July 12, 2013
Friday Five Interview: Bryan Loritts
How is the church doing on racial reconciliation? We asked a prominent pastor and author.
For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Bryan Loritts. Bryan is the Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis, and is on the board of trustees for Biola University, Presbyterian Day School, and Memphis Leadership Foundation. He is author of God on Paper and A Cross Shaped Gospel as well as a contributing author for Great Preaching.
Today we talk to Bryan about his father’s influence, racial reconciliation in the church, and his advice for young pastors.
Incidentally, you’ll notice that there are only 4 questions and answers (But “Friday Four” wasn’t quite as catchy…). The first question was originally split in two, but Bryan concisely answered it. Hope you enjoy.
Your father, Dr. Crawford Loritts, is a well-known evangelical pastor. How did his ministry affect your decision to enter the pastorate? And what was the most important lesson you learned from your father about ministry?
My dad was a huge influence on my decision to enter into the ministry, primarily because I saw him model in private what he proclaimed in public.
Recently you reviewed and criticized Douglas Wilson's controversial book, Black and Tan. You expressed disappointment at the lack of repudiation from white evangelical leaders. Is racial sensitivity still a blind spot among white evangelicals?
I want to be very careful of who I label as being racially insensitive. In general I’m more hopeful now at age 40 than when I was 20. We have come a long way and for that I am extremely grateful to God!
I don't believe it is overstatement to say that 2013 is the best of times when it comes to racial sensitivity, reconciliation and inclusivity, especially among the younger generation of Christians with their courage to move into impoverished neighborhoods and become the minority in a lot of ways.
An example of this is the overwhelming positive response I got from my white brothers and sisters in response to my blog piece on Doug Wilson. The three who pushed back ironically had in common being from a previous generation. This isn't to say that those who are older are racially insensitive; I’m just underscoring the hopefulness of the future.
How can pastors and church leaders, of any race, promote racial reconciliation in their churches?
First, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Paul writes Ephesians chapter 2, before he gets to our horizontal reconciliation in verse 11, he deals with our vertical reconciliation with God in verses 1-10. As he would say to the Corinthians, being reconciled to God through the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus Christ is of first importance.
Second, be intentional. Race is a human social fabrication. Biologically there's no such thing (just one human race). However, the social construct of race has been woven so deeply into the fabric and psyche of our nation, that we cannot be passive when it comes to matters of racial reconciliation. We have to be deeply intentional, the same kind of intentionality we find in Christ who by his blood "ransomed" people from every nation tribe and tongue (Revelation 5:9-10).
Third, live what you are trying to lead. This is Leadership 101 and applies to everything, especially matters of race. Again, we see this in Paul. Notice the people he hangs out with. In Romans 16, Paul gives a shout out to his friend Rufus...Rufus! That ain't a Jew! Paul did life with people who were ethnically different than him. If the leader isn't experiencing ethnically diverse relationships how can he with any sense of authenticity tell people to do what he's not doing?
If you could give one piece of advice to young pastors, seminarians, and church planters about the ministry in front of them, what would you say?
The older I get the more I realize that gifted people are a dime a dozen. Anointed people—people who truly walk with God—are rare. There will always be a lot of people out there who can do what you do better than you. Your gifts will only take you so far.
Cultivate a robust, abiding relationship with Jesus. He must be all. Commune with Him daily. Quantity is quality. Linger in his presence at least an hour in Bible reading and prayer. Submit your heart to Calvary daily.
Preach the gospel to yourself.