The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“Bringing Reconciliation and Hope to a Culturally Divided World “
March 8, 2021
Intro: Today our guest starts with a harsh reality. He says, “We know our world is broken.” But what he focuses on and has dedicated his life to is helping Christians build reconciling communities. When there’s reconciliation, only then can we experience the restoration of relationships. To learn from his experience and to learn how, stay tuned.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button and receive our free action guide.
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And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
David Bailey is the founder and executive director of Arrabon, a ministry in Richmond, Virginia, where he and his wife, Joy, call home. David, welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
David Bailey: Thank you so much for having me. Glad to be here.
Al: Well, you know, the name of your organization, Arrabon, is the key to what we’re going to unlock. As Jim Collins described in Good to Great, it’s the BHAG, the big, hairy, audacious goals. So let’s get right to it. What does the word arrabon mean?
David: Well, the word arrabon, it means a foretaste or a deposit. It’s a Greek word. The way that it’s used in the New Testament is that the Holy Spirit has given to the church as a foretaste, as an arrabon, of the kingdom of God that’s to come. Well, the world doesn’t get the Holy Spirit like the way the church does. What the world gets is the church or gets God’s people. So whether you are a part of a Christian community or you’re doing a Christian business or a nonprofit, we want every Christian community to be a foretaste of the reconciling community that’s to come.
Al: Foretaste. I love that. Yeah.
So reconciliation of racial divide and every barrier that discourages and defeats unity in the workplace culture is vital to the work of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute. So, David, how does Arrabon, how did it come into being? Where and how did it organize and originate?
David: So, it’s both coming out of my life and out of some choices that my wife and I have made. So when I was eight years old, my parents were really involved in urban ministry. We lived in the suburbs, and it was, like, a working-class suburb. But our church that we literally went to was in a housing project in a community center. So I remember going to church and starting to go with these kids. I’m like, “Man, I don’t want to be with these stinky kids.” And I was, like—but these “stinky kids” really became my friends. I didn’t know that wasn’t “normal” until I was in a sociology class in college and people were talking about “those people.” Sometimes “those people” were rich people, sometimes “those people” were poor people, and I realized that folks had very strong opinions about the “other,” but they didn’t know a person by name, and I knew these different people by name, by the fact that I grew up with people who had a lot more money than me and a lot less money than me. I grew up with people of different races and ethnicities.
Another thing that happened, when I was eight, I started playing the piano around eight, and I became the church piano player about 11, and around 14, I was playing gigs, and it opened up a world of gated communities. And by the time I was 18, I’m doing country clubs and playing the country club Friday night; doing outreach ministry with my band Saturday afternoon; maybe do a black jazz club with kind of black middle-class group of folks; do a Presbyterian church at 9:00 and 11:00 service; do a Pentecostal church at 1:00; and then at 5:00, I would do this international church that had over 30 different languages spoken. And those were things that you could do when you’re, like, 18 to 20 years old.
Al: Sounds like a lot of fun.
David: Yeah, it was because it connected me with a whole lot of different people groups, right?
David: What that did, it really, when you’re a music producer or music director, you’re a cultural anthropologist and realize, like, oh, a lot of ministry leaders, pastors, business leaders aren’t thinking about anthropology, and they aren’t thinking about the culture that they’re making. And they were always crossing cultures. And so if we were going to do a business venture or a nonprofit in China, we’d know that we’re going on a plane, and we’d say, “Hey, we’re going to cross culture.” But when you go from one part of town for another part of town, from one educational degree to another educational degree, from one zero on somebody’s annual income to another zero, you’re crossing culture. And so in 2008, my wife said, “Hey, David, you know how to do this. When they ask you how to do it, you should maybe start teaching.” And that’s how Arrabon got started.
Al: Yeah. Wow, that’s a great background.
Well, I’m curious to know a little more about your founding story. You know, give us a foretaste of what it means to have a reconciled heaven in our divided world. I mean, you’ve got a vision of that. Tell us a little more about the sense and feel, and how do you celebrate new hope?
