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For many young Christians, the goal of a diverse local church seems like a given: What socially conscious millennial believer wouldn’t want to worship alongside people of every color, country, and culture under heaven—right?
For Tyler Burns, growing up as a pastor’s son in a multi-ethnic congregation was a blessing—but it also came with an unexpected hitch: For a long time, he couldn’t fully embrace the black church tradition into which he was born. The idea that the gospel could, much less should, be articulated to the African American experience in a particular way took root slowly.
Today, though, Burns says he’s “all about” serving black young people and appreciating the black church tradition that’s come before him. It’s what motivates his work as a pastor at Pensacola’s New Dimensions Christian Center, and as the host of the Pass the Mic and Chasing Justice podcasts.
On why we need black churches: “Being black in America requires a place to safely process our identity in Christ and in this black body and skin without having to compensate or explain.”
On admiring his parents: “They are such wild, crazy, reckless servants. I saw them serve—do the service, run it, preach, and then break it all down, go hang with the people, disciple them, counsel…and we’d go home flat worn out, exhausted. But it was normal, because they gave their lives so freely.”
On the burden of “keeping up” with culture: “These conversations in the space of racial justice are so complex, and they continue and shift at a clip that is so quick and rapid. Sometimes I feel a struggle to keep up—and a struggle not to want to keep up.”
On learning to love the church: “The church is too beautiful to fight.”