So I first had the joy of meeting Michelle Sanchez at an evangelism conference where we were both speakers, given the task to inspire disciples to advance the kingdom of God. With clarity, grace, and joy, Michelle invited us all into a new kind of discipleship journey: one that demonstrated from the Scriptures how Jesus has always called His disciples to the courageous work of resisting and dismantling racism for the sake of advancing the kingdom of God. While racial inequity remains a heartbreaking reality in our world, as disciples of Jesus, we can do something about it. I am excited for Michelle to share more of her story with you. God has truly graced her to help move us from color-blind discipleship to color-courageous discipleship. It is a joy to welcome Michelle to the farm’s table today…
As I make my way through the corridors of my office, I’m aware of my palpitating heart. It’s time for my first performance review.
Earlier in the year, I had jumped from leading discipleship at a local church to leading discipleship for an entire denomination of churches across North America.
Honestly, it was a steep jump.
I started as both the youngest executive and the first person of color to lead discipleship. You better believe I was giving the job my all. My main motivation was to glorify God.
But if I’m honest, I was also striving to prove that those who took the chance to hire me—young, Black, female me—had made the right choice.
I knock and my boss ushers me in with his characteristically warm welcome. The review begins.
He showers me with affirmations. Yet my heart is clenched. Okay—but what have I missed? I sense him shifting gears to constructive feedback mode, and I brace myself.
“Michelle, I’ve noticed a pattern. It seems that most White people appreciate you, yet there are some Black folks who aren’t fans. Why do you think that is?”
My confident facade shatters and, to my horror, I erupt in tears. I struggle to remain in the present, yet I am pulled to the past.
“Again, I am that little girl, frightened and ashamed, haunted by race.”
I watch my childhood bullies parade by in quick succession. Punching a hole through the wall of years, they taunt me again with the refrain that I am an Oreo—Black on the outside, White on the inside, and (I fear) ultimately unacceptable to all sides.
Again, I am that little girl, frightened and ashamed, haunted by race.
I’m not White, so I’ll certainly never be “White enough” for Whites. And apparently I can’t be “Black enough” for Blacks.
So… who am I? And what am I supposed to do?
I realize that not everyone will have a dramatic incident that prompts them to ask deeper questions about race. That said, I would argue that our generation has experienced dramatic events as a society, events that galvanized the most widespread protests in U.S. history.
As disciples, we are invited to be like the people of Issachar “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
If you accept that invitation, you might find yourself considering similar questions:
Who is God calling me to be? What am I supposed to do? And where do I begin?
For disciples of Jesus, the answer is as simple as it is profound: We begin with Jesus.
I took my racial challenges to Jesus…eventually.
“My Christian discipleship had been characterized by a color-blind approach rather than a color-courageous one.”
I hadn’t been taught to engage race as a disciple. My Christian discipleship had been characterized by a color-blind approach rather than a color-courageous one. It took a long time to move past my discomfort and enter into the racial challenges before me with a clear head and a learning posture.
Yet God was patient, whispering, “Hey, there, discipleship leader! Remember that at the end of the day, race is a matter of discipleship too.”
God was reminding me that the journey of color-courageous discipleship—like any other—starts and ends with Jesus, because “Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).
Jesus invites us to keep saying yes to Him as Lord, to honor Him as supreme in every area, including the areas of race and ethnicity. He also invites us to keep saying yes to him as Savior, which means admitting our racial brokenness on every level.
If you identify as a disciple of Jesus, I invite you to ask your King,
“What am I missing? How can I grow?”
Only Jesus can answer these questions in their fullness. He loves you and will show you. Maybe you’ve already started the color-courageous discipleship journey. That is so good!
But don’t stop now.
Keep on asking.
I guarantee that Jesus will keep on transforming you in new and surprising ways.
Although I didn’t realize it at first, that fateful afternoon in my boss’s office was an important step on my own journey of racial discipleship. After I emerged from the fog of my initial pain and discomfort, I saw the truth:
I had room to grow.
I began to understand that I can do more to help and clearly recognized the voice of Christ calling me to grow as a color-courageous disciple for the sake of the church and the world. I wasn’t even sure what it would entail. What I did know was that it would be a precious opportunity to face my fears and grow.
So, I said yes to another new discipleship journey with Jesus, holding tightly to Him as Savior and Lord.
“Following Jesus is not a one-time invitation.”
I’m sure you know by now that following Jesus is not a one-time invitation. After you initially say yes to Jesus, He will present you with many additional discipleship invitations over the course of your life.
And guess what?
Each invitation will be a new adventure.
As disciples of Christ, our call to courage is simultaneously a call to the cross.
I have no idea what your unique cross may entail on this journey, but God may invite you to:
- enter into repentance, confession, and forgiveness
- engage in conversations that produce discomfort, anger, and disagreement
- uncover unconscious biases that have caused harm
- revisit painful moments
- acknowledge the shortcomings of the church or other institutions you love
- experience suspicion or rejection by others
- sacrifice in unfamiliar ways as you courageously love God and others
“Discipleship never ends with the cross…it ends with resurrection.”
Yet, let’s also remember that discipleship never ends with the cross…it ends with resurrection.
On the other side of the cross, there is always new life. What that resurrection life will entail for you on this journey is God’s surprise, but perhaps you may:
- grow in your ability to see the world and its people from God’s perspective
- understand the gospel more deeply, both with regard to the depths of your own brokenness as well as the heights of God’s
- awaken to life-changing insights through the racial and ethnic journeys of others
- enjoy new friendships and richer, more authentic community
- experience more extensive liberation from fear, sin, and shame
- be healed or help others to heal
- become more effective at bringing shalom and beloved community to your world
- celebrate when witnesses to all these events find new life in Christ as a result!
At times, color-courageous discipleship will feel difficult, dangerous, or both—which is precisely why we need Jesus as our leader and the Bible as our anchor.
We need supernatural courage for this journey.
Only in Christ will we find the inexhaustible power, wisdom, and grace we need to flourish as color-courageous disciples.
What if we keep asking…
“What am I missing Lord? How can I grow?”
Michelle T. Sanchez (MDiv, ThM) serves as the senior discipleship and evangelism leader for the Evangelical Covenant Church, a multiethnic denomination of 900+ congregations throughout North America.
She has served in various capacities with the Institute for Bible Reading, Cru, the Lausanne Movement for world evangelization, and the Pelican Project: a guild of women fostering commitment to Christian faith and practice across cultural, denominational, and racial lines. A writer and frequent conference speaker, Michelle is a regular columnist for Outreach Magazine and a contributor to the forthcoming Message Women’s Devotional Bible. Find Michelle on instagram @michelle_t_sanchez and at colorcourageous.com.
Michelle is the author of Color-Courageous Discipleship, Color-Courageous Discipleship Student Edition, and a picture book for children, God’s Beloved Community – books that are committed to dismantling racism and growing our discipleship from color-blind to color-courageous. Check out Color-Courageous Discipleship!
[ Our humble thanks to WaterBrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]