How does a white farm boy from Bumpville, PA (yes, a real place), come to live in the black Mecca of the US and give his life to Christ’s work of racial reconciliation with a group called OneRace Movement?
Hello, OneRace family! My name is Dan Crain and I am the new Director of Groups and Mobilization. Josh and I met two years ago and he shared the vision of OneRace, OneRace Stone Mountain and the heart to address racism within the church. From that moment on, I felt a kindred spirit with Josh. This has been a deep passion of mine since I was exposed to the racial underbelly of our country and church back in seminary.
It all started back in 2006 when my wife and I were a part of a white mega-church outside of Grand Rapids, MI. The church was trying to align themselves with the “God of the oppressed” theology, as it is clear from the Scriptures that God holds a special place for those who have been marginalized. I heard a pastor from an inner-city church in Grand Rapids who was black speaking from Isaiah 58 about God’s heart for a certain kind of fasting that, “looses the chains of injustice and unties the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.”
He shared about his experience in that decade of being called, “boy” at a restaurant by a white man in Grand Rapids, MI and what it was like as a black man living in a majority white culture in America. “Boy” is a racial slur going back to the Jim Crow era. It was in that moment that I felt a deep sense of conviction from the Holy Spirit that this is what I was to give my life to: God’s heart for racial unity.
I had breakfast with that pastor and he was gracious enough to answer all of the questions I had for him as a white man who was clueless to his reality. I changed my degree in seminary to a Masters of Intercultural Ministries because my wife and I knew God was calling us into this work. Dr. Reggie Smith began to mentor me in this work as he was pastoring a church in inner-city Grand Rapids and was the adjunct professor at the seminary.
Dr. Reggie pointed me to Divided by Faith, the work of Dr. John Perkins, Christianity Development Association, and many other resources. I did a research paper on how Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility between the Jews and the Gentiles from Ephesians 2, and as I did, I fell deeply in love with a God that longs to reconcile all things in his son, Jesus Christ.
In 2008, we spent a month living in an African-American community in historic South Atlanta, interning with a non-profit that was doing community development. My wife and I fell in love with being the minorities in this context. After the month was over, we were invited to move back into that community, but at the time we weren’t ready to raise funds and fully move into a community experiencing distress, plus we felt like we had more to learn. So we moved back to Orlando.
In Orlando, we were exposed to Polis Institute’s “Dignity Serves” and the need to live out a dignified interdependent relationship with those different from us. It was through this training that Christ made it very clear as a white man coming from majority culture that I was to be a learner more than a teacher, particular in the world of racial reconciliation. The words of author Donald Miller resonated with what God was doing in my heart, “Be careful of a white guy with a masters degree, because he thinks he knows it all.”
I was so deeply impacted by the Dignity Serves training that I began to raise funds under Polis and we moved to Atlanta in May 2011, to live in historic South Atlanta, work at a small church in the neighborhood under leaders of color, and begin to connect with and share with churches the message of Dignity Serves. It was the Dignity Serves training that opened up a lot of doors for me to talk about race within majority white churches, as one of the organization’s lessons presses deeply into racial and cultural differences and how the Gospel breaks down these barriers. It was also the experience of sharing life with young black men in the neighborhood that deeply shaped the way I saw how little culture cared for their lives and how they were constantly harassed, profiled and accused simply for the color of their skin. There are too many painful stories to share now.
In 2015, I burned out from ministry and realized that was as a result of a lot of unhealed wounds in my soul, which Christ was inviting me to look into. The reality was that I was living a divided life and wasn’t facing the deep wounds of my past. The reality was that Christ was inviting me to reconcile the divided life inside of me. The result of this healing is the discipleship training, Loving Freely, which I have put together. I firmly believe that in order for us to be honest about reconciliation, we must allow this to happen in ourselves first and be honest about the ways in which culture has shaped us.
In 2018, a group of men journeyed deeply into the racial history of our country and its impact upon ourselves through Latasha Morrison’s curriculum at Be the Bridge. This training took the reality of the problem of race in our country and church from an intellectual level into my heart and soul. The journey with these men climaxed when we visited Bryan Stevenson’s work with the Equal Justice Initiative at the Memorial for Peace and Justice to honor the over 4,400 men and women lynched in our country because of white supremacy in Montgomery, AL.
