EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Hubbard, lead pastor of Genesis Church, Eureka, is a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Racial Reconciliation Task Force.
“And He (Jesus) had to pass through Samaria.” – John 4:4
These word are shocking. At the time of the New Testament, the racial hatred between Jews and Samaritans was significant, so much so that no good Jew would have a conversation Samaritans, much less travel to their territory. Yet Jesus intentionally traveled to Sychar, bringing the disciples with him, resulting in the conversation we know as the Woman at the Well. The result of Jesus purposefully crossing ethnic and cultural boundaries includes the conversion of “many Samaritans” in John 4, but it also prepared the disciples for their future ministry which would again take them to Samaria in Acts. In both cases the mission of the gospel compelled them to cross barriers to form relationships and spread the gospel.
In the past couple months I have had the opportunity to participate in two prayer walks around neighborhoods in the St. Louis area. Both of these communities have significant populations of minorities, one primarily African-American, and the other having significant numbers of refugees and immigrants. These neighborhoods are filled with people who come from different backgrounds, with stories different from my own. Yet, these are all people created in the image of God and in need of Christ. In both cases I was struck by two key observations. First, the evidence of brokenness was visible. These communities need Jesus! Second, there is a clear lack of churches with gospel witness, and more specifically, Missouri Baptist churches on mission among these people. As Missouri Baptists, it should be a clear priority to preach Christ, plant churches, and strengthen existing churches in neighborhoods such as these.
Yet, there is another issue for our mission in these areas. Often the people living in these areas do not have a favorable opinion of our denomination. I have met with pastors who have partnered or are considering partnering with Southern Baptists, and yet, they are getting push back from their own congregations and people in their community wondering why they would want to be a part of our tribe. There are many reasons for this, but regardless, these neighborhood are much like Samaria in Jesus’ day. In order to reach people, raise up leaders and pastors, plant churches, and partner with existing churches we will need intentionality in developing relationships, willing to hear the struggle and pain of people living in pockets of lostness. It is my prayer that we will work for a day when the work of our denomination is welcomed with joy in these neighborhoods.
It has been my honor for the past couple years to serve on the Racial Reconciliation Task Force for the Missouri Baptist Convention. This team’s task is to lead our convention in the work of reconciliation for the purpose of intentional mission among people who are ethnically, culturally, politically and even linguistically different from the majority of the members in our churches. In our culture, these differences so often divide us deeply. Yet, for the church of Jesus, we must pass through Samaria. This means we need to be intentional about understanding and hearing people, learning their stories, and even submitting preferences to build relationships and reach people. We should see the importance of giving minority pastors and leaders in our convention a voice so they can help us grow in our understanding and compassion toward those who are different, and even feel their pain, weeping with those who weep. We should work toward greater diversity of leadership within our convention’s boards and agencies and develop pathways to raise up pastors and leaders we can send to these neighborhoods. And we should partner together to reach pockets of lostness in our state. This Task Force is working to build momentum in this direction as we seek to be honest about our own story, provide opportunities for training, and build relational bridges.
It has been my joy to participate in the meetings of this task force, made up of diverse voices from all over our state and working together for the purpose of the gospel. The existence of this team has been so helpful for me because I have had the opportunity to listen to black and brown brothers and sisters share their stories. They are committed to the MBC, but it is not without struggle. I am so thankful for them, and others like them in our state. Yet, these meetings are not sufficient for the task; therefore, we are working to develop pathways for all of us to pray and partner in the gospel work around our state. The need is great, but the resources in the gospel are greater. May we as Missouri Baptists work together to cross these barriers, build relationships, preach Christ, and plant churches among all the peoples in our state.