David: Yeah. So, you know, this really came out—so like I said before, my wife was like, “Hey, this has been a story that’s been going on in your life. And you know how to talk about it, teach it.” Well, right in that same year I started doing that, I had a couple of friends that were really inspired by Dr. John Perkins and said, “Hey, let’s move into a neighborhood called Church Hill.” It was an under-resourced neighborhood, historic area also, but a significantly under-resourced area, and said, “Hey, let’s come and be a presence, and let’s start a church that is not just ministering to brothers and sisters who are in economic poverty, but actually with. Let’s intentionally engage across racial and economic and ethnic lines.”
And I’m going to tell you, man, it’s a lot easier to say this is a value than it actually put into practice. And I’m going to be honest. The first three years or so, we were failing miserably, and we just thought, just praying, saying, “Yes, we want to be of value,” reading Bible scriptures about it. But we looked at three years into it, and I was on staff, and we’re looking, like, “Man, we’re failing miserably, and we really haven’t been doing anything to actually grow in our own understanding and our learning and our practice.”
And so we spent about nine months studying and trying and working on this stuff ourselves. And this became the seeds of one of our resources that we have now called Race Class in the Kingdom of God. And we thought it was really important to have a biblically rooted way to engage in this, as well as informed by our realities that we deal with.
And so basically, we got a vision of being a reconciling community or being an arrabon by literally being a part of a church community, that I’m still a part of, where I live, I walk. The work that we do, when I’m not on a plane, I’m here in a community, trying to live this out, put this into practice. And what worked for our community and our neighborhood called Church Hill and a church called East End Fellowship, people started asking, “Hey, how do you do this in our different cities?” And then we literally work with communities all around the country now.
Al: So, how long have you been involved in that community now? You say you failed after three years. How long have you been there now?
David: 2008 is when we started, so, what, just 13 years?
David: So it’s been 13 years being in this community. So, both the starting of the ministry and the starting of this church is there. And I think part of this work is failure with success, right?
Al: Mm-hmm, yeah.
David: Like, we just keep on getting in. So I think there’s like—it’s always—and my grandma says, “The biggest room in the world is room for improvement,” and so we’re still doing that.
Al: Yeah, well, you know, bloom where you’re planted. So, yeah. You stayed there. You stuck it out. You came up with, and early, you’ve had a great experience. That’s great.
You know, I can hear our listeners saying, “So, what stands in our way in terms of the reality that we have in the U.S. and Canada,” or pick any country, for that matter. And an interview some years back, you said that with over 93 percent of our churches divided among racial lines, we are not representing heaven here on earth at all. And at one time in our recent history, your grandparents or your parents’ generation, the division was intentional and generally racially motivated. So is that still the case? I mean, have things really changed from that? And if so, how does Arrabon enter into a conversation with Christian leaders? You know, those are the people listening to this podcast. How do you enter into a conversation with Christian leaders and their communities and their organizations?
David: Yeah, so that’s a lot to unpack.
David: Let me just take a little bit of time real quick and say a few things. So I think one thing that’s important to understand is that particularly the issue of race is something that was actively engaged for longer than we’ve been a country, so over 350 years. You’re talking about 250 years of slavery, about 90 to 100 years of Jim Crow. And so, just to understand this, the year that Harriet Tubman died was the year that Rosa Parks was born. The year that Rosa Parks died is the year that YouTube got started. And so it’s not that long. It sounds like a long time ago, but it’s not that long ago, right?
So imagine a snowball that got started about 350 years ago. It’s been going downhill. And then what happened around 1968, we said, “Hey, we need to stop doing this.” Around 1970, said, “We need to figure this out.” By the 1980s came, say, “We’re a colorblind society, and let’s kind of ignore this and try to not talk about it.”
Well, culture doesn’t change that fast. There’s a lot of momentum that has happened over the years, and we’re just trying to figure out what to do. I don’t think it should take us by surprise as Christians, because as Christians, we know that the world is broken. And not just, like, the people out there are broken, but if I’d have told you, “Hey, man, I sin and I’m broken,” we’re not going to be surprised by that, right?
I think Christian ideas is actually, and a Christian kind of worldview is very helpful in this conversation because the question isn’t, is the world broken? It’s really what’s the details and how is Christ at work in reconciling all things? And so what the Christian leader can do is that we can discern what does it look like to be a reconciled community in our places of influence, in our businesses, in our churches, in our nonprofits. How can we recognize that, like, hey, we’re at about 50 plus, almost 60 years away from saying, “Hey, this is not right. This is wrong,” but this is a 350-year problem that was created.