Throughout all of this, I have always shared a deep passion that the church may be one in Christ and so when I had the privilege of meeting Josh in November of 2017, and he shared the vision of what OneRace was trying to call churches to, I was in. Since then, Pastor Arthur Breland of United Church and I have the honor of being the co-leaders of the OneRace network in the Southeast part of Atlanta. Last year, Arthur put together a march to commemorate the street name change from Confederate Ave. to United Ave. and we walked together with over three hundred fellow believers in a spirt of unity that was amazing. The Holy Spirit’s presence among us was palpable.
I am deeply honored to join the OneRace Movement and to work under Josh as the Director of Groups and Mobilization, as my heart and passion has always been to do this work on the street level. Conferences and marches are beautiful and good, but if we’re not pursing the new humanity in the norm of life, the structures will still be there.
It’s my heart to equip people to read the Scriptures through the lens of racial reconciliation, pray deeply about the demonic forces of racism in our city, read books written by leaders of color that dive deep into the history of our country and church, and make small, spirit-led, intentionally organic steps towards being the church God intends it to be.
Finally, people often ask me the why of this. Why do we do this? For me the answer is layered.
First, it’s God heart. It’s his heart that his body here on earth be one and we are not, as Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise documents well. This is modeled in Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and manifested in the book of Acts, where we see what happened as a result of the Gospel changing people’s hearts.
Second, God has hard wired me for diversity. I have loved seeing things from a different perspective. I have close friends of color who I have given them permission to point out my cultural blindspots of whiteness. I really value what other people teach me from the way they’ve walked with Jesus and read the Scriptures. God’s redeeming all of creation to what’s revealed in Revelation 7 as, “and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before eat throne and in from of the Lamb.” Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God wants us to live his future reality here and now.
Third, I firmly believe I am the one laying half-dead in the middle of the ditch in Luke 10, in need of Jesus. This was the point of Jesus sharing the story of the good Samaritan, pointing out the rich young ruler’s need for a savior. Being shaped by the majority culture to have all of the answers has made me aware that the more I learn, the more I don’t know, particularly around race. It’s not that I don’t have certain knowledge of the Scriptures and theology, it’s just that I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface on the deep knowledge of God when it comes to race and culture. This is why I love to consult the majority white church on these issues and help them to see their blindspots when it comes to race, culture and class.
Fourth, I am a more complete and better follow of Jesus because I’ve been mentored and impacted by people who look nothing like me. I am a firm believer that in order to live out the fullness of God’s kingdom and live the vision of Revelation 7 here and now, we must be willing to be influenced by people of other races, cultures and classes. Reading Howard Thurman’s “Jesus and the Disinherited” in Seminary shaped me in deeply profound ways.
Fifth, after being exposed to the racial history of our country and church back in 2006, as documented in the seminal book, Divided by Faith, I felt the Spirit lead me to move against the stream of racism that the church and culture swims in. This has been something we’ve committed our lives to by the grace of God.
It’s an honor to join what God is doing through OneRace Movement in order to be the fullness of all that God intends the church to be here. We hope God allows us to journey together as we seek to Own the Story, Know the Story and through the power of the gospel, Change the Story!
This time of year presents an incredible opportunity to look back and reflect on the goodness of God. OneRace has been so blessed in the past 2 years to see many believers engage in the conversation on race, culture, and the church. These conversations are crucial as it impacts the credibility and the witness of the church, which are principles of infinite value. Our mission at OneRace is to teach a city to love regardless of color, class, or culture. Our hope is that every tribe, tongue, people, and nation would express the infinite worth of Jesus. (Matthew 28: 19, Revelation 7:9) So in this glorious season of joy and thanksgiving, we want to reflect on God’s kindness toward OneRace in 2019:
With a grateful heart, we give thanks. Many of you have been a tremendous champion of the OneRace movement and our mission. It is with full hearts that we give thanks to you and to our God for your invaluable support. Further, we honor and give praise to our God. We know that He wants the church to be spotless, adorned in glory for his son Jesus at his return. We count ourselves blessed to be co-laborers with God and with each of you. Be blessed in this most amazing time of year.
