Excerpt from Color-Courageous Discipleship

Discipleship Defined

My favorite definition of discipleship comes from Jesus’s invitation to his first disciples: Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19, nasb). In this brief but brilliant invitation, we discover three elements of discipleship: A disciple (1) follows Jesus, (2) is transformed by Jesus, and (3) is on mission with Jesus. …

So What Is Racial Discipleship?

In the same way, robust racial discipleship encompasses all three discipleship dimensions. Racial discipleship is about following Jesus more closely as we engage racial challenges; being transformed by Jesus as we remove sinful racial tendencies and put on better ones; and embarking on mission with Jesus as we foster shalom and multiply disciples who do the same. As we pursue all three dimensions, we will pursue antiracism not as a societal trend but as an ongoing expression of our discipleship — which is exactly what it should be.

This brings us to what might seem like an unconventional idea: You have already been racially discipled. In other words, we each have already been shaped and formed by the racial dynamics of our society. We have all been subtly conditioned by the culture, practices, and perspectives of the family we were reared in, the place we grew up, and even the era that we find ourselves in. 

The question is not if you have been racially discipled; the question is how. 

The problem, of course, is that much of the racial discipleship you have received throughout your life has been unconscious, unintentional, and — in many cases — misaligned with God’s heart. But that doesn’t make your racial formation to this point any less real.

That is why what many disciples need now is to embark on a different kind of racial discipleship journey. Different, in that this time it will be intentional. Different, in that this time we will orient ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ to engage effectively with the racial challenges we face, in Jesus’s name. When it comes to race, most of us need to be intentionally rediscipled.” That is, we need to be discipled again. What’s more, on this journey we will discover that racial discipleship is not just about resisting racism or transforming the world. It is certainly that, but it is far more: Racial discipleship is about being personally transformed so that you can experience more of Jesus. And that is what has been the most exciting part of the journey for me.

By the way, yes, this invitation is for you — whatever your race. The journey of racial discipleship is for people of every race and ethnic background. It is not for Whites only, nor is it a journey that is the special preoccupation of pilgrims of color. As fallen creatures in a fallen world, we have all been infected with sinful inclinations and wedded to imperfect perspectives on race, whether we realize it or not. Ironically, this may perhaps be especially true today in more subtle and insidious ways for people of color — like me. Imagine my surprise when I gradually came to understand that I, as an African American woman, was reinforcing racism in different ways myself! We all need awakening, transformation, healing, and fresh vision for a new day.

Although our individual racial discipleship journeys will have different starting points and milestones, in our racialized world, I believe the journey itself is universal. As disciples of Christ, we are all invited to awaken to the broken racial realities of our world and to see how we may have contributed to them. Rather than unintentionally perpetuate existing problems, we are all invited to courageously discover and advance God’s solutions.

Adapted excerpt from Color-Courageous Discipleship: Follow Jesus, Dismantle Racism, and Build Beloved Community by Michelle T. Sanchez. Copyright 2022 by Michelle T. Sanchez. Published by Water Brook, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Used with permission.

Photo by Marlis Trio Akbar on Unsplash

Text First Published November 2022 · Last Featured on Renovare.org May 2024