David: And so just having that kind of perspective, it’s like, yeah, things are a lot better than they were in my parents’ age and in their day when they were my age. Things are a lot better. And at the same time, everything isn’t perfect, you know? And what is the invitation from God for us to be—when we say “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven,” how do we pray, let the city of God that’s in heaven be the city of God in our particular areas? And so, how can we partner with God in that? And I think that’s a very different kind of conversation than any of the conversations that are going on right now, and that’s the type of conversation we try to help Christian leaders think through.
Al: Yeah. And it’s really even a generational thing, isn’t it? I mean, we talk about wanting change, and as you’ve said, it’s a 350-year issue, and it’s slow to change.
David: Yeah. And even when we talk about the generational side of it, this is the challenge with, particularly in these conversations, let’s just say if you’re a boomer and older, you’ve seen a lot of progress. If you’re a boomer and older, when you were 20 something years old, folks were siccing dogs on black folks, and Bloody Sunday was a thing that you could remember. And yes, there’s a lot of improvement from that. If you’re a Gen X or younger, it’s not that big of a deal for you to go to school with somebody of a different race ethnicity. If you’re a boomer and older, you probably, unless you were either, like, extremely poor as a white person and that was in a black neighborhood or you were in the military or some kind of unusual circumstance, you didn’t really grow up with people that were in a diverse community. If you’re younger, you would’ve grown up in a diverse community. So even as we process the news, we’re thinking about a particular type of person, you know, versus something that we’ve seen on TV. And so even within the same families, folks aren’t even necessarily having the same conversations, because they’re processing it through different experiences.
Al: Yeah. I see that in my own family, with my 95-year-old mother, for example, and—
Al: —and then I listen also to her father, who’s been gone—he was born in 1895—
Al: —and to see the mental thought through the generations to my own and my daughters, that are millennials, and yeah, it’s remarkable and positive, the changes. There’s no question about it.
Al: Well, tell us a little more about your personal story and how cultural artifacts dictate cultural narratives. I know this is something that you talk about. How about artifacts that really kind of start with your own hometown of Richmond?
David: Yeah. So, maybe this might be helpful for me to kind of even just share what I talk about building a reconciling community.
David: Diversity doesn’t necessarily guarantee reconciliation. Diversity guarantees conflict, right? And so—
Al: There we go. I think our listeners understand that. Yeah.
David: Yeah. So it’s important to understand that every Christian community may or may not be a diverse community, but every Christian community ought to be a reconciling community.
Back in 2015, I did a TED Talk. They asked me to come and speak particularly of some of the work that we we’re doing in our neighborhood, around getting young people 18-25 to study theology, reconciliation, justice, urban ministry, and context. And instead of writing papers, they write worship songs. And these worship songs become the thing that we sing in our congregation.
Well, I’m giving young people—some are wealthy; some are very poor; some are a different race ethnicity; some were born in this country, other ones weren’t—to have them come and get together, participate in a cross-culture collaboration, but then to write a new narrative, a soundtrack of reconciliation, because Richmond, Virginia, was a former capital of the Confederacy.
David: So the folks from TED came and asked me to come and give a presentation about the work that we were doing, and how can this be a model towards reconciliation? Well, man, in 2015, there was no way that you would tell me that hey, five years from now, they would tear down Confederate monuments in Monument Avenue. And I mean, it’s such an iconic aspect of the city of Richmond.
Now, here’s the thing. You talk about diversity of narratives? Like, if my mom was an alcoholic, I could say my mom was an alcoholic. You can’t say my mom was an alcoholic, right?
David: So, like, folks in the Confederacy particularly are rich. But these are people’s families, right?
David: And there’s one side of a narrative that has to happen this one way. And then, you know, you’ve got other people that are like, man, this is a symbol of racism and oppression. Why do we have this stuff? And that’s another narrative, too. And then others are like, hey, this is art. And that’s another narrative.
And so part of the idea of what I was sharing was, hey, what if we create cultural artifacts collaboratively of the thing that we want to see in the world? And how about we put things up around those narratives, upon these monuments, that kind of also tell an additional story? I think that’s kind of a way that things can help to move forward, and I think those are the type of deal, like, if you want to see something different in culture, what you got to do is you got to kind of create the kind of culture you want to see. And cultural artifacts help to make that thing happen, particularly if you think about it from a reconciling type of motivation.
