Listening, lamenting, learning and leading during the coronavirus crisis
Dr. Harold Lewis
Vice President of Biblical Diversity
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
As we continue to acclimate ourselves to these new normals due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Office of Biblical Diversity is more than ever dedicated to supporting our Converge movement. We want to do this by resourcing and advocating for a culture of divine diversity that is inclusive, respectful and inviting to all in the name of Jesus Christ — whether in our physical spaces or online environments.
The occurrences of the past several weeks have caused a deep sense of uncertainty, worry and alarm. As many people confront these fears, we must foster a spirit of faith and belonging, especially for those within our faith communities and the community at large who are being subject to micro-aggressions, discrimination and attacks because of their ethnicity and cultural identity. For instance, our Asian brothers and sisters have been subjected to demeaning stereotypes, hurtful and harmful accusations and dangerous labeling that are escalating within our communities and on social media.
Nobody is a nobody! Everybody is a somebody and don’t let anybody tell somebody that they are a nobody!
Historically, virus and disease outbreaks that were assumed to originate in countries outside of the United States have provoked racist rhetoric and xenophobic behaviors, which cause the marginalization of certain people groups based upon their physical and racial appearances. Stereotyping and stigmatizing ethnic groups for harboring different diseases can be traced back centuries in our country. However, these stereotypes not only put communities and people’s lives in danger, but they can also negate the necessary responses to threats regarding public health.
During this crisis, Converge has the greatest opportunity to serve as ambassadors of the gospel through practicing biblical diversity and by representing a community of care through social distancing and our online presence.
The Biblical Diversity Quadrilateral of Listening, Lamenting, Learning and Leading is one tool that will help you be the church and minister to people of all colors, cultures and classes with the gospel.
Converge churches and districts, if you are interacting with members of different cultures and ethnicities through social media while social distancing, please consider:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
Whenever there is a crisis or unrest in any community, the spirits of anger, anxiety and fear tend to ambush people’s hearts and minds. People not only look for answers but, in their pain, fear and frustrations, they want to be heard.
What can you do?
Facilitate an online discussion group that provides a space for people to convene to share and listen to each other’s hearts and concerns.
Allow people who are infected or their family members who may have lost someone to the coronavirus to share their stories.
Become a listening ear for those who are hurting and seeking help. Keep this thought in mind: Speaking to people does not carry the same personal passion as listening to them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15).
A working definition of lamenting is simply the journey of the soul with someone else’s pain, sorrow, grief, fear and suffering.
This crisis is causing unemployment, depression and anxiety.
What can you do?
Regardless of your distance from the pain, grief and suffering, be no less responsible for sharing in the pain and standing in solidarity with those who are hurting and lamenting.
Practice Christian love, concern and empathy for those who have lost loved ones.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly (2 Tim. 2:15-16).
Ignorance is a seed that, when planted in the soil of misunderstanding, produces a fruit called hate.
Every pastor and church member should read and study the issues in their local mission field. From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take(1 Chron. 12:32).
What can you do?
Start by educating yourself on the various cultures within your community.
Educate yourself about the historical challenges regarding discrimination toward different people groups as it relates to viruses and diseases.
Refrain from making cultural assumptions and broad generalizations about different people groups.
Partner with a different ethnic congregation to build cross-cultural relationships.
Stay informed about new and authentic information.
For if you keep quiet at this time, help will come to the Jews from another place. But you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows if you have not become queen for such a time as this (Esther 4:14)?
God has appointed and anointed Converge in this season for such a time as this. As we are in the midst of this pandemic, God is calling upon us as a movement to be pastors, advocates and leaders to stand up and speak out against social injustices, political violence, disparities and discriminatory health practices.
What can you do?
Host virtual live prayer meetings.
Start an online biblical diversity small or covenant group.
Challenge unjust and unfair health care policies and laws.
Become an advocate for the poor, disenfranchised and marginalized.
Connect and collaborate with other churches, civic groups and agencies to create a diverse coalition against hate and injustices.
Become a broker of knowledge: Collect and share stories and resources.
Continue to model what it looks like and acts like to be a biblical diversity disciple.
As we continue to journey together during this season, even in the virtual world, the Office of Biblical Diversity is excited to support, advocate and celebrate with our Converge movement by being willing to host meetings and direct support via our online platforms.
Please take care of yourselves and encourage others to do the same as we move forward with Christian ethics of care, concern and love for one another.
Dr. Harold Lewis, Vice President of Biblical Diversity
Dr. Harold D. Lewis Sr. is Converge’s Vice President of Biblical Diversity. A native of Greenwood, Mississippi, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, a Master of Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta and a Doctorate of Psychology from the University of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He also has been awarded multiple honorary doctorates. Dr. Lewis comes to Converge with over three decades of pastoral and leadership experience as a turnaround church pastor and a transformational coach for clergy and laypersons. His ministerial experience also includes more than 10 years of multicultural and justice responsibilities, which included collaborating with and resourcing Native American, Micronesian, Hispanic, Korean and Haitian ministries, as well as Black Methodists for Church Revival and the Conference Committee on Religion and Race.