Why The Crossing is Partnering with Woke Bridge
If you’re a celebrity looking for press without scandal, I have a sure bet: befriend someone you should hate. It’s a proven strategy.
- Ellen went viral for publicizing her friendship with former President, George W. Bush.
- Dan Cathy, the famously conservative Chairman of Chick-Fil-A, made headlines by befriending a well-known gay activist.
- The late Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were icons of the right and left, so it’s no surprise their close friendship sparked multiple news stories.
Why do these stories draw so much attention? Two reasons. First, they connect to a shared, deeply held, human longing for harmony and unity across diverse peoples. Second, and perhaps most importantly, these stories are rare. If they were common, they wouldn’t be news.
This isn’t surprising. On this side of Eden, human history has been characterized by ethnic division, violent ideological disputes, hawkish bids for national supremacy, and a general tendency to divide the world into us and them.
Unfortunately, Christians have often looked no different than the world in this regard. Dr. King’s words are as true today as they were over 60 years ago, “11 o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hours in Christian America.”
Christians overcoming division should never be news. It should be common. It should be expected. Why? Because the apostle Paul said racial unity is the hallmark of authentic Christian practice. Woke Bridge Community Church is one of the rare churches in the U.S. fully committed to embodying this reality.
Racial Unity Proclaims the Truth of Christ to Demonic Powers
Most Christians do not realize that racial division was the single greatest threat to the early church. Jews and Gentiles had a long, sordid history. Over a period nearly 600 years, Gentile nations had subjected the Jewish people to conquest after conquest, occupation after occupation, indignity after indignity.
Nehemiah described the Jewish plight under Gentile subjugation starkly, “Behold, we are slaves this day. In the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves” (Neh. 9:36).
Unlike most conquered nations, the Jewish people strongly resisted foreign efforts at assimilation. Jews refused to worship the Persian, Greek, and Roman pantheons of gods. They stubbornly resisted abandoning their strict dietary laws. And they continued the practice of circumcision and taught their children the Hebrew language, so they could read the Hebrew scriptures.
To the Gentiles, Jews were not merely prudes or weirdos, they were anti-social dissidents who threatened the fragile order of the empire. And they didn’t need to look far for proof: violent Jewish revolt was common throughout this period, happening with alarming consistency by the time of Jesus’s ministry.
So, when Jesus died to rescue people from every nation and rose to unite them into a new humanity—one that’s no longer defined by ethnicity—he did something that offended everyone. It’s no surprise that the first major theological question faced by the church was how Jews and Gentiles could live united (Acts 10, 13, 15).
A major portion of Paul’s letters are dedicated to resolving disputes between Jewish and Gentile Christians. But his concerns were not merely pastoral. They were also theological.
In Ephesians, Paul speaks “unity” and “oneness” almost 30 separate times. The second half of chapter 2—where Paul makes his famous statement that we are saved by grace, not works—is entirely dedicated to explaining that God has united Jew and Gentile.
Why does Paul care about this so much?
Because the church’s unity announces that Christ is King (and Satan is not). The powers of darkness once determined how people defined themselves. These definitions created division.
But by committing themselves to unity, followers of Jesus transgress the devil’s boundary lines, making clear that what unites them is more powerful: Jesus.
Today, unusual friendships make the news because the devil’s divisions are the cultural norm. When Christians refuse to abide by this norm, and instead, forge unity where division once reigned, they proclaim the kingship of Jesus.
Jesus is the only one who can make the miracle of unusual friendships seem ordinary.
Woke Bridge: A Different Kind of Church
Multi-ethnic churches are nothing new. Again, the earliest churches were all multi-ethnic. But in America, the long, violent history of slavery, segregation, racism, and white supremacy have erected a dividing wall so tall, it rivals the wall between Jew and Gentile.
Outlining the history of racism and segregation in the white American church is beyond the scope of this blog (Keith and I sketched an outline of this history on an episode of Ten Minute Bible Talks). But it should surprise no one to learn that the fault lies with the ancestors of white people:
They abused the Bible’s words about slavery, rewrote laws to keep baptized Africans enslaves, demeaned and forced out Black church attendees, refused to admit Black seminarians, and resisted racial integration.
Much of this happened within living memory. And it means that racial unity in the American church must overcome centuries of pain, violence, evil, suspicion, anger, anxiety, fear, and frustration. It is no small task.
And yet, what Jesus did for Jews and Gentiles, we must believe he can do for black and white Christians, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14).
We must not only pursue this in our church context but must also support this kind of radical unity when we see it outside of our church. When our pastors and staff first heard the story of Woke Bridge Community Church, we knew their mission was one we want to get behind.
As the church’s two pastors—a Black man and a white man from diverse backgrounds who met in seminary—told me, “We wouldn’t be friends if it weren’t for Jesus.”
And it’s not just them. White and Black church members are sharing meals in each other’s homes, building friendships, sharing resources, and proclaiming to the watching world: only Jesus can do this. Only Jesus can bring together such a diverse group of people, making radical unity a common sight.
What makes their story all the more remarkable is that it’s taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson has a sordid racial past. Until the 60s, the L.A. Times referred to it as a sundown town—a place where Black people were not safe after the sunset. In the 70s, its population was 99% white, but today it is only 25% white. It is, in many ways, symbolic of both the past and present racial division in America.
Woke Bridge is showing their community a different path forward: a path defined by love, generosity, and unity.
(If you haven’t listened to our interview with Woke Bridge pastor Sean Boone, I highly recommend you check it out on this episode of Truth Over Tribe.)
We also want to support Woke Bridge because it’s a church plant in a less affluent part of the country. This means that, like most church plants, they aren’t drawing in enough funds to sustain their growing ministry. But when you add that much of their congregation comes from financially stressed neighborhoods, the challenge becomes even more pronounced. And we think we can help.
This is our chance to support a mission that is near to our hearts, and, more important, near to the heart of Jesus. Let’s help Woke Bridge proclaim the kingship of Jesus and give generously.
This Easter, join us in supporting Woke Bridge Community Church as they live out God’s calling to heal racial divides in Ferguson, Missouri. Donate now to help Woke Bridge continue to show the love, generosity, and unity of Jesus to a hurting world.