LEAD One tackles racial issues

Traveling LEAD One seminar on racial reconciliation encourages discussion, action

The first in a series of LEAD One events focusing on racial reconciliation was held May 6 in Lenoir, North Carolina. Photo credit: USMB

LEAD One is going on the road this fall and winter. The one-day, high-impact training will facilitate discussions on racial reconciliation and the value of networking. Pastors and leadership teams from the Central, Southern and Pacific District Conferences will have the opportunity to develop ideas and to consider tangible change they can implement in their home communities.

“America continues to struggle with racial issues, as does the church, even without always being aware of it,” says Don Morris, USMB national director. “Once it’s exposed, then it’s easier to address it with appropriate responses. It is something that we need to talk about throughout our churches and districts, which is why we’re taking it (LEAD One) on the road.”

LEAD One events are part of the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) church health program. These initiatives are designed to train and equip pastors and church leaders so that local USMB congregations can effectively serve their communities and reach their full God-given ministry potential.

Reconciliation series follows pilot event format

The LEAD One reconciliation series will follow a similar format to the pilot event held in Lenior, N.C., in May. Terry Hunt, North Carolina District Conference minister, presented “Overcoming Racism from a Biblical Perspective,” highlighting how God created one race and identifies people by their nationality rather than the color of their skin.

Stephen Humber, regional mobilizer for MB Mission, spoke on “Growing Up White in America: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.” He explained how some past negative interactions exposed his own biased perceptions and reactions.

A small group of panelists shared testimonies and group discussions facilitated honest conversations how personal experiences have affected how they think about others who are different.

“My main goal is to expose the tragedy of racism in the church and in America from a biblical view,” says Hunt of the series. “I would like to see the church rise up to one of the biggest dividers in America today. To raise the awareness level and to initiate conversations around a huge problem that many churches have not addressed or don’t believe even exists.”

Impacting communities is goal

Hunt hopes attendees will bring the conversations back to their communities, become more intentional in reaching across cultures and be moved to “repeal racism.” That’s what happening in Hunt’s community. Local business leaders in Lenior who attended LEAD One are now volunteering to sponsor similar gatherings in the future, says Hunt.

“I am excited about the buzz in our city centering around racial reconciliation before any major problems erupt,” Hunt says. “I am very excited to be a part of a denomination that is not afraid to address issues that exist inside and outside of the church.”

The North Carolina District Conference is a seasoned leader in the fight against racism, beginning 100 years ago with Caucasian missionaries reaching out to African American children. Today, its seven congregations are either primarily African American or Hispanic.

The Lenoir LEAD One also included a presentation by Morris on networking and other LEAD initiatives. “Networking is about pastors and leaders connecting with other pastors and leaders to share ideas and for support and accountability,” says Morris. “As we build networks among pastors and churches, it provides for inspiring one another—or iron sharpening iron—and is foundational for our new vision, resulting in greater kingdom impact.”

Schedule for upcoming LEAD Ones

The LEAD One focusing on racial reconciliation and networking will be offered four more times in 2017:

Oct. 10 at Cross Timbers Church in Edmond, Okla.;

Oct. 12 in Hillsboro, Kan., location to be determined;

Dec. 5, at Laurelglen Bible Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; and

Dec. 7, at North Fresno MB Church in Fresno, Calif.

A LEAD One on racial reconciliation will also be offered in the Central District Conference in early 2018.

LEAD One on discipleship offered in Spanish

A second LEAD One, the first to be offered in Spanish, could also be repeated in other locations. This LEAD One on the topic of disciple-making was held July 1 in Omaha, Neb. Presenter Daniel Rodriguez, pastor of the hosting church, Iglesia Agua Viva, hopes to offer these sessions in the Latin America and Pacific District Conferences where there are many Spanish-speaking churches.

“For our church it was really beneficial,” Rodriguez says. “Many of the participants said they learned more about making disciples and got answers to some of their questions about how to share with others. We live in a society that wants everything fast and easy, and the church is tuning into the same thing. It is a challenge to change the culture in our churches, but it is possible. Most people are willing to change, but we need to talk about it.”

This event opened the door to the possibility of offering LEAD One events in even more languages. “We need to think about other languages as well,” says Morris. “For instance, would it work to develop an Amharic-language event for Ethiopian churches? We have more to discuss about these possibilities.”

LEAD One events will continue to be offered in 2018 and beyond. Topics will support the USMB’s three core commitments: evangelism/church planting, leadership development and intentional disciple-making.

“I’m excited about the new round of events we have lined up and for our overall renewed thrust for providing new LEAD Ones in the future,” Morris says. “If this means that people in our churches become better, deeper followers of Jesus as a result of churches using new ideas, then that will be tremendously gratifying. If more people come to know Jesus for the first time because of our focus on evangelism and learning together how to reach more people—there aren’t even words for that.”


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