Al: What would be some examples, David, that you’d say would be a great cultural artifact of what it should be, how we can move forward?
David: So, one of the things that I’m always saying is that like, “Hey, if there was a philanthropist who came to me, I would say, ‘Hey, spend 40 percent motivating businesses to think about, hey, for a very, very long time in our country, race was created so that a few people can have a lot more at the expense of a lot of people.’”
David: And race was created for economic reasons, right? It was hindering the mobilization of black folks, certain immigrant demographics of certain skin color, and, hey, it’s just going to take some time to so seize the kind that are going to reap rewards to begin to think about things in a different way. So I think there’s a lot of opportunities for businesses to actually do successful business but create new opportunities for people who have historically not had the same type of opportunities. You got to think about so much generational knowledge and generational access that has happened in the world. And it’s like, hey, let’s start something new and realize there’s a people that did something different. And I’m saying, like, “Hey, let’s do some innovation of what could happen.” So I think the type of businesses that we create and the kind of businesses that we do, I think that’s one opportunity.
I think another opportunity is for artists. I would say, “Hey, invest the 40 percent of artists who are storytelling.” He or she that tells the best stories is the one that wins the culture. And a lot of times Christians, we’re bad at storytelling and art. Like, we try to change minds, like if it’s the people through logic were very captivated by the Enlightenment, people are not logical beings. We’re not logical beings first. We are emotional beings to find a logic to our thing. Like, this is so true of all of us, right? So this is why, like, engaging a storytelling, art, beauty is such a great way. So if you don’t like the messaging that’s going on in this conversation, then it’s, like, hey, commission some artists that are telling the kind of kingdom-oriented stories. They could say Jesus, or they could not say Jesus. Commission artists to tell stories and write beautiful things that kind of imagines the world the way that you wanted to see it and the midst of things that are broken but give imagination and hope.
And then the third thing I say is the type of Christian communities that we create, like, the type of things that we can make. Even if I was building tables together that we could eat, eat meals around, or if it’s the type of playgroups that we decide to do, or where we decide to who to connect our children with. All of these things are culture-making type of activities. For us, we spent time around songwriting in our worship space through the Urban Doxology project, because we wanted to shape the imagination of our church. People’s theology is shaped by what they sing, not just by what they hear preached to them. And so we focused on that. But it’s not necessarily that the magic is in songwriting. The magic is in collaboratively doing something kingdom-oriented over multiple years, of a sustained amount of time, and see what God does when you sow these seeds faithfully year in and year out.
Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
We’d like to invite you to BCWI’s next webinar. Many Christian-led organizations struggle to be innovative. At BCWI, we’ve researched the key difference makers between organizations likely to stagnate and those that reinvent themselves and thrive in the midst of uncertainty. We know that innovative organizations increase impact and sustainability. So mark your calendar, Wednesday, March 24, for a free, live, one-hour webinar. We’re calling it Three Steps to create a Culture for Innovation: Building Sustainability Today to Flourish Tomorrow. Again, join us Wednesday, March 24—the third Wednesday in March—at 1:00 p.m. Eastern or 10:00 a.m. Pacific. Please register at bcwinstitute.org.
Yeah, David. I like that very much. I mean, doing things together in organizations, we call that engagement, engaging people to do things together, to involve people in the things that they’re actually working to improve.
But, yeah, I like your three opportunities. Business. And that would be true of all organizations, giving opportunities to all, not just a few. And culture. Doing more storytelling to help create the vision of what the future can be. And then, of course, in Christian community, we should be doing these things together. I think of just basic evangelical work. I was involved in Young Life as a young person and volunteer leading. I mean, they talk about building trust, earning the right to be heard. That means just working together to do things together, oftentimes with guys that might be sports or whatever it is. But you do things together. That helps build community. And so much of this is relationship building across these barriers. Yeah.
David: And let me just add one little piece in there, because I think a lot of times what’s important to understand is that our society is built in a way where we won’t naturally cross economic and racial and ethnic differences.
