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How to win the hearts of black college students


April 24, 2017
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Over the last few years there have been many issues regarding race relations, and some may be hard to understand.

Feelings of guilt, shame, and even anger have sprung up as a result of these experiences, which are common and may be hard to overcome.

Here are a few ways that are displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ to win the hearts of black college students.

Be humble

When trying to capture the hearts of Black Americans in a world where they already feel devalued and like an afterthought, it will take great humility.

We as leaders often times want to speak first and listen second. But we must take the backseat on most of these issues. Why? Because the goal is not just to reach more black people, but by proclaiming the truth indiscriminately, our primary aim is to more fully display the glory of God.

We can miss this glorious purpose if we take Revelations 7:9-14 out of context and reduce it to a personal motto to reach more African Americans.

We need a people who exemplify the love of Christ and actually take the time to listen to others.

Our pursuit of black college students cannot flow out of a selfish ambition to reach a specific ministry quotient or even just to surpass the demographic percentages of our campus (as noble of an objective as that might be), but to reach others for Christ.

Not only just reach African American students with the gospel message, but reach the hearts of our students of color.

Many times, we can talk to people without engaging the heart and getting to know who they really are, which devalues the most fundamental aspect of discipleship: life-on-life.

We oftentimes might tiptoe around heart questions about students’ cultural backgrounds because we feel guilty or ashamed that we don’t relate with them or are afraid of awkwardness.

The thought of angering or hurting the black students we’re ministering to intimidates us and causes us to remain silent and disengage, which is exactly what the enemy wants!

But entering into the lives and stories of others is exactly what we need to open the door for even deeper gospel conversations.

This type of dialogue offers us the opportunity to be Christ to a generation that only relates to people that look and think like them within (and outside) their church walls.

Empathize

What would happen if we set aside our cultural identities and begin to weep with our brothers and sisters who are struggling to see any hope in the situations that have transpired over the past four years?

We might begin to understand each other as we spent time together across the dinner table and asked each other tough questions from willing and receptive hearts.

Because we know that not everyone will have the same perspective, we each must put our gospel jackets on.

We must first find our true identity in Christ before we learn to live life alongside and love on those who are hurting.

It will become easier to understand these issues when they become personal to us and we begin to know those affected by tragedies by name and not just targeted areas on a map.

Bridges and railroads have separated blacks and whites for years, and it’s time for us as ministers of the gospel on the college campus to step up to the plate and bridge the gaps.

We must bridge the gaps through our love and sacrifice for one another. We must open ourselves up to being hurt so that we can love like Christ.

Christ’s love was not conditional to our ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, or athletic ability.

When our hearts were changed and we were brought back from darkness, what we began to proclaim was simply the love of Christ.

We ceased regarding others by their reputation, major, or athletic ability, “though we once regarded Christ in this way” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

We need the reconciliation of Christ and the only way for reconciliation to happen is through us loving and spending time with each other, regardless of the fact that we have “nothing in common.”

Learning to ask questions like, “How did that make you feel?” helps us understand the emotional realities that our students deal with on a regular basis.

Christ gave us this ministry of reconciliation to share and to live.

Be a comforter

In the midst of the turmoil, we realize that the only one that can truly set us free is Jesus Christ.

As believers, we share in the sufferings and the comforts of Christ.

We suffer with Him, when we are grieved by the same things that grieve His heart. And when Christ experiences that comfort and extends it to us, we experience the same comfort.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-10, Paul highlights how this comfort comes from God Himself.

Often times Black Americans resonate with this text, feeling like they too have “received the sentence of death” (vs. 9), but we have hope in Christ.

Living the gospel, not just communicating it, is how we can demolish the dividing wall between us.

This is not just to win African Americans, but to win all people for the glory of God. Christ’s glory has to be our heartbeat.

In the wake of many tragedies over these last few years, lamenting with our black brothers and sisters could serve as an example to people what it means to actually empathize with one another.

Diversify your community

We should share our lives because it is a display of the glory of God in the gospel. It takes action. It takes getting out of our comfort zones and winning others that don’t look like us.

Black campus leaders must overcome the divisive frustrations of being seen as the only one who can win blacks, and the reluctant efforts of your white peers or leaders that don’t live lives that are focused on all races outside of the yearly cross-cultural project.

White brothers and sisters must take up the cross and fight to know people that are not like you.

It takes much effort, time invested, and money spent, but God will get the glory.

Blacks must do the same when regarding their brothers and sisters. Black brothers and sisters must be patient and see the opportunity to enlighten and love others despite the struggles.

Black and white brothers and sisters should all live in line with repentance and submit these things to God.

Serve

We must think of ways to serve Black Americans. We must provide time and space for them to speak.

If there are black students in your ministry, acknowledge that they are a part of the family of God, and not just a stranger. Service and care shows that you are different. Love covers up a multitude of sins.

If you have kids, bring students from different backgrounds into your family.

I remember being a college student and babysitting my campus staff’s 10-month old and year-and-a-half old. God used his care for me to develop trust with him. He was white, but the love that was given didn’t have color. I knew he cared about me, and through the process of me serving his family, I knew that he trusted me.

Christ gave his life as a ransom for many. When I think of “many,” I don’t think of just the ones who follow him. I think of ones who didn’t follow him. We are all Barabbas.

There will be many who don’t follow you and it will hurt, but stay in the race because our crown is not of this earth. It is in heaven.

Christ will reward us, and He gets glory from our faithfulness.

It will not be easy, but I’m sure that when you give your life to them, they will be grateful.

Take them to games, buy them dinner, and ask them questions about their family. We all need love and a good way to show love is tangibly.

We can also use our privileges to benefit others. If you are parents, it might mean buying more tickets to sporting events.

When the church is the church there is no need for welfare. This behavior was exhibited in Acts 2:42-47, and we see that many came to Christ through service.

I hope this is helpful. I pray that we can experience the grace of God and that we come boldly to the throne of Grace with our preferences and become like Jesus to all people.

We can’t live in fear in this generation. The damage is too great to ignore the dysfunction in our society.

We must give hope through gospel-transformed lives and gospel proclamation.

  • Belkis Lehmann

    These are excellent suggestions. Thanks for helping the body be just that, Jesus with some skin on him, to each other and the world.