Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr has been called by some, “the voice of a generation.” With compassion, power, and authenticity he has challenged the Church for nearly two decades to see itself as God’s Redemptive agent in the world. He has challenged the Church to push her prophetic voice to the public square, and address the issues that have fractured our world with the whole, and holistic Gospel. You will be challenged, and hopefully inspired by the powerful words he puts before us today. It is a grace to welcome Léonce to the farm’s front porch today…
Iremember being the only African-American elder at a former church post, and feeling the withdrawal from a couple of the other elders when racist church members would come around.
In fact, one of the men asked me if I was always going to have that “rapper hair.” Evidently one of his friends in the church had complained about it. Yeah, about my hair.
Yet one of the central out-workings of the gospel is the breaking down of ethnic, economic, and cultural hostilities and building up of communities that capture the full breadth of God’s creative genius.
“For he Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14)
Jesus broke down these divisions in His own body, securing our salvation and submitting our tendency to separate ourselves to the pain of the cross and the power of His resurrection. Faith alone unites us to Christ. We cast ourselves completely on Him and His righteousness.
And for His sake alone, God counts us righteous and accepts and welcomes us into His family forever.
This is the heart of the gospel. This is the good news!
In Christ there is a new humanity, a new community, where our new identity is defined by the calling of the Cross.
In Christ the ruling paradigm is that there is no separation; we must, in fact, move beyond integration.
And if you think for a second this means we should all just become the same, think again.
This is not some attempt at assimilation or manufactured community.
The gospel unites us in Christ despite our differences. In fact, the gospel drives us to celebrate our differences as the diversity-strewn beauty from the Lord’s creative hand.
And if that is true, then what distinction can we make? Who are our people, our kind? How can we be united in Christ but divided in His family? Living that way would be a mockery of the gospel.
As a giant of his time, a native son of Atlanta, and gifted orator, Dr. King has had a profound affect on me. (He was by no means perfect, but point me to the man that is, and I’ll tell you what he’s hiding.) Dr. King had a dream of a world where race, color, creed, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education were not used to generate class distinctions and hostility, but rather used to create a woven work of “all God’s children” living in love and unity in the beloved community.
This should be the dream of the church, because it was greater than simply being a man’s vision for the world. It is a dream that is reflective of the heart of God, the dream of His Scriptures, and made possible only by the sacrifice of Jesus.
We love our community because we see the potential that we have, through the working of the Holy Spirit and by the power of the gospel, to see this gospel dream become a reality. We love our city because every day we have the opportunity to live out the words upon which our country was founded.
On July 4, 1776 the American forefathers ratified these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These words, penned by the men who founded the United States of America, are powerfully wonderful words, but then, as in the minds of some people now, they were not applied to all whom God created. By 1776 the Africans who’d been shipped to North America as property had been enslaved for almost two hundred years. Though some thought slavery was wrong, the majority of people saw it as acceptable. Slaves usually could not marry, have a family, testify in court, or own property legally.
Where were their unalienable rights and equality? And even before the African was shipped to America, the Native American was used as forced labor. The details of that season of our nation’s history are different, but the result was the same – inequality.
It would be one hundred years after those 1776 words were penned that slavery would officially end. But even after this, there was still no sense that all men were created equal. On the heels of slavery would be another hundred years of oppression – Jim Crow, segregation, and separate but equal. Then there were the onlys – white only water fountains, white only swimming pools, white only restaurants, white only schools.
My own mother, who is very fair-skinned because her grandmother was half-white due to the rape of her mother by a slave master, was told by a white teacher that she should “pass.” My mother was encouraged to leave her family and live as a white woman so that she could be more accepted and live an easier life. Equality on the surface does not necessitate equality in our hearts.
I realize that in discussions like this some will respond “Yes, but that was so long ago, and things are different now.”
Unfortunately, things haven’t changed as rapidly, or broadly as we might imagine.
In the fall of 2015, I was returning home after one of our worship gatherings in Grant Park in Atlanta, and I saw a man running around my neighborhood and waving a Confederate flag. He was shouting, “The South shall rise again!”
I’m afraid the sin and evil of racism and classism has not ended; it has just been governed and suppressed. The words this nation were founded upon are impotent in the face of blatant hatred and systematic division of people along racial, ethnic, social, and socioeconomic lines.
This is the history and, in some places, the present reality of our nation.
But what about the Church? The visible Bride of Christ is supposed to be different, a living example to the world of how humans should relate to God and in turn how humanity should relate to one another. “If you have been raised with Christ,” then by all accounts you should be daily putting off the old self with its practices. (Colossians 3:1)
Why? So you can live and love well in the new community of Christ, having put on the new self. This is then your primary identifier; it is the way people know you above all else.
The new self is not just a new nature or even a new person. It is a new humanity altogether. In this new reality, the forefathers’ words can finally become true.
This equality across all lines is a re-creation of what was always intended, how human relationships were always meant to be. We all stand equal at the foot of the Cross, because we all belong to Christ.
The renewal refers not simply to an individual change of character, but also to a corporate recreation of humanity itself in the creator’s image. (Peter Thomas O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon)
This re-creation involves what community was always supposed to be, and this is what it means to be a New Ethnic. This term came to me as I was preparing to see our church planted in Atlanta. As I wrote out the mission statement and wrestled with the Scriptures about who I’d like this church to be, this term surfaced.
We become New Ethnics when we come to follow Jesus and are transformed by the gospel.
We are striving to be freed from the bounds of prejudice, fear, and hang-ups of simply being identified by our race, class, or culture.
We long to become a new people altogether, a beautiful tapestry of God’s creation, called and chosen by Him for something bigger than ourselves.
As such, we are deeply committed to being intentionally Transcultural.
Yeah, it is audacious… but so is the gospel itself. Why would it produce anything less?
Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr. is an author, international speaker, and co-founder—along with his wife Breanna—of Renovation Church in Atlanta.
Before committing his life to pastoral ministry, and civil rights activism, Léonce was a collegiate All American in wrestling, nearly made the World Team in wrestling, and a professional football player. The former professional athlete has strong transcultural appeal and connections in the world of professional sports and hip-hop music, as well as church planting and leadership circles. He has been in ordained ministry for nearly 20 years, and holds multiple graduate degrees.
In 2008 Crump answered God’s call to relocate from Tennessee to Atlanta and begin the process of planting Renovation Church. He details the obstacles he and his family faced and the revelations he uncovered during this process in Renovate: Changing Who You Are by Loving Where You Are. A champion for the Church’s participation in focused and intentional cultural renewal, Crump is the leading voice of a generation committed to operating as God’s redemptive agents in the earth.
Of his book, Renovate, Léonce says. “I hope you leave these few pages with a renewed sense of your ability to influence and shape culture, your ability and calling to renew this world and promote human flourishing for God’s glory and the common good. I hope you walk away from this book believing that cultural renewal is not only the responsibility of the Christian but also the most freeing way you can turn your quiet longing into discernible action.”