The conditions for revival as we see in scripture include confession and repentance from presumptuous and wilful sins and seeking and pursuing the heart of God. Sin is an obstacle to authentic Christian living. Therefore, it is critical that it be dealt with in our personal lives and within God’s community. Many a time the church has found herself comfortable with certain sins to the extent that these become pervasive in her way of life and manifestation of the gospel message. Our brokenness has often expressed itself in how we relate with one another. Yet this is a critical aspect of our Christian living. In Mark 12:30-31, we are reminded of the fact that our love for neighbour is the second highest biblical priority after the love of God. Overt or covert racism is a direct violation of this second greatest command. However, the Church of our Lord has often missed the mark on this one as it has on several other areas of Christian practice. For example, the church got it wrong on slavery, through flawed theological, historical and social reasoning. Rosebank Union Church (RUC) needs to stand firm on the biblical truth of racial diversity – she must not conform to the cultural and political message that is ever so loud in our places of work and various social and family settings. We must diligently make an effort to do what leads to sincere peace and mutual edification across race, age and gender within our local church.

It is in this context that RUC Eldership began discussions on the state of racial diversity within our local church early in the second quarter of 2017. Later in that year the church had the “What’s Your Story” series that sought to encourage us to learn and embrace our differentness within the context of the gospel and our personal life journeys. After the series the Church Council committed to set aside a weekend (Bridge Weekend), with the help of the Heartlines Organisation, to address racial diversity at RUC. However, because of the racial composition of Council, which is largely white and male, some members of the church were requested to help enrich the discussions. These members consisted persons from RUC “minority” groups. There were 33 participants at the Bridge Weekend, 18 council members and 15 church members. The final group was fairly representative in terms of race, gender, age and stage of life, which provided a healthy balance of views, experience and opinion in the discussions.

The discussions were not easy but were necessary. The sharing of our personal stories opened our minds to how different we are in the journeys we’ve taken and how God has been working on us in our brokenness. Wounds of the past were opened. We were angry. We were defensive. We engaged with one another nonetheless. We are grateful to God that we did. We are grateful for the facilitation of Simon Lerefolo and Quinton Pretorius from Heartlines.

However, this is only the beginning of the journey towards biblical racial transformation and diversity at RUC. The leadership must develop strategies and tactics that will help RUC to live and practice the gospel vision of racial transformation and diversity. Our DNA must be transformed to reflect the gospel message in this regard. The Bridge Weekend discussions have helped RUC leadership to get moving on this journey.

Heartlines has agreed to partner with RUC on this journey. The group felt that:

  • RUC must devise a biblical theology of racial diversity.
  • RUC must develop and implement a plan for change both in the leadership and executive management structure of the church.
  • RUC must welcome the potential fear, anger and resistance to such change and support everyone to overcome these challenges.
  • RUC must ensure that the church has sound biblical goals and objectives on racial diversity and multi-culturism, preaching, worship, discipleship, ministries, leadership development, training, etc.

We are grateful to God for making it possible to embark on this endeavour. A big thank you to the membership and congregation for your prayers, thoughts and support. Let’s pray to God for help to make the change He requires of us at a deep and meaningful level. Let’s rid ourselves of the sin of racism in all its forms. Let’s dream God’s dream about the future of RUC. Let’s obey God in truthfully reconciling with each other. Let’s become the people God is calling us to be. Let’s pray that this may be a reality in His local church, during our time. In heaven we shall worship God in all our diversity, and that is, in part, God’s dream for his church:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9, 14.

by Tito Magagula