#7: Racism with Special Guests: Kingston and Krystal Arthur, who serve at Ferguson Christian Church in Ferguson, MO

Why Ferguson, MO

One year after the shooting death of Michael Brown, Kingston and Krystal heard about a preaching position in the now infamous Ferguson, MO. Being from the area, they knew that Ferguson was more than just that one event, and, acknowledging their unique situation as an interracial couple, as well as sharing connections to the church through college professors who had served there, they felt good about the opportunity. After some time in prayer, they decided that they should pursue the position, and that’s where they ended up.

Demographics

Ferguson is 2/3 African-American and 1/3 White, however, the Church they serve at does not currently represent that demographic makeup. The events on August 2014 caused the congregation to consider if there might be a disconnect between their church and the community.  Their conclusion: the fact that church didn’t reflect the demographic of the community was strong evidence that the church was not doing and being all that it needed to do and be. So, the church is taking steps to change that, and the leadership is excited about it. In a short amount of time, the congregation has begun to reflect more of the demographic of the community.

Race & Economics

Issues in Ferguson are not strictly the result of race issues but also economic issues. A lot of low-income families are minorities. Thanks to shifting demographics, Ferguson, which used to be a predominately white, upper-middle class community, became a predominantly African-American community after Section Eight housing moved in. The churches didn’t keep up with the demographic shift, because it happened so quickly.

Empathy and Sympathy

Progressing with race relations requires empathy and sympathy. What happened with Mike Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile cannot be denied. There is a racial issue in our nation, and there is a disconnect between the white community and the black community. Honest, God-fearing, gospel believing churches are realizing that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, which hasn’t been addressed.

Before Kingston could effectively share the gospel in his community he had to understand and be sympathetic to the problem.  He said:

“I told them that that I understood that our nation was built on the backs of African-Americans and that the system that we have was not set up with them in mind. And, that has led them to a great disadvantage now. I began that way. I began by telling them I am interested in this. I want to see change. That then led into a natural segue into ‘I understand where you’re coming from. I understand the pain…’ That led into a natural segue to share the Gospel. ‘If you would receive Jesus Christ, you would be able to find peace here and now, and you would be able to find comfort in knowing that a God who knows better than we do will delve out justice as he sees fit.’ And that’s what they’re looking for: peace and justice.”

Should Churches Be Multicultural

The church should try to reflect what heaven is going to look like. Now, if you’re in a white church in a small town, and there are no minorities around it, you just Minister to community. View your church as your primary mission field. Whatever your community’s context, that thinking will reach out better to your community.

Preaching in a Cultural Context

Kingston doesn’t specifically focus on race or racial reconciliation from the pulpit:

“I focus more on preaching the gospel of Christ crucified. I believe that God through His word and through His Spirit will make the change necessary better than I ever could. I’m preaching the gospel, and I’m praying that the Lord placed people in my life from the community that I can minister to. I’m praying that the Spirit moves through His Word to change hearts, including my own and including my wife’s. I pray that all of our hearts break over what breaks the Lord’s heart, and I think the Lord’s heart is breaking over this racial issue.

It’s kind of a slow process, but, again, I just think that the Gospel is the most genuine and authentic way to change hearts. And the only real way to change hearts, and that’s what needs to happen. It needs to be hearts changing all around.”

Reaching Out

Maybe you don’t understand the race issue, but can you see that there’s an entire segment of our of our population who are brothers and sisters in Christ who are hurting? It’s enough that our communities are in obvious pain , and we should speak into that as the church. Step outside your comfort zone, and open lines of communication, because it’s very hard to sympathize or to understand someone if you don’t talk to them.

If you don’t think there’s a problem, do some research. Ask some people that you know that are black about how the shootings affected them. You’ll be shocked. Start praying for God to break your heart over what breaks His, and understand that his heart is breaking over this. Reach out to the black community in that way, to say, “Hey, I understand that this is impacting you.”

The church can make a difference and work to bring about change. Historically, Christians have been called to make a difference when they see injustice or tyranny in the world. The church has risen and said “This isn’t of God,” and Christ wants us to heal and bring about change.

Preach the Gospel and make a difference.

Sermons Recommended by Kingston & Krystal:

Photo by Reece, The Kid / CC BY

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