A wonderful foretaste of Revelation 5
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
A review of John Root's Building Multi-racial churches, LT 2020.
Yesterday Lewis Hamilton became the most successful racer in Formula One. He has not only broken a myriad of F1 records this year but is using his unique platform as the only black driver in his sport to help keep the concerns of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement to the forefront of global awareness. Since the death of George Floyd earlier in this monumental COVID year, this movement has highlighted some of the great issues in racial injustice that still exist in modern western society and indeed across the world.
What has this to do, you may ask, with the Church of Jesus Christ, the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth? For Christianity is a religion founded in the Middle East by a saviour who is about as far away from the image of a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) as can be imagined. The first church where followers of the Way of Jesus were called Christians had a diverse leadership with folk from different nationalities, races & backgrounds (Acts 13.1-2). And apparently today the ‘average’ Anglican is a 40 year old Nigerian woman!
So why does the BLM movement still provide challenges to the church in England in 2020? Why has the Latimer Trust just republished a book that was written over 25 years ago called ‘Building Multi-Racial Churches’ (BMRC), without significantly changing any of its content? Well the simple answer is that BMRC is still extraordinarily relevant to us today. Each of its three parts is very helpful.
The first called ‘Forming Convictions’ is basically a biblical theology of race. It underlies the importance of all people having inherent value because they were created in God’s image. It highlights how the fall distorted ‘cultures’ produced by humans which are ‘transient, incomplete and conflicting’. It shows how Christ came to redeem all people and that Pentecost transcended the divisions of Babel bringing ‘people back together into a Spirit-given unity’. The multi-racial make up of the early church is emphasised in Acts, unity in the gospel in the Epistles and profound togetherness in mission and worship in Revelation.
The second section ‘Overcoming Obstacles’ is very practical in the application of the biblical gospel to our churches today and here Root speaks from practical experience of many decades in ministering multi-ethnic London and his cross-cultural marriage to Sheila. He looks at the ‘Symptoms of Racism’; sheer racism, not welcoming people, a refusal to change, not recognising different gifts or accepting non-white leadership. But he then gives concrete ideas of how to overcome racism and shows how this can require hard work before we get to the place where ‘finding the ministry of black [& other races] enriching, working in a team together, learning and contributing, all create an atmosphere of mutuality where racism is exposed as a joyless waste of all that we have to receive and give’.
The last section ‘Going Forward’ is the one where I had the most comments scribbled in the margin with idea of things that could be useful for our rapidly changing urban area on the edge of Essex. The pages on ‘Developing Leadership’ were particularly thought provoking and encouraging.
The only think I vehemently disagree with the author on, is in his adherence to Liverpool Football Club! Interestingly enough, despite being a multiple division one champion in the 80s, Liverpool had not made any headway in winning the top title since this book was first published. However this year they finally made their break through and won the premiership. In the same way we hope for a significant new break through in the area of racial justice within British society, with the church leading the way. If that is to be the case this book would be a valuable resource to help our churches become a wonderful foretaste of Revelation 5. Where people from every tribe and language and people and nation, who have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb, will eternally sing the praises of our God in total harmony.