Christians need to talk about race. Historically, we haven't done a great job of having those hard conversations. In light of the George Floyd tragedy and the ensuing wave of protests that have swept our country, Time of Grace – a media ministry based in Milwaukee – produced a series of videos doing just that through our young adults video series, Mile Markers. With a goal of listening and learning, Mile Markers host Mike Westendorf sat down in two different sessions with a diverse group of voices, starting the conversation, asking the hard questions and learning to listen.
In this 25-minute conversation with Time of Grace's the Rev. Dr. Bruce Becker, Creative Media Director Nhia Yang and Mike Westendorf, they discuss how the Race series was conceived, produced and the reception from Christians on this tough topic.
One hard issue we need to address right off the bat: Time of Grace supports the fact that Black lives indeed matter but does not support the BLM organization many of whose tenets are against Christianity.
You can watch the 4-part Race series here.
[Conference host's note: be aware that each of these parts runs just under an hour. Please set aside the time to watch them, maybe one or two a day. It is worth it!]
Return to original language with "show original" button at top left.
Thanks for your questions. Here are the viewership numbers and new subscribers as the result of each video:
Race: A Christian Conversation (Part 1)
75 new subscribers
Race: A Christian Conversation (Part 2)
16 new subscribers
Race: A Christian Conversation (Part 3)
7 new subscribers
Race: A Christian Conversation (Part 4)
4 new subscribers
Race: A Message from Pastor Mike
13 new subscribers
We did use the first video as a YouTube ad. We spent $3,700 of grant money to promote that video. We achieved 503,383 views.
We have many Lutheran schools using our video and print content. These are part of the Mile Markers (target audience = young adults) playlist on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA_56ra9pNtPbZc-aM6Borxr8OvHhvOKk) if anyone would like to use the videos in class or share them.
The way for more people to see them is through promotion, marketing, and word of mouth. GOWM is one way to get the word out! Thanks for including them in this year's conference.
I appreciate your approach in acknowledging the tough subject of racial issues and supporting those of color. Listening to those who have been directly affected and give them the platform to speak about their feelings without engaging in political conversation is critical in today's world. As a Christian, it is important to come from a place of understanding and incorporate a biblical aspect. To hear this message is extremely important and encouraging as a younger individual immersed in the BLM movement's effects.
It is important to support the racial equalities of those of color. Although supporting the Black Lives Matter organization goes against what I believe. Is there a goal to support individuals of color in the church but don’t support the Black Lives Matter organization? I understand that the national conversion needs to play out, but are there any ideas that have come about throughout the conversation? To unite in Christ and react to this subject most kindly and lovingly is of utmost importance to show our Godly love to others. I agree that it is essential to have a Christian conversation that begins with the foundation of God’s word.
Thank you for taking the time to discuss this topic and incorporating the importance of God’s comforting words regarding this touchy subject.
"It would be great to have someone contact the pastor that is serving a predominately Black congregation. He could then organize a luncheon after the service that would allow people to get to know one another. After that initial visit it could also work in reverse as the congregation that is predominately white might invite their friends to come and visit them."
Though this isn't the same question you asked, it is relevant in that it talks about forming genuine relationships with people of color. That's a good starting point.
Hope this helps!
I wonder if this heart is something God is inviting "the church" to claim again. In my experience, we often think evangelism is really all about education and information. If people were just better informed they would change. Yes God's word is the power at work. The reality of it is, that many of us in the church are not very good at loving the messed up world that God loved when he gave. Programs to educate (that few people come to) are easier than developing trust by doing life with someone who doesn't know Jesus or is antagonistic against Christianity.
Having both/and in the plan is the key. Let our response to minorities and people in poverty flow out of the overflow of our experience with God's Grace. We start to see the rebellious nature of even the BLM movement as something that comes from a brokeness that God came to heal in their own heart. To understand it and speak into it means we've got to listen, even when we don't agree. Earning a persons trust requires us to understand their context, ask the why questions. When we start to look for things to argue about, we've stopped listening. God willing, that patience will be rewarded with the opportunity to share the healing of God's love and grace and the root of forgiveness, which is Christ for me.
Pastor Becker, Mr. Westendorf and Mrs. Yang:
After watching the videos from this project I want to thank you all for taking the time to talk about these uncomfortable topics. As Christians we need to have open communication and loving conversations about the sinful parts of life. The topic of race in America has been one of the biggest conversations this year and I am glad that there are people in our church that are willing to have these open conversations.
These videos opened my eyes to the world that the minorities in America are living in. As our earthly church is part of this world I wonder what is the next step for our church as a whole? I may have a better understanding as an individual about how I can help but what should our churches and schools be instituting to make our churches a more welcoming place for the minorities in America?
