Racial Unity and Reconciliation in the Church

Our Fellowship MLK50 group together at the conference
Our Fellowship MLK50 group together at the conference

Recently, a group of us from Fellowship traveled to Memphis to attend the MLK50 Conference, led by the Gospel Coalition. This conference focused on the topic of racial unity and reconciliation in the church, in light of the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in Memphis.

Personally, I found it encouraging to see a fairly diverse crowd of people in attendance; it wasn’t just mostly white people. There were a good number of African-American speakers, which made it meaningful to hear from different perspectives. It was cool to see, in between our sessions, people representing a blend of races all chatting together—a reminder of what heaven will be like for us one day.

The 50th Anniversary remembrance of MLK's death at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis
The 50th Anniversary remembrance of MLK's death at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis

This topic is complex, divisive, and does not have any quick-fixes or easy answers. There is still much work to be done in this area, even 50 years after MLK’s death. However, there is hope and the pursuit of unity and reconciliation is worth it. I can’t pretend to have all the answers or be an expert. I still have much to learn myself and there were things I needed to hear from this conference that I need to work on too. Here are some big takeaways from the conference that I want to share that could be helpful in considering how you fit this topic into your own life:

The value of developing relationships with people who are different than you

Everything starts with this. It’s important to be intentional in getting to know someone who looks different than you and who has different perspectives than you (maybe even ones that you don’t agree with!). Put yourselves into situations where you can make friends with people of other races. Everyone needs to do this, regardless of your race. Invite these friends over to your house for a meal. We cannot be around the same races all the time and expect our communities to change.

Listening and learning from people of other races

Seek to listen to and learn from the perspectives of those of a different race than you. What is it like to walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak? What are their views on the issues of the day, and why do they have these views? How are their lives different than yours because of their race? Due to my race, there are things that I simply cannot understand on my own, which isn’t my fault, but just requires me to be intentional in seeking different perspectives to learn and understand.

Unity and justice are gospel issues

It’s important for us as followers of Jesus to care about and be informed of injustices we see in our world. We need to be open to talking about these things together. As a church, we need to pray for unity and strategize how to overcome divisions that separate us as churches. The church should be known for its reputation of love for its diverse neighbors. Churches make more impact in the community when they work together.

Time and love are important

If you would like to dig deeper into this, all of the sessions from this conference have been posted online, and you can watch or listen to all the content for free on The Gospel Coalition website.

To start, I’d recommend listening to Matt Chandler’s talk entitled “A House Divided Cannot Stand: Understanding and Overcoming the Inconsistencies in White Evangelicals on Racial Issues“. There are many other great options, including talks by Charlie Dates, Russell Moore, and Eric Mason.

This may be a topic you have strong views on or something you don’t think about much. Depending on what part of town you live in, it may be a challenge to get to know people who are different than you. However, I want to encourage you to make time for doing your part as a follower of Jesus to pursue racial unity and reconciliation in your own life. It starts with each of us. As we pursue this, we can ask ourselves these things:

  • Why do I care?
  • Has my caring turned into action?
  • Do I care enough to actually sacrifice something?

If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few of our local partners that can provide you the opportunity to get to know someone who is different than you:

  • Barefoot Republic Camp
  • El Shaddai Christian Church
  • Franktown Open Hearts
  • Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church
  • New Hope Academy
  • Preston Taylor Ministries
  • Siloam Health

You can learn more about each of these on our local outreach webpage. Feel free to email me, Bobby Shriver ( ) if you have any questions, thoughts, or ideas around this topic.