Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does this sign demonstrate support of the policy platforms of the BLACK LIVES MATTER Organization? If not, why declare the statement with these three words, “Black lives matter.”?
No. We are simply declaring that, “Black lives matter.” In design, font, color, punctuation, and capitalization, we distinguish ourselves from the organization. We say these three words, though, to enter into the pain of our Black brothers and sisters and walk with them to the riches of Christ and his purposes in them and in our world.
We are called to love in both word and deed. As we have recently listened more carefully to our Black brothers and sisters, we have realized that injustices have shaped daily fears in them for the color of their skin. Yet our own multiethnic church has struggled to see these fears. Sadly, the world has seen what the church has not, and a global movement has risen up to enter into this pain and work for ongoing change. These three words have expressed a truth that the church has troublingly overlooked. We, as the church, use these same three words to acknowledge our oversight and to confirm our belief in the inherent, God-given value of the lives that remain so easily ignored, devalued and even abused.
Love is costly. These three words may lead to costly misunderstandings—-awkward conversations, political mis-characterizations of our purpose and intention, and social dismissal. However, these three words uniquely carry the grief and lament of a people who have been devalued. Can’t we pay that cost and memorialize this love with words and a renewed commitment to action?
On the one hand, the cost of a multiethnic church is disproportionately carried by the minority – even when we wish otherwise. On the other hand, it will be costly, especially for those from the majority culture, to post a sign that says, “Black lives matter.” Might this be an opportunity for those in the majority to shoulder more of the burden of our multiethnic community?
2. What does the Bible say about this?
The Bible calls us to care for the oppressed in our midst. When the people of God fail to see the burdens of the oppressed, the widow, and the fatherless, then God hates their religious celebrations and will not listen to their prayer (Isaiah 1:12–17). Instead, our prayer and fasting should “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isa 58:6–7).
Yet before we can find an answer, we must see the problem. This sign demonstrates that we as a church are beginning to see the problem and can declare, “Black lives matter.” Just as Paul adapted the words of Greek philosophers to preach the gospel in Athens (Acts 17:23–24), so we are reclaiming these words to connect them to the riches of the gospel.
Spiritual warfare shows that sin is not just personal but also systemic (Eph 6:11–13). One satanic system is a hierarchy that measures value based on skin color. This formed the foundation of chattel slavery and has insidiously continued in vagrancy laws, Jim Crow laws of segregation, internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, exclusion of Chinese immigrants, redlining and housing codes, and disproportionate criminalization of communities of color. This satanic system declares that Black lives matter less.
The Bible declares that we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–27). Therefore, when the world acts in ways that demonstrate that Black lives matter less, we declare with God’s Word, “Black lives matter.”
3. What are we doing to love and support our Black brothers and sisters?
Simply saying, “Black lives matter” without demonstrating that value in action is not enough; faith without works is dead (James 2:17). At Wellspring, we have begun to intentionally demonstrate the value of Black lives by learning and serving with them in a variety of ways.
This begins by listening. In leadership over the past few years, we have intentionally developed greater diversity to learn and lead with a broader perspective. This journey has been slow. By providing a seat at the leadership table, however, our African-American brothers and sisters (with each individual with their unique age and culture) help us see and correct our blindspots.
As an entire church, we have created spaces to learn and grow. “Wrestle” gatherings led by our Black brothers and sisters have provided space to explore issues in light of the racial tensions in our nation. EQUIP classes on race and justice over the past four years have intentionally engaged this subject with biblical depth, historical sensitivity, and cultural awareness. In our church and home groups, friendships are growing an awareness of racial issues on a personal level so that we can engage them in the systems of our church and world more effectively.
Beyond our own community, we have also sought to learn and serve with African-American churches, coming under the leadership of an African-American church in Bronzeville to share God’s grace through the provision of practical needs in their community. In addition, we have also partnered financially with ministries, such as PADS and Outreach Community Ministries, that listen to and serve the needs of our community. A small group of people in our church are creating a “Zacchaeus fund”; just as Zacchaeus accompanied his repentance with giving his money to correct injustice, so some are exploring ways to help with the down payment for a house of a Black family in our church.
4. Won’t this sign end up causing division? And isn’t that contrary to our calling as God’s people?
Jesus prays that the church “may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). As a result, the desire to reduce division and avoid unnecessary conflict is good and right. However, conflict is not the enemy of unity. Though conflict is never comfortable, God throughout Scripture often uses conflict to clarify and bring greater unity.
Conflicts sometimes clarify convictions; when the church had “no small dissension and debate” over the faith of the Gentiles, this conflict led to a clear conviction around God’s purposes for the Gentiles (Acts 15). Other times, conflicts clarify differences in methodology. When the church disagreed on issues of food, they were to bear with one another in love without judgment, even with disagreements (Rom 14:13). Conflict also may clarify differences of calling; Paul and Barnabus had a “sharp disagreement” regarding what to do about John Mark so they separated (Acts 15:39).
