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10 conversation starters to promote unity

Feb. 16, 2016 | by Parnell Lovelace, Jr.

Earlier this month, I was asked to share at a large worship conference for young adults from all over the country. The event focused on racial reconciliation and building relationships within the body of Christ. I was encouraged by the boldness of the conference organizer in tackling such a subject on a national platform. I was further intrigued by his willingness to explore his own struggles in understanding the brokenness that so often divides the church, as well as opportunities to heal racial division.

One day, I observed that the young lady leading the morning worship time was African American. Later, the conference host shared that he was sad to admit that the conference team had never had an African American lead a worship song during one of their national conferences. It became clear to us both that if the church is to minister effectively to an increasingly diversified, polarized nation, it will require authentic and deliberate conversations that are uncomfortable even for spiritually mature believers. 

Here are ten suggestions that offer hope to beginning these conversations:

1. We must all be willing to admit that there is indeed a problem. To merely state “I am not a racist” does not dismiss the reality that racism is present throughout our culture and is often present in the church of Jesus Christ.

2. We must acknowledge that tolerance is not the goal, but rather acceptance of diversity.

3. We must observe that racism is a black, white, red, yellow, and brown challenge in our nation.

4. We must concede that the disparity of health and wealth is directly correlated to the racial divide found within our communities.

5. We must be intentional about building relationships with people that are not like us.

6. We must encourage and model fellowship through joint worship services, meals, and community outreach collaborations (e.g. adopt a neighborhood, school tutorial programs, homeless outreach).

7. We must secure opportunities to demonstrate the “one-church, many styles…” ideal through social and local media.

8. We must evaluate and effectively replicate every opportunity and initiative that brings diverse people together.

9. We pastors must lead the charge in walking the bridge while it is being built. Pastors must seek to develop personal friendships that model reconciliation.

10. We must be Spirit-filled, Spirit-formed, and Spirit-led in every attempt to strengthen the bonds of unity.

The aforementioned principles, when courageously lived out by radically loving and Christ-honoring people, will present a multifaceted expression of faith that reflects wholeness, growth, and prophetic purpose.  It is through such ties that the city will be blessed.

Parnell Lovelace, Jr.

Parnell M. Lovelace, Jr., D.Min., is the founding pastor of the Center of Praise Ministries of Sacramento, California. He served as its senior pastor for 25 years, prior to leading the healthy and thriving congregation in a planned succession. 

His educational experience includes: an Associate in Arts Degree, American River College; Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and a Master of Arts in Practical Theology, Oral Roberts University; and Doctor of Ministry, Talbot School of Theology (Biola University). 

He has been the recipient of various awards, commendations, and recognitions such as the Prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers and Collegium Scholarsat Morehouse College.

He serves as CEO and lead consultant with the Lovelace Leadership Connection, Inc. He is a certified church consultant with the Society for Church Consulting and the author of the book, Set itUp: Planning a Healthy Pastoral Transition.


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