In an increasingly divided society, Bishop T.D. Jakes has warned that “tribalism” permeates even the Church of Jesus Christ and is causing it to become “deaf” to the plight of those beyond its four walls.
“I think the first thing we need to do is go on an expedition and go beyond the borders of the safety of our sanctuaries and finally fulfill the Matthew 28:19 commission to go into all the world,” Jakes, leader of The Potter's House megachurch based in Dallas, Texas, said on “The Edifi Podcast With Billy Hallowell.”
“But before we teach them, let's listen. Because I think there's a huge disconnect between the sanctuary and the solar orbit that it encircles. And that difference makes a difference in how we approach the Great Commission.”
Jakes, who recently released his latest book Don’t Drop the Mic: The Power of Words Can Change the World, lamented the “tribalism” he said is prevalent both in Christian and non-Christian circles.
Tribalism is defined as a “strong loyalty to one’s own tribe, party, or group.”
He said people are “supported even by cookies on the phone and everything else to stay in your tribe.”
“Tribalism always leads to war. Always,” the 63-year-old stressed. “You have to break down the wall and not build walls between us, but draw circles around us and begin to talk. … I’m talking about actually becoming friends with people. It's hard to hate somebody you understand.”
Drawing from the example of Jesus and other biblical heroes, Jakes stressed the importance of empathy and “listening.” He warned that “if you speak fluently and lose your hearing, your speech will deteriorate down to the level of your hearing.”
“I think that the Church has become deaf,” he said. “And in so doing, we're so busy teaching and talking. And we have our lines down pat and our talking points down, [but] we're not listening.”
“And we have to be listening. We're suffering as a country because we have a Congress, and leadership, and a society that doesn't seem to listen,” he added. “They're so busy fighting between the right and the left, that they can't hear the people they represent. It seems not to matter what the people think anymore.”
The New York Times bestselling author emphasized that change doesn’t come from “people on TV,” but from average people learning to understand one another.
“This is our country, not elected officials, not famous people, not rich people. This is our country,” he declared. “And if we want change, change has to start in our lives rather than becoming angry at what they are doing. It's up to us to make it a better world. … The mic is in your hands. Let your voice be heard. But listen to other people as well.”
Jakes is not the only evangelical leader to warn of the dangers of tribalism within the Body of Christ.
In January, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore warned that the crimes being perpetrated against religious minorities in China and elsewhere rely on “tribalism” and invisibility “where the rest of the world doesn't pay attention.”
“The way of Jesus Christ says that we pay attention to our neighbor on the side of the road who is persecuted, who is being beaten,” he said. “So let's pray for … persecuted peoples. Let's pray not just individually, but together, and pray for them by name.”
“Let's be the people who stand up for whoever is being made invisible, whoever is being intimidated and bullied in our own neighborhoods and in our own communities because we're the people of Jesus Christ.”