Yet in all of these conflicts, we must show grace, love, listen, and thoroughly demonstrate the character of Christ. In prayerful humility, we must ask the Spirit what He desires to reveal in the midst of conflict, and then – as we discern His voice – step down the path to which He has called us.
In our divergent opinions at Wellspring about whether to put up this sign, we are united theologically about the value of Black lives. Our differences come not in our theology but our methodology–how ought we demonstrate the value of these Black lives? And this conflict is an opportunity to work through differences of that methodology. And since our differences are primarily around areas of methodology, we can honor one another even in our differences.
5. Is this decision representative of our congregation?
Leadership decisions in a church can be descriptive or aspirational for a congregation. Typically, leadership decisions in a church are descriptive of the priorities of the people. When this is so, the decisions are easily understood.
This decision is more aspirational in nature, reflecting the convictions of the church leadership for where God is calling us to go. Since this decision, originally, did not describe where many of the church may have been at the time of the decision, it was far more costly and difficult than we would have otherwise desired.
The absence of town halls with this decision has raised questions about the integrity of our decision-making process. Why did we have a town hall only after the decision was made? This is an excellent question. To answer, we were concerned that town halls inevitably highlight the voices of the majority, and their opinions typically prevail. If we held a town hall before the decision was made, we were concerned that those voices would drown out the voices of a minority. Since this decision sought to highlight the voice of a minority, the Governing Board exercised its leadership to highlight a voice that may not have been otherwise heard and to make a decision that we believe is in keeping with the call of the Church as seen in the Scriptures.
Since our Family Meeting, we have been encouraged to hear of the strong support of this decision in our congregation, even as we love, honor, and respect those who may still disagree.
6. What does the Christian and Missionary Alliance think about this decision?
Our leadership in the Midwest District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance is aware and in prayerful support for us at this time.
In “An Open Letter on Racism,” our Alliance leadership has said:
It is not just sinful for racism and injustice to exist in our country and/or churches. The Church stands complicit by sitting silent when racism and injustice run rampant in our nation. It is, therefore, the call and the responsibility of the Church to lead the charge in speaking against any and all acts of racism and/or injustice. We stand firm in urging every church of The Christian and Missionary Alliance that falls under our charge to proclaim salvation through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, to announce His Kingdom of righteousness and justice, to denounce all forms of racism and injustice, and seek to be the voice of change in our communities . . . .
Finally, to the members and adherents of our movement that comprise the Black community, we say today that we lament with you. We are listening to you. We seek to be agents of change with you. And we stand alongside of you. Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
7. Why are signs being posted at Wellspring Wheaton and not at Wellspring Warrenville?
The request to consider putting up a sign at Wellspring originally came from Wheaton campus members asking about putting up signs at the Wheaton campus. While we are one church with two campuses, we still do some things separately and have distinct cultures at each campus.
In our discussions as a Governing Board and pastoral team, we failed to communicate adequately with the Warrenville Leadership Team. This was an oversight on our part. We were wrong to underestimate how, as a Wellspring campus, a sign on Wheaton’s property would affect Warrenville. In discussion with the Warrenville Leadership Team, we have apologized for failing to bring them into the discussion earlier.
While both campuses stand against racism and desire to love and support Black brothers and sisters in our community, members of either campus may not agree on the best method to do so. And this is OK. The Bible declares the value of Black lives; the Bible does not declare that this value must be expressed by all churches everywhere with a sign. At Wellspring Wheaton, we feel that this sign is the next step on our journey to address this issue; at Wellspring Warrenville, their journey expresses the value of Black lives in different ways.
As our church navigates our different feelings about this step, we ask that we listen carefully to one another, hear each other’s heart to represent Jesus well to the world, and pray that God continues to lead us forward toward courage and love.
8. When will the sign be posted?
Our Warrenville campus pastor has requested that we wait in posting the sign until they can have their own Family Meeting on Sunday, November 1. We have agreed. We will wait until after November 1. And since our Wheaton campus is a polling site, we will wait until after the election to post the sign on November 4, 2020. The sign will remain up for at least three months on the east and west sides of the Wheaton campus.
9. What’s next?
Love is costly; “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). When Wellspring was formed, we embraced our calling to “to look not only to [our] own interests but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).
We are not called to our personal comfort, but to care, even when there is a cross to bear. Where will Jesus lead us next? I am not sure. But I know that as we carry the cost of love, the life and love of Christ will abound in and through us. May we “all be one…that the world may believe” (John 17:21).