Transformation Church Pastor Derwin Gray has rejected the idea of “colorblindness” and instead wants churches to focus on the importance of the “race of grace” that all people should belong to.
Speaking before the Awana Child Discipleship Forum on Friday, Gray began his remarks by talking about the movie “Encanto,” noting that just as the family in the film said, “we don’t talk about Bruno.” So, oftentimes churches in the United States say, “we don’t talk about race.”
“Here’s the problem: not talking about Bruno does not make the problems of Bruno go away,” said Gray. “It’s a taboo subject because God forbid you may actually say something that’s wrong and then people clobber you.”
Gray lamented that few American Christians belong to a “true multiethnic church,” asserting that “the most divided institution in America is Jesus’ Church.”
“Not the nightclub, where they be in there dropping it like it’s hot,” he joked. “It looks like every nation, tribe and tongue. But Jesus’ Church doesn’t.”
When examining what to do about this issue, Gray told his “white brothers and sisters in love” that “I don’t want you to be colorblind, and neither does God.”
“God wants us to be color-blessed,” Gray declared. “He didn’t make a mistake giving me this cocoa-chocolatey colored skin.”
Gray stressed that “ethnic reconciliation is intrinsic to the Gospel,” pointing to the first century church, in which Jews and Gentiles gathered together for Christian fellowship.
“Grace creates a new race comprised of the multiple ethnicities within the human race,” he said. “When you spell ‘grace,’ if you knock off the ‘g,’ you have ‘race.’”
“The grace of God creates this new humanity. The early church fathers actually called the first followers of Jesus a new race, a race of the redeemed. Not Jew, not Gentile, but Jew and Gentile in Christ. Our ethnicities were not obliterated, they were celebrated. They were not erased, they were embraced.”
Gray warned those gathered that when well-meaning people say they are “colorblind,” they are “muting the beauty of God’s creation.”
Gray described what he called the race of grace by quoting Revelation 5:9-10, which reads in part that “with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
“Imagine if you and I lived this out and informed and taught our kids that everybody they see is [first] made in the Image of Christ and are worthy of dignity and love, and [second], for those who are believers, we are a kingdom of priests,” Gray said.
“How can I look down on somebody else who is the same as I am?”
Gray went on to explain that the “new race of grace is characterized by humility,” noting that “there is no ethnic superiority” and “nothing to boast about” for believers, regardless of their ethnic background.
“We got people mad because ‘The Little Mermaid’ is black,” said Gray, noting how more people in America needed to be humble. “But the same people won’t be mad that pictures of Jesus look like He from Scotland!”
Gray also said that the new race of grace is defined by the “story of the promise,” noting that when “you’re in Christ, you and I enter into this new covenant that God made.”
“How in the world can I have any form of ethnic supremacy if all of God’s children are wearing Christ?” he asked. “What if we actually began to believe that the Scriptures are true? What if we actually began to believe that the Scriptures are true so much that you no longer allow family members to make racist comments without saying anything?”
Gray’s remarks were part of the second annual Awana Child Discipleship Forum, held from Sept. 22-23 in Nashville, Tennessee, with 500 attendees.
The event featured research by the prominent faith-based polling firm The Barna Group and included speakers who discussed the future of children’s ministry in the United States.
In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, Awana CEO Matt Markins explained that he hoped attendees walk away with the knowledge that “we're standing on a burning platform” if churches “keep doing children's ministry as we've been doing it the last couple of decades.”
"We want to build a pathway to a better future. But if we don't make the decision to move in that direction, at some point the Church in the West is going to realize we're standing on a burning platform, and we've got to move toward formational or discipleship ministry with children," he said.
Barna CEO David Kinnaman was another speaker at the forum, focusing on the need for children’s ministry to shift their focus from making children “consumers” to making them “participants.”
“We're seeing in our research across a wide range of different studies that people want to be participants in the Gospel mission,” said Kinnaman in a video presentation at the forum last Thursday.
“It's not easy. People sometimes would rather hang back and just sit and soak, but I believe that God is calling us now more than ever to equip people to live lives on mission.”