Finding Hope in Detroit

Oct 16, 2018

Toxic drinking water. Opioid epidemic. Poverty. Crime. Like most major cities, Detroit has issues that need resolutions and racial reconciliation is at the heart of Detroit’s problems. And it’s where Detroit Church invites people to awaken to the greatest adventure of all time.

From jump, the Detroit Church team knew that we would be a multicultural, multi-denominational, and multigenerational family. Add to all of the “multi’s” the fact that the team was trying to gel and get to know one another as we sought to build authentic friendships. In the summer of 2015, we had the bright idea of doing a cultural humility training session during one of our launch meetings.

The facilitators kicked off the training by hanging four large poster sheets around the room and proceeded to label each of them. That evening, they asked our diverse team of about 30 people to throw out some things that we had previously heard about each of the four people groups. As you can probably imagine, what started as a fun and very light-hearted exercise quickly turned tense. There were hurtful stereotypes that the group had confessed to hearing at some point, and not necessarily things that they believed themselves. There were many harsh words on each of the four sheets.

If the hard reality of racial reconciliation had never been real to me before, it certainly was now. That night I learned that if we were going be effective, we needed to be more than just a multicultural congregation. Multiculturalism refers to several cultural or ethnic groups living alongside one another but with limited interaction. And for us, that didn’t sound like a family.

Detroit Church needed more of an intercultural dynamic, where mutual exchange of ideas and norms are shared, while maintaining cultural distinctiveness, growing empathy, and deepening relationships. We also knew that if we were going be the kind of church that we felt Detroit needed to see, we’d better have the courage to deal with our own implicit bias, and fully embrace a renewed commitment to all of the implications of the gospel. That is where true hope lies.

Although reconciliation to God is the ultimate goal of the gospel, racial reconciliation represents the beautiful byproduct of what can happen once the glorious gospel truly gets a hold of us. When this takes place, we grow in grace together, and no one is left unchanged because we all learn from each other as God makes us into one new family.

God, the ultimate artist is at work making all things new. We exist to join him in creating a city where beauty emerges and everyone belongs. And through His gospel, our broken and fragmented humanity becomes a work of art. 

—Detroit Church

Sonny Smith

Lead Pastor, Detroit Church

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