Randal Lyle has a dream.
Randal’s dream is as relevant and timely as Ferguson, Missouri and as ancient as the scriptures.
Rooted in the prayer of our Lord, it is a dream for our time and for all time. Central to our faith, it is the expression of our love.
It is a dream of heaven that heaven sent.
And for the Rev. Dr. Lyle and the Meadowridge Community Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the dream is becoming an exciting reality.
It wasn’t always that way.
A decade ago, when Pastor Lyle first came to Meadowridge, this Southern Baptist church was struggling just to stay alive. It was, as many churches in America are, an all-white church. Lyle told a reporter from the Fort Worth Star Telegram how sad and frustrated he felt when he’d see a non-Caucasian family visit only to realize that they would not likely return.
As difficult as it might be, Randal Lyle was determined to see that change.
“We began to pray and ask God to make us the church he intended us to be.”
With the help of others who shared his dream, Randal led a ten-year transformation that has made Meadowridge today a thriving multicultural body of believers.
The church’s motto?
All Races United in Christ.
With an average attendance of 230 on Sunday morning, fully 30 percent are African Americans. Hispanics, Asians and other races also attend.
Integration is working – in this church, on Sunday morning, the most segregated hour in America.
Along the way, with God’s help and the infusion of the Holy Spirit, men and women began to overcome their prejudices – in music, worship, leadership and all manner of areas where they learned to “give a little bit”, as one member put it.
In this beautiful and wonderful process called spiritual maturity and growth, people discovered how great it felt to be set free from their cultural chains.
Rev. Sidney Simon, an African-American associate pastor at Meadowridge, told Star-Telegram reporter Jim Jones that the essence of their dream was to fulfill God’s dream for the Church.
“Our goal,” says Pastor Simon, “is to reflect what heaven is like. God is breaking down the barriers that separate us. If we can’t get along down here on earth, how can we get along in heaven?”
If the Church of Jesus Christ won’t set the example of a color-blind society, what institution will?
Who has a greater example? Who has a greater power? Who has a clearer mandate or higher calling than the Church?
To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, if we can’t make racial harmony and unity work here, we can’t make it work anywhere.
And be very sure of this: it’s important that we do.
In time we will weary of Ferguson. The criminal justice system will work its will. The protestors will go home, and the media turn to other stories. The tumult will subside and the tragedy will take its place alongside others in our history.
But we dare not forget Ferguson’s point.
One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War and well into this most advanced of all centuries, racial hate still lies just beneath the surface of our national consciousness in this land of the free. At a single gunshot, it can rear its ugly head and show us how divided we still are and how far we still have to go.
If Michael Brown had been white or Darren Wilson black, most of us would have no idea where Ferguson is.
I’m ashamed to tell you what ran through my head when I saw the looting on TV. I asked God to forgive me. It was a self-revealing moment.
It can be subtle, sophisticated and seemingly innocent, but nearly all of us struggle with prejudice in some form or fashion – and to some degree. Racism is part and parcel of our fallen state. It’s as insidious as it is real.
Only in confronting it can we gain victory over it.
Which is why what Randal Lyle and Meadowridge Community Baptist Church are doing is so exciting and so important. Not just for them but for all of us.
Jesus prayed for his church in the Garden on the night he was betrayed. He asked his Father to sanctify us by the truth, to keep us uncontaminated by the world and to love each other.
And he prayed that we would be one.
Facing the multiple prejudices of his own time, and acutely aware of his own hatreds before he came to faith in Christ, the Apostle Paul told the Galatians that in Christ:
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.”
Those distinctions by which it was so easy to judge and condemn and suspect one another were now gone. They were destroyed by Jesus in his finished work on the cross. They no longer count. They no longer matter.
They must no longer divide us.
There is no longer black and white.
“For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28, NLT).
It will be the most racially diverse, inclusive and multicultural experience you and I have ever had.
Why not start now?
May God bless you and your family.