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Shaping Our Church Culture to the Vision of Revelation 7 (blog)

Our nation is facing two crises, the twin pandemics of COVID and racial injustice.

Dave Swaim

| July 24th, 2020

Our nation is facing two crises, the twin pandemics of COVID and racial injustice.  I am proud of the many Highrockers in research and medicine who are working overtime to treat this virus and the way our Church has stepped up generously to support people who are suffering most from the recession.  We have given away more than $150,000 to people in desperate need.

But while the vaccine is here, I suspect that our racial divisions are only going to get worse because people of color are leaving Evangelical Churches in record numbers – not over any theological dispute, but over the refusal of too many Evangelical institutions to acknowledge the longstanding history of racism in shaping our politics, economy and even our theology.  After so much video evidence, most notably in the murder of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests, many friends of color told me they felt renewed hope that finally White people would hear what they’ve been saying all along, and take steps to address it.  But months later that hope is turning to despair as most mainstream Evangelical institutions still refuse to face this problem honestly.

The same polarization we saw in our politics this year is also dividing our churches. 60 years ago Dr. King lamented that 10 AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, but we’ve made meaningful progress since then.  A few years ago we passed an important (if belated) milestone as 20% of American churches had a membership that was at least 20% other than the majority ethnicity.

However, I believe that we are experiencing a profound re-segregation of our churches that is undoing decades of progress.  Satan is using our collective sin to divide our congregations and denominations.  This is a crisis, but so far very few people notice it simply because many churches are not gathering on Sundays right now.

That’s why I believe that what we’re doing at Highrock is so critical.  We are far behind God’s dream for the Church, but we are determined to march forward – together!

To that end, I’m excited to announce the hiring of the Revelation 7 Faculty, comprised of six preachers of color from around the nation and world who will challenge and enrich us from more perspectives and help us speak the truth more fully. The name Revelation 7 is derived from the vision of the Church in heaven, which includes worshippers “from every nation, tribe, people and language”. Our dream is that this team will help us move in that direction.

Starting July 1, each of these Revelation 7 pastors will preach a minimum of two times per year, and host at least one opportunity for congregational engagement per year. They will not be asked to preach on social issues directly; instead these gifted preachers will simply join our current sermon series. But the illustrations, questions, and perspectives they bring will naturally reflect their lived experiences, which will be different from mine, which will help us hear from God in new ways.

In addition they will be available for consultation with our staff and hold Highrock accountable to creating and taking concrete steps to address racial sin as individuals and as a system. The faculty Chair, Pastor Michelle Sanchez, also sits on the Board of Councillors and leads the rest of us as we are all learning to see things God cares about, but which we’ve become experts at overlooking.

Finally, we have also decided to diversify our worship experiences by embracing more styles and cultures so that we can move beyond the very limited playlist shared by most Evangelical churches today. We believe that combining cultures only enhances the impact of both. That’s probably why God wants the church in heaven to look that way, which is what Revelation 7 envisions!