It may have been 2006? The church was a boxy whiteboard structure. Our friends who invited us were former Wycliffe Bible Translators in Africa. The church was all black and our friends were the clear minority. We were introduced to the enthusiastic congregation, and I was announced as a prophet with a word for the church that would be shared later.
I didn’t quite know what to do with that so I began praying furiously while seated back in the safety of my pew. Did God have anything to say through me as a 4th generation white missionary to SE Asia for a black church in Jackson, Tennessee?
I sat there wondering if God would say anything and then it fell into my head like rain out of blue sky. I saw that “really encouraging” prophetic moment when God told Abraham that his descendants would suffer in bondage under Egypt for 400 years. I could see a parallel to this in the African American community of America which suffered 400 some years too. What was amazing to me though, was to see how God can spend 400 years forming a heart of justice in a people. Moses referred to it often throughout the Deuteronomical law.
“You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this” (Deuteronomy 24:17–18).
The historical flow goes like this. God formed something in the clay of a people over 400 years along the banks of the Nile. Its shape emerges as Israel clears the evil Nephilim from Canaan and brings a culture that begins to practice shalom. Shalom from the biblical law perspective: you were slaves so remember the three classes of vulnerable people (widows, orphans, aliens).
Later the kings wrote poetic songs and sagely spoke proverbs about justice: “For he [God] delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper” (Psalms 72:12). The Jews were reminded of this during their exiles and their prophets oracles became more theologically eloquent regarding the purpose justice, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
Finally, when Jesus came, he proclaimed his mission to fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s oracle, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives…” (Luke 4:18). He stepped fully into this task, as the greatest man ever to have walked on planet earth, by embracing the shame of a criminal’s cross to break every power that creates human divides.
God allowed the terrible work of injustice to place a beautiful seed of leadership in the African American community. The next great spiritual movement in America should come from the black community. They are a perfect clay for a Master Sculptor. Apply the concept of epigenetic memory to the hundreds of generations of Jews since Abraham, and consider the unique contribution they now give to the world in so many spheres. For thousands of years they mentored their generations in the justice of the law, and it imprinted something amazing on their genetic code.
But that good future was birthed in a demonic hell hole of slavery to the superpower of the day.
The African American people put in their 400 years in this same demonic fire. Much of it because of the buying power of a broader white community including many folks in a complicit white church. There has been something forged deep in their souls regarding justice that most of us won’t ever understand. But what our world needs now is the beauty of this community to emerge.
As I stood before the black church that day, I shared what I felt God had to say regarding their future as powerful leaders of justice in America, they looked at me both joyfully and doubtfully. The black community have faced the giants in our land. Call it what you want. White power, segregation, racism, unequal opportunity, government systems of law and aid designed to disempower and oppress are all real giants.
I believe today there are amazing leaders with God’s heart of kind justice among this community who are giant slayers. People who can rise above the oppression and call us to a higher place of loving like our Father does. Loving enemies. Contending for the fatherless. Fighting for the single moms.
I’m looking for these emerging black leaders who have the Father’s heart. We need to find ways to serve them and get behind them in these critical days for justice to manifest.
When you serve as a missionary, the best thing you can do is step out of the way as local leaders emerge. They won’t do thing like you do, their culture may even be annoying or offensive to you around the edges, but you have to let them be the builders and shapers.
Are you willing to get out of the way so that the people God has his hand on can emerge in this season? They may not handle their money like you do. They may think about tradition and relationships differently than you.
Are you willing to pay the price to let God’s kingdom be expressed in our land? It may cost us dearly but it will also bring a beautiful reward.
The best things God offers us require strong faith. Faith is what pleases God because the outcome of faith is heavenly. Do you believe some of our most potent and necessary leaders are ready to emerge from the black community today? Will you fight for this?