David: But you don’t have to be a racist for your world to be homogenous. Most people today are not racist in that 1950s, ’60s definition of racist. But we all have biases that have been shaped by our cultural ways, or we have different patterns we engage in. And particularly those of us who are educated, we spend time on planes, the story of the Good Samaritan, our society has been built and organized with guys like you and I do not have to cross over anybody that’s beat up and down and out. Like, we got to go on a mission trip to see that kind of stuff.
David: Unless we make a conscious choice to kind of be in proximity with people that might even be in a situation by their nature, that just doesn’t happen. And so shorthand wise, the way the rhetoric works nowadays is that people say, “Oh, you’re racist if you do x, y, and z,” and that’s not fair, and it’s kind of like a thing where folks get defensive, which makes sense, right, because people aren’t thinking about that motivation. No. Our society has been designed in this way where we don’t have to see if you make enough money, if you have enough education, you have enough network, you don’t have to see the people on the side of the road beat up. We could watch about it, hear about it on TV. You can read about in the newspaper. But you don’t have to experience it.
And so part of what it means to kind of do this kind of collaborative work is to actually say, like, hey, let’s make some conscious choices in our lives, in our businesses, in our sort of things It’s like for my wife and I, it was like, hey, instead of going deeper into the suburbs and the wealthier, like, space, let’s actually live in a different community to have a very different experience. It has transformed my life. You know, I pray and hope that I’m contributing just as much as I’ve been blessed from being a part of this. And for some people, that might mean move to a different neighborhood. But for other people, that might mean, hey, let me make some different kind of choices of my spending habits and the type of work that we do, how we go about the work that we do, those type of things.
Al: Yeah. That’s challenging for all of us. And I love your example of the neighborhood that you moved into. Prior to starting the Best Christian Workplaces, I worked in a business tower in downtown Seattle, and I have to admit that I didn’t know the name of a poor person, you know, I mean, as you’re describing. I’d see them on the side of the road, but I didn’t interact, just because of my patterns of work and so on. And that would take, and it did take, a real effort to change that, you know.
So, what we’re all about at BCWI is that we work with Christian-led businesses, churches, Christian nonprofits, and they’re motivated to build effective, healthy, flourishing workplaces, and that’s our focus. So some of the artifacts, some of the ways we do that is healthy employee feedback, best practices involving employees and decisions that impact them, having good communication, inspirational leadership. So give us a couple of examples of artifacts that hold up and point to a racial reconciliation that Arrabon has actually helped bring about. How do you respond?
David: Yeah. So, being a reconciling community and organizational health actually goes hand in hand. I am an organizational-health junkie. I mean, I love Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni; I mean, leadership stuff with John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard; I mean, the list goes on and on. I’m constantly staying on the latest in that area. And being a reconciling community, for us, we’ve developed these five pillars of a reconciling community.
Pillar number one is understanding that reconciliation is spiritual formation—
David: —that if you and I have conflict, we just can’t go after each other. We have to ask the question, hey, how could God be glorified? How can I honor my brother in Christ, even as we deal with this conflict? I kind of self-examine my own self, take the plank out of my eye before I do the speck in your eye. And it really complicates an opportunity for God to be glorified for transformation. That’s something to avoid. When I’m in a secular space, I say that conflict-resolution skills is a basic human need. And so if you could understand and create a culture where people aren’t conflict-avoided, that people aren’t unnecessarily combative, but they see conflict as something that we have to be skilled at to be able to grow and to mature and to move forward, that’s a really key baseline, and that is something that most human beings aren’t doing these days. And I think that’s something distinctly Christian that we should be about.
The second pillar is increasing the cultural intelligence. So, 48 percent of millennials are people of color. I think one of the stats I saw was, like, less than 20 percent in the boomer generation, you know?
David: And so it’s really, really important that we know that whether you cross generationally, ethnically, racially, economically, you’re crossing culture, and so the more you can increase the culture intelligence, the ability to engage in a work and understand cross-cultural differences is very important. So that’s the second pillar that’s really important to be a reconciling community.
The third pillar is learning diverse, shared narratives, that we can have the same set of events happen, same set of facts happen, but have very different experiences based off our demographics. If you’re 95, if you’re 65, 45, or 25, you just will experience that same thing from a different perspective just because of your age. A 25-year-old can never think like a 65-year-old and a 65-year-old can never think like a 25-year-old in the same set of things happened, you know? And so this is a really important thing to kind of understand as we engage with folks, but this is also true around racially, ethnically, economically, educationally.
