Photo By <a href=“[](”>Riccardo Fissore</a>

Today, I sat in on a meeting where the main topic of discussion was “racial reconciliation.” We were all pastors and all but one of us were white and male. The lone exception was a black woman. She is someone that I count as a friend and I think the feeling is mutual.

Our conversation was started because there was a community worship service that was poorly attended by white congregations. My congregation didn’t attend. I didn’t even share it with my congregation. It just didn’t fit into the calendar or the mission. Nevertheless, this was the reason we began discussing “racial reconciliation.”

People were sharing their great wealth of knowledge behind why there is a racial divide here. It was decided, with a great chorus of “Mmhmmms” that there is a “spirit” oppressing our area. It was also decided that we need a prayer program to try to fix the situation.

I don’t know if I said more than two words. As the conversation progressed I became sadder and sadder. I saw my friend’s countenance, she was becoming sadder and sadder too. Maybe I was projecting, I don’t know for sure. The people around the table are well intention-ed and they are good people. They are very serious about wanting to see things change in our city.

Over the years from talking with friends who are helping me understand more about what it means to be a black person in our area I am consistently being reminded of a couple of things. First, change comes through relationships being built it doesn’t come through programs. Second, if we want to follow a biblical model of reconciliation it means that the majority culture person needs to take the first step.

Prayer meetings are wonderful. Workshops and facilitated conversations can be very helpful. Sometimes, you need a program to break the ice.

However, if we want change then us pastors need to lead by building friendships across the racial and geographic barriers that exist in our city. We don’t need to create programming for our people. We need to model for them the relationships that we expect them to have. We must step out into the racial void show our congregations how to have friendships.

Breaking down racial divides is as easy as building new friendships. It’s entering into a relationship to learn and listen and love. Building new relationships, especially outside of one’s racial group, is really hard. It’s hard because we are afraid. We are afraid of rejection. We are afraid that we will be confronted with things that we don’t like about ourselves. We are afraid because it forces us out of our echo chamber. We are afraid because so many of us have created an image in our of “the other.”

We can mask the fear in a one off program. We can hide behind a podium. We can cover it up in fancy religious language and passionate prayers. But, if we walk through the door and haven’t begun a new relationship that endures in the gaps of our lives, we have done nothing.

It’s not that hard. It’s exactly that hard.

About the Author
Daniel Rose is a husband, dad, and pastor of The Antioch Movement in Ypsilanti, MI. He writes at The Subversive Journey and you can can connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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It’s Not That Hard. It’s Exactly That Hard. was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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