Rev. Efrem Smith speaking at United in Freedom – Session B on November 3, 2015 at Shiloh Temple International Ministries.
This podcast features Rev. Efrem Smith, founding Pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis. He currently serves as the President and CEO of World Impact, an urban missions organization committed to empowerment of the urban poor through the facilitation of church planting movements and leadership development.
Listen to Rev. Efrem Smith as he presented on this vision of the church as a solution to racial division called Belovedness.
Transform Minnesota hosted United in Freedom: an experience intended to overcome racial division in the body of Christ. The following is a summary of the second of three sessions:
Rev. Efrem Smith offered a theological and biblical framework for advancing the Kingdom of God and being agents of transformation within the reality of the constructs of race and its impact in our communities. He called the world we live in “a race matrix,” stemming from the movie “The Matrix,” where most of humanity was captured by a race of machines who imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as the Matrix.
“Could it be that the race matrix has kept the Christian church from embodying and extending what we’re really supposed to look like in this world?” Rev. Smith asked. “In order for the church to have credibility and fruitful transformation in the context of race, we have to admit what we need to be controlled by moving forward and admit what’s we’ve been controlled by.’”
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Rev. Smith spoke on Belovedness, asking what it means as sisters and brothers for us to live as the beloved children of God in order to bring Kingdom advancement within the evil of the race matrix.
“If the church is going to be relevant, to be a rooted, anchored institution, force, organic movement, that is going to bring the medicine to the disease of the race matrix, we are going to have to understand more deeply who Christ was, is, and what the Kingdom of God is; and how do we know when it shows up in a broken world. That will inform the mission of the church,” said Rev. Smith.
That message struck a chord with Pastor Terrance Rollerson of the Urban Refuge Church, “If in fact we are the beloved of Christ, then why is the church the way it is? What is our call as the beloved of Christ as it relates to this race issue? As it relates to the way our churches look and reflect when it comes to community?”
Citizenship in Heaven
Rev. Smith reminded participants that as Christians, our citizenship is in heaven, and that trumps our race and our patriotism to country.
“My citizenship in the Kingdom of God trumps my ID in my wallet, and what does it mean to live that way?” Rev. Smith challenged participants at United in Freedom.
Rev. Smith believes we have to get to a point where we the church do not regard people according to the fallen matrix of race.
“To dismantle racism you have to see the fullness of my being. Look at me and see it as beautiful, meaningful, and God-bearing, made in the image of God,” he said.
Pastor Marla Rotman of Peace Church in Eagan said she really appreciated this conversation, because after learning about the constructs of race from Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati in the first session, she left feeling uncomfortable because some of the things that were spoken were painful truths. “Rev. Efrem Smith helped us see how it’s living into the gospel to be a church that elevates our differences, of saying I’m looking for God in all that you are, based on your history, your culture, your story,” said Pastor Rotman.
Jesus was Multi-cultural
Rev. Smith taught how when Jesus walked the earth as a human being, He was multi-cultural, and that when he died on the cross, all of that diversity and multi-culturalism was flowing through his veins. But that American Christians have hijacked Jesus and commodified Jesus, so Christianity could be in close relationship with the merchant and the soldier.
“Our Christian imagination has enslaved Jesus. We must reimagine Jesus, so we can reimagine the church, so we can reimagine our identity as the beloved children of God, so that we can find our place and be the balm of Gilead in the disease of the race matrix,” he concluded.
Many United in Freedom participants felt motivated to look past any comfortable ignorance they may have, and find out what it means to view others as all that God created them to be.
“I would love to see a large communion table in the Twin Cities where Christ is the one who unifies us, and nobody is asked to be less than they are to sit as that table,” said Pastor Marla Rotman.
“I appreciate being a part of this conversation. I think we can only grow as a people by being willing to sit down and discuss this out even in the midst of the tension that might be there because of the subject topic,” said Pastor Terrance Rollerson.