The fourth pillar is participating in cross-cultural collaboration. Unless you have those three foundations, those three pillars that I just mentioned, cross-cultural collaboration is a lot harder. Cross-cultural collaboration is a lot more possible when you got those pillars at work.
And so this is, at least number five, is that we engage in reconciling culture making. And that is a very, very important aspect to helping to make these things flourish. And all of these activities are really, really key to making a flourishing multicultural workplace.
Al: And, then, number five, what’s that?
David: Number five is reconciling culture making.
Al: Yeah, okay.
So, David, just this last summer, we went through this period of unrest, let’s say, racial unrest. And, you know, I was listening to a couple of my black friends, and we were talking about some differences that we had. And I think this might be a learning and understanding a diversity narrative. When I grew up, my dad told me if I was pulled over by a policeman, the first thing I should do is get out of the car and stand up and face the policeman, man to man, out of the car. And I did that until about 10 years ago, and not that I’ve had that many situations where I’ve been pulled over. And then I learned several stories of African American men particularly, and women, that that would have been a death signal in many cases if they would have done that. I was shocked. I mean, just so—so I was personally kind of learning a diversity narrative in that regard. But is that where that would go in your five pillars, that story?
David: Yeah, yeah. I think understanding the relationship with police officers. I mean, like, it’s different. I mean, the NAACP was started in 1909. Police brutality was part of the agenda, and anti-lynching was part of the agenda. The Black Panther Party in 1967 went to the California governor—at the time, it was Ronald Reagan—and protested what was going on in the way policing would happened in Oakland. You know, comedians like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock to this day always have jokes about engaging with police officers, right, and just the challenges there. So just understanding that is really, really key because that can help interpret data in a different way that says oh, like, there are different ways that people engage. And that’s just one area, you know.
David: There’s a lot of different areas we have different experiences.
Let’s talk a little bit about leadership development, and I know that’s a big part of Arrabon. And you’ve created something called the Urban Doxology. You’ve mentioned it earlier. And that’s where you’ve worked together to write a soundtrack of reconciliation in a racially diverse and gentrifying neighborhood of Church Hill in Richmond. So tell us a little bit about the piece of music that you’ve developed.
David: Yeah. So the song I’m about to share, “Purge Me,” is a very meaningful song in our community in many ways. Every year, we do this internship over the summer, and it tends to be a few songs that emerge, that kind of can point us back to a period of time as it—it became, like, an ebenezer or like an altar for us. Like, in the scriptures, whenever God would do something, they would build an altar. And this is kind of something that each year there might be a song or something that might take our community through.
But back in 2013, when the song was written, it was the first case of the Trayvon Martin case in a series of black men being killed. And in this particular case was of a citizen who was kind of like a vigilante person, and long story short, he killed Trayvon Martin. He went to trial, and the verdict went in his favor, George Zimmerman’s favor. The reason why was that Florida had a Stand Your Ground law that kind of said if somebody was in fear, they could kill somebody, and it’s considered justification, and they won based off of that. Well, that was a very hard thing for our community because our community’s very diverse.
We got this one guy, and so I’ll tell you about diversity. Like, one guy loved Ronald Reagan, cried when Ronald Reagan died. You know, like, conservative of all conservative. Very Second Amendment-oriented kind of person, and the other people that sit in that category. And then there are others that, like, hey, you know, I’ve been on the other side of people’s fear of me, of no volition of my own. And this was not a thing that we could debate and get on the same page about. But that wasn’t even the right thing to do.
Folks were heavy hearted coming in the church the next day. The verdict came out on the Saturday night. The heaviness was so thick. I was very thankful that I wasn’t the preacher that day. That summer, we would spend a lot of time about laments and Lamentations. And 40 percent of the songs are like laments. But yeah, in our church services, we sing mostly celebrations or articulations of doctrines, but rarely do we spend time on lamenting. And so we wrote this song, “Purge Me” that summer, and we felt like, man, this was a song to share on the Sunday after this tragic death.
