A Conversation About Race and Missions

Given that cross-cultural ministry is almost always multiethnic ministry, questions of race and ethnicity are inextricable from the missionary task. Marshall Blalock of FBC Charleston, Jaclyn Parrish of the IMB, H. B. Charles of Shiloh Church, and D.A. Horton of Reach Fellowship gathered to discuss how the twin tasks of international missions and racial reconciliation support and invigorate one another.

If we can learn to love the foreigner in a remote land, we will surely be better equipped to love our neighbor of a different race. And if we are able to move with grace and love across the racial lines dividing our own cities, we will be better equipped to move across distant borders in order to share the gospel.

However, if we have any hope of truthfully communicating the gospel across racial and cultural lines, we must first be diligent students of both the Word of God and of our own culture. Preaching the gospel in a foreign context requires us to know which elements of our religious expression are essential (such as who Jesus is and what his death accomplished) and which are simply products of our cultural context (such as language, musical preference, and styles of prayer). As we cross racial lines with the good news, we must also be willing to learn what is permissible, what is sinful, and what is praiseworthy within our own culture.

And this process is well worth the hard work it requires, for through it we see the diversity of the gospel’s power. Every individual culture’s perspective is limited, after all, but cross-cultural relationships within the body of Christ allow us to see and appreciate God and his Word more fully.

Jaclyn S. Parrish worked as a writer for IMB in South Asia. She currently serves in the US as a writer, editor, and social media associate for IMB. You can follow her on Twitter at @JaclynSParrish.