that simple, but it is not! Like all moments, the encounter between the officer and the teen was the momentary culmination of history. Ideas and sentiments predated the moment as they were derived from previous experiences and opinions. Not everyone in Ferguson experienced history through the same eyes. While truth is objective, the manner in which humanity assesses it is not.
I am male, black, and large. I am always among the most obvious people in a room. Recognizing this, my father and uncle sat me down and taught me “the rules” when I was a preteen. They said, “Boy, you are male, black, and large. One of those gets everyone’s attention, two make you a suspect, but all three of them make you a dangerous suspect. You need to know the rules of getting home safely.” As a twelve year old I deemed myself all-knowing, so I did not need their advice. Their concern seemed extreme and unnecessary. After I communicated this to them my father said, “Keep living, you’ll learn.” He was right. When I was fourteen-years-old I watched four police officers beat a man for ten minutes only to release him after they realized he was not guilty of the suspected crime. They did this knowing that they were acting in the presence of at least eight witnesses. When they drove away he walked over to us and, in my youthful fury, I said, “We should do something!” He laughed and said, “Who are you going to call?! The police?!” At seventeen years old, while three friends and I were on our way to a party hosted by the marching band, I was pulled over by a Dallas police officer. He approached the vehicle with his flashlight in hand and never said a word. After he silently shined his light throughout my 1987 Plymouth Voyager, he turned and walked away. We asked why he stopped us and he said, “You looked like you were up to no good.” We were seat belt wearing, speed limit observing, college bound high school seniors on our way to a party that was sponsored by the MARCHING BAND! When I returned home I rehearsed the encounter for my father and he asked, “Did you observe the rules?” When I answered “yes” he replied, “Keep living.” My white brothers who flippantly disregard the idea of white privilege are able to do so because they have not experienced moments of this sort more than fifteen times in thirty-nine years. I have never been arrested, but on several occasions I have had to prove that I am not a criminal. This reality has fashioned me. I see and approach life in a manner that is wholly distinct from my white brothers. I am far more careful than they will ever be. I have “the rules.” This did not happen in one moment. My present moment is the temporary culmination of history. I see the moment through eyes that were birthed from that history. The most arrogant thing you can do is tell me that my observations are invalid without first communing with me to gain an appreciation of my eye’s perspective. We should treat Ferguson as an opportunity to hear rational people express their heartache. An eighteen-year-old boy is dead. How could we dare go on without pausing to gain understanding? It’s okay to listen; you do not have to always be heard.
With the above in mind, I appeal to those of the majority culture to appreciate an often-overlooked point. The present discontent among minorities is not due to a single moment in Ferguson and by no means is it the result of rational human beings ignoring the objective nature of truth. Instead, may I suggest that we are presently experiencing the lit kindling that is our history. It is not an event; it is a series of events. And those who do not have eyes that assess the series from the perspective of another would be unwise to oversimplify the circumstances and critique the outrage. And I would contend that we arrived at this moment because we agree with the advice of the professor of Missiology. We are content to remain segregated for now because Jesus will clean up the mess later. But what if Christ’s death was devised to address it now? His death not only reconciles us to him; it reconciles us to one another! (Eph. 2:1-22) He values the integration of his Church so much that he died to purchase it! It is this community that initiates the discourse. It is here where we gain an appreciation of history through the eyes of others. It is here where sincere and humble dialogue preempts racial riots instead of reacting to them. The professor is wrong! While his evangelistic sentiments are well intended, he has truncated the Gospel. Jesus did not die so we could merely go to heaven. He died so that all that is broken could be made whole. That is the comprehensive Gospel. The professor is wrong, and the Gospel accuses him. Ferguson is the result of the Church replicating his error. It is time for us to course correct. Otherwise, the present circumstances will be our norm.
Praying for unity – Grieving until it comes,
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world
 Experience has proven him wrong. In spite of my “black preaching,” The Embassy Church is more than 60% white!  For example, when you are pulled over you always keep your hands in plain sight, only answer the question you are asked, turn the lights on in the vehicle, don’t reach for anything without first announcing it, do not make any jokes, no more than 4 people in the car, etc.