The Lord has taken OneRace and the church in our city on a Journey into His heart on issues of race this year. The major themes on this Journey have centered on knowing, owning and changing the story for future generations. This is part three of a three-part blog series related to those major themes: Know the Story, Own the Story & Change the Story.
Change The Story
In the 400th year of Egyptian enslavement, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the Israelites: Moses.
In the 400th year of silence between testaments, the Lord raised up the ultimate deliverer: Jesus Christ, The Righteous. The One on whose shoulders a new government would be borne. Jesus, the progenitor of salvation. The One who brought reconciliation between God and man and made provision for brother and sister to be reconciled into one.
At this 400th year anniversary of chattel slavery entering the colonies, later to become the United States of America, we are believing for the Lord to raise up a new kind of deliverer: The Church. The Church standing on the Gospel, boldly declaring the truth therein, that God has created all people in His image and in his likeness. This means we all have inherent, equal worth. The Church rising, using her governmental authority as the ekklesia, proclaiming truth to the world. God, through his son Jesus, has provided a means for us to be reconciled to Him and to each other. It is indeed the Father’s desire for us to be one, a diverse beautiful family.
Know, Own, & Change
In Knowing the Story of our collective history, this should drive us to lament the past 400 years of racial terror. Better understanding the church’s complicity with racism and supremacy, for the believer, should start a journey of accountability and reconciliation.
Secondly, we must Own the Story. Lament should be the church’s response to Knowing the Story. This should produce contrition of heart and beg the question of individual and corporate responsibility, concluding with us on our knees in repentance.
The final piece of this journey of transformation is Changing the Story. It was the prophet Amos who exclaimed to the nation of Israel and the nations more broadly what the Lord desires, righteousness and justice:
21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Fruit-bearing Always Follows Repentance
The passage in Amos can be summed up in this simple statement: fruit-bearing always follows repentance… Thus, there Changing the Story! At the heart of the message to Change the Story are righteousness and justice. I believe the two are inextricably bound, but one, more often than not, is neglected by the church: justice.
I love what our mentor and champion, Dr. John Perkins, says about this, “Justice is any act of reconciliation that restores any part of God’s creation back to its original intent, purpose or image. When I think about justice that way, it doesn’t surprise me at all that God loves it. It includes both the acts of social justice and the restorative justice found on the cross.”
We must pursue justice. Now, before we can move forward with this idea I think we need to provide some language and background. In Amos’ context, the nation of Israel, by in large, was oppressing the poor and the righteous. They were behaving in an immoral way, such that father and son were sleeping with the same woman and bowing down to the altar of other gods. God is always displeased when our behavior misaligns with his standard for holiness, and so it was with the nation of Israel. Thus, Amos forth tells of these evils and how the Lord disapproves and how He desires for the nation to practice holiness and justice, rectifying the wrongs this community was complicit in.
Justice in Practice
This must be the same approach for us. We practice justice in multiple ways, but there are two I’d like to highlight:
Dr. John Perkins continues, “Justice is a process, and change takes time, but I believe we ought to dream big dreams and make big statements as we pursue those dreams.” Amos didn’t tell the people that God wants justice to trickle through their society. The New Living Translation uses the phrase “mighty flood of justice” to describe what God wants to see (Amos 5:24). One thing we learned in Mendenhall is that once floodwaters start rushing through a place, there’s no turning them back with human strength.”
Together, we can Change the Story. Together, we can raise the prophetic conscious of the church back to the Father’s standards. But, we must all do our part. Change is never easy and should never be pursued lightly. The road is long and the fight is great. There are many social injustices that plague society and systemic issues that must be addressed. This can seem like an insurmountable struggle, but I’d like to remind you of the words of the apostle Paul: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Together, we can change the story for generations to come.
The Lord has taken OneRace and the church in our city on a Journey into His heart on issues of race this year. The major themes on this Journey have centered on knowing, owning and changing the story for future generations. This is part two of a three-part blog series related to those major themes: know the story, own the story & change the story.
