On a Wednesday evening In the late spring of 2013, I visited Flint Hill UMC for the first time as the pastor who would be taking the reigns of leadership for this church. The current pastor Dee Dowdy showed me the facilities, sanctuary, my future office yet all of that paled in comparison to the tutoring ministry I witnessed happening. There were rooms of youth who were being tutored by teenagers, young adults and the elders of the church. This in itself is a great thing however, what pushed it over the top for me was the fact that I saw African-American children being tutored by older white people within a church that is well over 150 years old. Sadly, this doesn’t happen much in ministry. I was blown away. Not only were the members tutoring, they were encouraging, patting them on the back, hugging them, giving them high fives and showing them genuine love. I was amazed to tears.
When I arrived at Flint Hill, I found this effort to break down the racial barriers was not just limited to the Wednesday night tutoring but had even infiltrated to our Sunday morning worship. A place where whites and blacks come together as the body of Christ with the common goal of worshiping God. We now have an average of 13 African-Americans worshipping on any given Sunday morning. That’s 10% of our worshipping congregation! We’ve had 3 African-Americans join the membership of the church in the last 3 months and one who serves on the Administrative Board as a member at large (by the way, she was voted in unanimously by the Lay Leadership Team, Admin Board, and Charge Conference.) WAIT, this isn’t supposed to happen in a 150 year old church is it???? Yes, it is supposed to be happening and as Christians we should be ashamed that it is not happening more.
Many people have asked me what is the root of this success and believe it or not…it’s pretty simple. My answer is that it is the power of the Holy Spirit coupled along with the Flint Hill Congregation’s level of spiritual maturity. They get it when we read Jesus saying, “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.” They understand that our neighbor is not divided by race, ethnic or financial means. They understand that we are all a part of the body of Christ and we cannot love God without loving our neighbor. Do we all agree? No. Do we all see things the same way? No. Do we have differences of opinions? Yes. But we do have one thing in common and that is our desire to draw closer to God in our spiritual journey.
Flint Hill seeks unity within the body of Christ. Being united in our love for God is where the secret lies and the understanding that division is not the will of God within His Church. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and heirs to the most high God. It’s very easy to allow all the things we see on the news to divide us. Ferguson and New York are prime examples of how quickly division can spread and how dangerous it is when it does occur. Especially when religious leaders, local churches, clergy, and denominations assist in fanning the flames of division. We as leaders in Christ Church should be the ones bringing about unity in all instances where division has the opportunity to creep in and if we don’t, I believe we will have to account for our actions. If division divides communities against themselves, we can only sit back and watch what it can and is doing to churches.