Thank you once again for taking the time to talk about these topics. Seeing others who are willing to talk about these difficult things gives me an encouragement to do so as well.
I agree with Dr. Becker's response: helping people who are not like the church, that goes a long way in earning trust and street cred.
When my family first came to the US (my parents were refugees after the Vietnam War; I was born in a refugee camp and came to the US as a 2-month-old newborn), it was the churches that sponsored us... 40-plus years later, though my parents are not Christians, my sisters and I are. And we have never forgotten the kindness shown to us by the churches. It has stayed with us all these years, and served as a real reminder of the selfless service of Jesus. Sometimes the loudest ways to help are with deliberate actions and service towards those who are unlike us.
Hope this helps!
1 The Lord is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
2 Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
Now imagine God shows up to my house where I have judged "those people" and God knocks on my door and say "I'm here to avenge some brothers of sisters and pay back your pride".
I always read those and think of myself as the victim. The reality is that in all too many circumstances, my pride is laid bare in God's eyes. The idea that the prayer of a fellow Christian could rouse the Living God to show me my pride is humbling. THAT is probably the biggest help to me in all this. Awareness has now driven my discontent. I'm not content to know my safe victim mindset.
The other quick thought is that "Relationship = Shared Experience" Direct or indirect. If Awareness drives our discontent, then it should drive action to share life with another human being who is not like us. To SERVE them as the Samaritan did. Not all of them, you'll kill yourself, but choose one. That shared experience, arising from awareness, will drive Relationship. Want a church to step into this new world, Awareness and Shared Experience rooted in God's word is the best way forward in my opinion.
I am thrilled that a Christian is being shared during tough times about even tougher topics. I am excited to see the good that comes from this conversation, a conversation which I believe may have started in the videos, but will continue into the world. Sharing our Christian perspective can be difficult because of how many different backgrounds and opinions we have within our synod, not to mention our wider faith. I was reminded by watching the unique look at how to talk about this topic about the power of Christian conversation. Last year, as a senior at St. Croix Lutheran Academy I attended Awake and Alive and saw how well Christian conversation can go. I’ve seen this work in student Bible Studies, casual conversations outside of class, and talking to teammates in club soccer. The tough topics do come up and having the means to talk about them for the benefit of many people is very important. It is exactly what these videos do. I do have one question that comes to mind. As a pastor-in-training, I have been thinking about my future congregation. How would you recommend having this kind of panel discussion if a congregation lacks the video equipment needed? Are there alternative methods besides YouTube? Another question I have is about feedback. You said it was hard to judge how people reacted because many of the statistics you could see were views and likes. Which stats were the most helpful between views, likes, dislikes, and comments? Thank you for having this talk and I look forward to applying some of these concepts to my ministry someday.
Thanks for your thoughts and questions. Regarding video equipment . . . if you have a smartphone, you can produce videos for YouTube. Digital cameras are an option as well. When I started working at ToG, we bought HD cameras (which was cutting edge technology at the time). We paid $20K+ for one camera. Today you can purchase a DSLR camera for a few hundred bucks that will shoot great video even for broadcast.
In my opinion, YouTube is the best platform for distributing your content. The stats that we think are the most valuable are watch time and comments. Likes, etc. have little value. But, if someone watches 80% of your video, that's worth noting. If they respond with a comment, it tells you that they are engaged with the content. One more thought, YouTube and other platforms are pay to play. You can have great content, but if no one sees it, the impact is limited. That's why we buy ads on YT and FB.
I'm the producer and director for Time of Grace. We've been blessed to be able to stay on top of the changing technology. We've also seen how technology and the video landscape has evolved – and I'm seeing more and more that not everything has to be highly produced (though a high production value is always nice, but I'm biased!). Many videos nowadays are produced simply with smart phones. But if you want to go a step higher, a nice DSLR with an affordable mic is also an affordable option. The church must be able to commit to a little technology to get these conversations started.
But don't overlook the resources around you, either! For instance, Time of Grace has helped some churches with their technological needs by simply providing insight and recommendations on how they can get started on video. I'm more than happy to help once you have your own congregation! :-) (God willing I am still with Time of Grace!). And you may be surprised at the talented people in your congregation with their complementary skill set to get video off the ground.
Hope this helps!
Thank you for insights on Ethiopian culture. The videos we produced are obviously reflective of our American culture. Your comment is a great reminder that with different cultures, there are different issues and opportunities. God's blessings to you as you seek to address minority issues in your country in a way that shows how God loves all people.