Intercession of the Righteous
In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven forgive their sin and heal their land.” This was spoken by God to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, as a promise to the people of God that in times of trial and judgment, God would show them mercy if they return to Him with all their heart. We see this in the life of Daniel, and in the intercessory prayer he makes on their behalf, however, Daniel was not the only intercessor who stood in the gap on behalf of the nation of Israel during the time of their captivity. Ezekiel the prophet, Nehemiah the builder, and Ezra the priest each played an integral role in both interceding and leading in the restoration of their nation. Each of these men, first, from the place of prayer and lament individually owned the collective sins of their people, though they themselves were righteous.
Contrition and Confession
Ezra cried out to God with deep sorrow because of the sins of the returning Israelites. In Ezra 9, he declares, “Still in my torn garment and robe, I fell to my knees with my hands outstretched to the Lord my God, and said, ‘My God, I am too ashamed and hurt to turn to you, because we’re in our iniquities over our heads. Furthermore, my God, our sins have grown as high as the heavens.’”
Nehemiah acknowledged the sins of his nation and asked for the favor of God to return and rebuild Israel, which was in ruins. Nehemiah prayed in Nehemiah 1, “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you.”
God was attentive to Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah’s prayers and restored their nation. They were following the prescribed remedy for a diseased and troubled nation that God lays out in Joel 2:12-13, “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So, rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him.”
We see the power of the intercession of these righteous servants of old when they owned the collective story of their people as their own, and we take to heart that God promises to His church the same restoration when we turn from our sins and turn toward him. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Let us pray and ask God to forgive us for our sins, and to lift us up into His presence.
The Lord has taken OneRace and the church in our city on a Journey into His heart on the issues of race this year. The major themes on this Journey have centered on knowing, owning and changing the story for future generations. This is part one of a three-part blog series related to those major themes: know the story, own the story & change the story.
This is Tragic
“As a preacher, I would certainly have to agree with this. I must admit that I have gone through those moments when I was greatly disappointed with the church and what it has done in this period of social change. We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking at Western Michigan University in 1963
This is a moment to give pause and ask ourselves, “Has much changed since this statement was made by Dr. King 56 years ago? Are we different?” I think we can agree, much has changed and there is much to be celebrated. But, is the church still the most-segregated institution? This is tragic.
It’s tragic that this oft-quoted portion of Dr. King isn’t met by the obvious question: How did the 11 o’clock hour on Sunday mornings become segregated in the first place? Or a better question, how did we get here? Whose fault is it? And why is the church still lagging in the conversation on race and culture? It is indeed tragic.
Know The Story
We need to KNOW THE STORY! Know the story of race in America. Know the story of race and the church. We need to know each other’s story.
We need to know the story of the White Lion and that when it docked on the shores of the European colonies in the U.S., it began a dark night that has yet to end.
We need to know the story of the economic implications of men owning men. We need to know the heartlessness of saying, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” to a bootless man.
We need to lean into one another and seek to understand with sincerity, HOW WE GOT HERE.
Know the Story Disclaimer
It must be said that this is not a comprehensive review of the history of America and the church. The goal herein is to provide a broad overview. To create a framework to answer the question, “How did we get here?” Additionally, this work focuses primarily on the African/African American experience, as it is the 400-year anniversary of African-slavery in the colonies/US. This is not to ignore or to make small of other ethnic experiences. We are simply using this narrative as an on-ramp for the conversation on reconciliation and racial unity, and to exemplify its necessity.
“For three transgressions of Israel,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals—
7 those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth
and turn aside the way of the afflicted;
a man and his father go in to the same girl,
so that my holy name is profaned;
8 they lay themselves down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge,
and in the house of their God, they drink
the wine of those who have been fined.”
Know the Story: 400 years of history
In late August of 1619, the manifesto of John Rolfe, most notable for his marriage to Pocahontas, stated: “20 and odd Negros” arrived on the shores of the European colonies aboard the White Lion ship. This began the terror known as the Transatlantic slave trade.
Where is the Church?
Where has the church been along this 400-year journey? Where has the church stood on issues of enslavement and dehumanization? When has the church raised her collective prophetic voice amidst the onslaught of terror? Well, friends, She has been largely silent. The church collectively has been split, rendered ineffective. Though there were several figures who were proponents of racial justice, the church buy-in-large was silent. We must know the story of the church’s complicity with racial terror.
