This is the fourth part of a longer conversation on the topic of race and class. Check out part 1, 2 and 3 here.
In this video, Mez McConnell, John Onwuchekwa and Sung Kim talk about the gospel deficit in our country and how the evangelical church can even the playing field for those from minority backgrounds.
Mez: We have a massive spiritual deficit in our country, millions of people in schemes, live in Scottish schemes live without a gospel church, live without a gospel witness. Now there'd be lots of 'ministry' going on by people...
John: Such as soup kitchens...
Mez: Soup kitchens, after schools clubs – lots of good ministry by the way – but no real, solid, growing, established local churches, growing indigenous leaders. So what's happened is, it's left us with a massive gap and the present theological system we have in our country is middle class, largely, run by educated people, in comparison to our people, an educated elite. Ok, and so they control the seminaries, they control the trust funds, who gets money, they control what's being produced in terms of literature, so evangelistic material, outreach material, theological books. Now, most of which, from my theological end of the spectrum, which is, you know, conservative it's brilliant, but everything being churned out and produced is not in any way, aiding, helping or doing anything to reverse the dying trend in our communities. And so, my question in a round about way is: What do we do then? Because the status quo is going: 'What's the problem?' We're saying there's a massive cultural jump here, never mind... a man going to seminary is not graduating and thinking: 'I think I'll move into a housing scheme!' He's thinking: 'I need to get a job in a big church, and be an assistant, and move up the ladder and on to bigger and better things.' And so, where does that leave us do you think? I don't know what you think Sung?
Sung: It's a good question, I want to ask you three too, because again coming from our context, what does a middle income church do, how do we posture ourselves so that, again, we have a church full of people who love the idea of justice, right? But, hey, go and live that out. One part of it is we just don't know what those proper steps are. And some of those steps, we may have good intentions but really do more harm than good. So, you know, in terms of the class discussion, here's a church that's for the most part, middle upper class: What posture do we need to take? What aren't we hearing from 'the schemes' and 'the hoods' and the towns where it's crime-ridden? What are we missing? What are we not hearing? What do we need to hear? What do we need to repent of to build that bridge, so that, again... cause it's not just previous generations, but it's even that small disadvantage that you have, even you know, growing up in let's say a single parent home, that small disadvantage as a kid, over decades, that gap grows really large, right, and so it's not just what happened 2, 3, 400 years ago, it's just you are born into a system, that small disadvantage that may seem pretty small when you're little, but as you grow older, that gap just becomes greater and greater, so that you have people who either end up on the streets, or you have people, more in our context, going for their PhDs at University of Michigan, and going on to successful careers, making 6-figure incomes, and they're like 25. And so, what do we need to hear? What do we need to learn? I mean that's a question, a genuine question for the 3 of you.
John: So I think that's a good one. I think from our standpoint, one thing that we need to do is we need to talk less and I think do more. Early on, I think, me and some of the guys that I knew, we spent so much time trying to bring an awareness or an education to those that are outside of the context in an effort to plea for help: 'Hey we really need your resources, your money, your time, your credentials.' And all of that stuff, and we spent so much time trying to get that to no avail, that we neglected the folks that were right there. And so from our standpoint, I think the first thing that we need to do is we need to talk less and do more, that we really need to take time and say: Hey, for those of us that providentially God has provided us with advantages, right? You, Mez, you came from this and God pulled you out of it, resourced you with the grace that you needed and put you back into it.` Me, I mean I came from, both my Mum and my Dad were in the house, strong Christians, believed in the Lord, raised us up. You know, I went to predominantly white high school, college, grad school, I'm getting my doctorate right now, so I've kind of been that path, and my thought has been, alright, now I'm here, where do we see the gaps, and how do we just start to fill in those gaps? Yeah, there's folks in our context that struggle with absentee fathers, like yours here, so one big thing that constantly stays on our mind, a practical way that we try to apply this, we never gloss over the term 'God is Father'. In every other context that I've grown in, you have a group of folks and you say that word 'Dad' and there's an emotional attachment, a connection, there's a schema that they have in their mind that makes them long for God, in our context, when you say the word 'Father', sometimes that doesn't take place, or it brings contempt. So we don't gloss over that term, we're trying to do our best to plumb the depths of those terms and just each step along the way we're trying to find those small ways.
Sung Kim is the lead pastor of Grace Ann Arbor Church in Michigan, USA. He's married to Amy with 2 children, Elsa and Micah.