Black History Month: An Interview With Isaiah Brooms
One of the most illuminating and meaningful series ever posted on Rooted came to us by way of youth pastor Isaiah Brooms and his interview with Charlotte Getz for Black History Month. We wanted to share it again in its entirety so you can savor Brooms’ wisdom and perspective. Starting with the question, How can we equip parents and other leaders of youth to help their teens foster authentic interracial relationships, as part of God’s design for his kingdom? they explore topics ranging from American church history to integrated summer camps to the potential of church choirs to unite youth across racial divides.
The interview, called Footprints: How Jesus Uses Youth to Carry Us from Division to Unity, is divided into three parts. The links are all here, with brief excerpts from each one. As you can see, you will want to read them all.
“If youth ministry is going to work in the kind of African American experience I grew up in, the youth have to be completely unplugged from the community and taken to a summer camp so that they could receive a gift: the gift of their senses being shocked by an experience they probably have never had before, safety. The kind of safety that allows a middle or high school student to be exactly what they are, a kid.
During that period of time at the camp, the Youth Pastor would then have a great opportunity to do a lot of things that looked like a traditional youth group. In that scenario, it would work really well. The problem is that when the camp ended and the students began their drive back home, the armor would reappear, and the childhood and youthful curiosity about God would fade and be replaced with the reality of their circumstances. What would be ideal, but expensive, would be for this camp experience to be something that happened three-four times a year. It would also be a great opportunity to integrate races in a safe and authentic way.”
“I so wish that at the end of the Civil War, the churches in America simply integrated. So much of what we are discussing now wouldn’t be a top issue we are dealing with. It’s all kind of absurd if you really look at the Gospel and listen to the words of Jesus. If requiring circumcision was a huge barrier to truly living and reflecting the body of Christ, I’m pretty sure things like similar race, politics, and zip codes also aren’t part of a healthy body.
Happily, I don’t believe this is hard to fix. It just takes brave and courageous members of congregations to step across the street and make a regular habit of worshipping God in a context very different from their own. It is very important that this not be a “tourist” activity; it has to be a regular occurrence that over time will build on the foundation of Christ a familiarity, trust, and open door to noticing and taking advantage of “easy opportunities” to integrate. I believe this kind of approach would lead people to eventually discover lots of common ground in the areas of missional activities, youth ministry, service opportunities, prayer gatherings, and maybe even find common ground in launching a fully integrated church plant! This is a dream of mine.”
“If we want the youth to embrace a reality of racial inclusion in worship, then the adults have to embrace that reality as well. Otherwise there is a major disconnect that can lead a youth to find disgust in the church when they notice issues like double standards and racial brokenness. Youth ministry should never be done in a silo, otherwise it accomplishes the goal of a silo, keeping the youth separated from the work of the entire body of Christ. That body includes the “grown-ups.”
The entire church has to ask itself the question you asked me, “Is Christ enough?” Are politics worth more, zip codes worth more, musical worship styles worth more, and liturgy worth more than union on the grounds of Christ? Some people answer “yes,” to the question of Christ simply being enough — that is reflected in how the youth ministries at those churches are organized. If you have a mission similar to the youth ministry at my church (which is the same mission of the entire church) “to connect youth to God, others, and the needs of the world,” then you naturally have an outward facing way of engaging the Gospel. We don’t just want to evangelize; we want to harmonize with the body of Christ everywhere.
If we as the church truly believe that everyone is made in the image of God, we should be unable and unwilling to live with dissonance within that body. Reconciliation with all the parts of God’s body is the only way forward for a church. A church can’t live in dissonance with the other parts of God’s body because the Trinity does not live in dissonance with itself, it simply does not. Therefore, we should not tolerate or accept it.”