Here is the later part of Dr. King’s statement: “Now that the mistake of the past has been made, I think that the opportunity of the future is to really go out and to transform American society, and where else is there a better place than in the institution that should serve as the moral guardian of the community. The institution that should preach brotherhood and make it a reality within its own body.”
Through the years many have asked me questions about how to approach racial topics.
Growing up biracial in the South and now raising multicultural children of my own have
given me various experiences to navigate and explore cultural topics. As a child I was
taught to believe that people were created in the image of God regardless of their skin
color, race or culture. That was my normal. As I matured, I began to see that not
everyone was comfortable with people that are different from them.
We have come very far regarding racism over the generations, but I think we can all
agree that we still have some work to do. I believe if we put an emphasis on the next
generation and teaching and living out a united stance regarding culture and race, we
will see a considerable shift in racism. Most of us learned about race from our families
and other people of influence in our lives when we were young. If we can influence the
thinking on the playground, we can shift the nation in days ahead.
So, what does this mean for Christians that are parents, leaders, and influencers of the
next generation? Here are a few practicals that might help:
1. Read the Bible: I know this sounds simple but Christians never graduate from
needing to read and understand the Scriptures. We need to understand God’s desire for
unity in the church. We can do nothing apart from Him. Understanding that unity was
God’s idea and not ours is a great starting point! The Scriptures point us towards what
He wants and then the church partners with God. We won’t know what to do without
reading His Word. Include your children in this; show them Scriptures about unity and
God’s unending love for all people. This will make great impact on them as they grow
and mature into adulthood. Give kids a Biblical view on culture and it will follow them
2. Pray: The church needs to pray. Again, this seems elementary but we complicate
some things unnecessarily. All throughout Scripture, we see men and women of God
pray for future generations. When we pray now, we are praying not only for our sons
and daughters but also for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s generation. I
pray that my kids and grandkids can’t really comprehend what racism is. That they
would live in a nation where it is a thing of the past and that the church will be leading
the way in that reality. Prayer can simply be asking for God’s help. Again, no need to
complicate this. We need the Holy Spirit to help and empower us to walk in humility and
love people of different cultures. Invite your children to pray with you for your family, for
themselves and for others specifically related to race and learning to love who God is.
3. Cultivate relationship: Relationship is essential to community. Take stock of your life
and the people in it. Ask the Lord if you are truly reaching out to those that are different
from you. Most of us don’t, simply because it can feel awkward and because it feels
safer to be around those that are like us. If we want to see racism end, we simply
have to start being ok with being uncomfortable. Reach out, ask someone to coffee or dinner, have a play date, and be intentional about building friendships with those from
different cultures. The next generation needs our leadership in this. As young ones see
adults reaching out, they will follow suit. Multicultural friendships, churches,
neighborhoods, and families will be the normal.
4. Celebrate cultural diversity: It is possible for the church to be one and still be unique
in our makeup. God is a Creator and a Designer. He made different colors, foods,
smells, languages, music, etc., for us to enjoy. I like to encourage friends and family to
learn about other cultures and begin incorporating different things into their home,
schools, and churches alongside their children. Making a new dish to serve at dinner,
having multicultural books in your children’s ministry and at home to read, including
different cultures on your leadership and worship teams are all ways to help the next
generation not only normalize but celebrate God’s design of different colors and
cultures. When we do this, we learn to love and we become a part of one another,
ultimately leading us into unity.
5. Stand up for justice: Racism is unbiblical and not from the heart of God.
Unfortunately, it is still alive today. The young generation needs to see us championing
God’s ways. This is how we correct and instruct a generation. There will be times that
we must raise our voice on behalf of those that are being oppressed. We need to teach
our kids to not just look away when someone is being treated wrongly but to stand up
for justice in whatever way God is asking us to.
Leading the next generation in humility and righteousness is no easy task. Many feel
overwhelmed by the idea of racism and don’t know how to change things. There is
much you can do: look at your sphere of influence, your family, read your Bible, pray,
cultivate relationships, celebrate God’s design of diversity, and stand up for justice.
These small steps are shifting and changing things in the next generation that will help
end racism for good so we can be the unified church that Jesus prayed for.