I serve as senior pastor and a major part of my call and passion is to care for the precious people tthe Lord has put me in community with. By God’s grace, I do this through preaching the word, teaching, counseling, praying with people, and praying for people. In doing the work of the ministry for over 20 years, I’ve interacted with people who were wounded and broken. I’m grateful to say I’ve witnessed the Lord’s gracious work in healing and restoring.

One of the major issues I come across constantly is the lack of affirmation. I’m not talking about empty words and hollow flattery. I’m talking about people who were raised in homes never hearing words that spoke to their God-given identity. I’m talking about people who have been a part of communities that assaulted human dignity instead of upholding it.

Lack of affirmation and the denial of dignity create deep wounds in our souls and have a profound effect on how we view God, other people, and ourselves. I don’t need anyone else’s testimony for this. I have my own. I shared a little of my journey in a Father’s Day post earlier this year.

At Home?

I’ve learned that we don’t just need community. We need community that affirms. We need community where our dignity is recognized. We need community that weeps when we weep and rejoices when we rejoice. We need community that seeks to understand and doesn’t retreat to cultural trenches when relationships are tested. We need community that will surround us in loving protection when the attacks come.

Sadly, many black sisters and brothers have not felt this kind of community in predominantly white evangelical spaces. We’ve experienced the tragic shock of sharing the same theological beliefs with brothers and sisters who have in turn questioned our salvation because we dared to grieve over the murder of unarmed black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

Our fidelity to the gospel has been publicly put on trial because we chose to stand with our immigrant neighbors. Our patriotism has been doubted because we refused to endorse a man who denigrates women and minorities. All of a sudden, many of us realized what we thought was home may not be the home we were searching for.

Go Where You’re Celebrated

That is why I am humbled and honored to join this chorus of black voices. It is my earnest prayer that The Witness would be used by the Lord to affirm and reinforce the dignity of all of those we come into contact with. I pray wounded souls would be healed and those who are discouraged would be refreshed. My pastor used say, “go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.” I loved it whenever he used that phrase. It felt so freeing. It gave me a sense of value and worth. It also let me know that I didn’t have to remain in environments where my God-given dignity was in question.

There must be spaces of fellowship where black dignity is not in question. There is a need for platforms to be constructed so that past, present, and future marginalized voices can be elevated. We choose by God’s grace to assert ourselves in the affirmative. Black culture uniquely contributes to human flourishing. Christianity is expressed richly and robustly in black spaces. This is true both historically and presently. We are not in pursuit of a needless separation but a necessary liberation from colonized discipleship masquerading as Christian practice.  

Whiteness isn’t the epitome of orthodoxy and American culture isn’t the only prism through which the light of the glorious gospel has been refracted. The United States of America isn’t the expression of God’s kingdom on earth; the Church is. Biblical life and faith are practiced in a variety of cultures. The Spirit and the Word are ushering the redeemed of every nation, tribe, ethnicity, and language into the fullness of the stature of Christ. This is what puts the manifold wisdom of God on display. God is glorified in healthy, dignity-affirming community.

Earon serves as the Lead/Teaching Pastor of Relevant Life Church in Pace, Florida. Relevant Life is a multi-ethnic, mult-igenerational church that aims to faithfully preach the gospel, grow in Christ-centered community, and lovingly engage the world. He and his wife, Carolyn, have five children. You can follow Earon on Twitter: @earonjames.