So the pastor, whoever preached that day preached a decent message. But we sung this song afterwards, and there was a silence that hushed, and then we just all burst out crying and weeping together. And in the midst of this crying and weeping, that weeping turned into intercession, and when we went towards intercession, I remember this blond-hair, blue-eyed sister that goes to church named Beth, which every kind of, like, stereotype that you could think of the white picket fence, white woman, and, man, she prayed for Trayvon’s mother and prayed for mothers that represent in this type of way in a way that literally brought her tears, cleansed the pain and the hurt of my soul that came from every type of police harassment I experienced. Every time I was searched for drugs, and I’ve never done drugs in my life. Like, I mean, every single time. The Holy Spirit used her tears, that moment, that particular time to bring healing to my soul in ways that I did not even know I needed healing to my soul. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the power of Christians being committed to being a reconciling community. And this song, “Purge Me,” was a song that really was the thing that the Lord used to share our pain towards God, but also help God to meet us in the midst of that pain in a very complex situation.
[“Purge Me” is played.]
Al: Yeah. Thanks for sharing.
So, here we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and it’s churches, Christian organizations, you know, we’re all being stretched at many levels, including the need for diversity and inclusion. And what would you say most to leaders who are committed to diversity and inclusion even while their plates are filled with a host of equally pressing concerns, you know, financial and so on, in their organizations? What can you share with us?
David: Yeah. I would say two things. I would love to, one, elevate the conversation up a little bit to say, like, hey, I think diversity and inclusion as a means to an end. I think what the end is, is being a reconciling community. I think there are practices of increasing diversity. I think there are practices of inclusion. But I think that when you’re a Christian community, you really need to be a reconciling community. And it’s never convenient. That’s why the best time to start is now. And don’t see it as a checklist, but as a practice, as a spiritual formational practice, as something that helps us to actually be a flourishing community. And I think reconciling communities do become flourishing communities.
And so, the thing that we do is we work with organizations to give them a little bit of shared knowledge, shared language, shared vision. And out of that shared vision, you can work towards strategies that align with your mission, vision, and values. And so you need to have a strategic plan for being a reconciling community, that fits with your mission, vision, and values. You need to have HR practices that align with your mission, vision, and values, as being a reconciling community. And so I think that’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes intentionality. And so we would love to work with any of your folks to help do that. But this problem wasn’t created overnight. The solution won’t be created overnight. I say, like, hey, think about what you can do today, think what you can do next week, think what you can do a month from now, a year from now, and for the next 10 years. That’s the type of intentionality and approach that we’re taking, and we want to encourage you to get involved in that way.
Al: Yeah. So it really takes several steps and planning as part of the process. Yeah, yeah. We use the scripture quite a bit, and we encourage leaders to be shepherds of God’s flock that’s among you, is First Peter 5:2, that Christian leaders need to be the shepherd of the flock that God has entrusted to them.
Al: How would you encourage your fellow leaders of every color to faithfully shepherd their flock today?
David: Yeah. I mean, I think this invitation to be a reconciling community is owned by everybody, everybody that names the name of Jesus, that wants to extend that invitation that Christ has, and that’s just reconciling all things. So I think these five pillars are really key, that this is what we practice in our organization. This is what we encourage other organizations to do. And I would definitely—I think this is one of the key ways of shepherding people.
I actually think that maturity comes out of handling conflict well, of tension. Like, any really good story that you have, that has to have a good conflict. If you watch any movie, and if that movie is bad, then the conflict probably wasn’t as clear. It was probably convoluted. It wasn’t strong enough, and then the solution wasn’t strong enough. And so this is the thing that is really, really important for us to understand that a lot of times this being a reconciling community is a missing link. And I want to encourage folks, as you are shepherding your people to realize to look for this. Like, hey, you know, this is the type of thing that we need in our community and our organization.
Al: David, it’s really been a pleasure talking with you about this. I love your five pillars because I know so many Christian leaders are looking for something to grab onto to kind of deal with this diversity-inclusion issue. And your focus on building a reconciling community is really spot on. And, yeah, the five pillars of reconciliation is spiritual formation. You know, as Christian leaders and disciples we’re all about Christian and spiritual formation. So that’s a key part. It’s just part of that. Increased cultural intelligence, learning diversity narrative, participating in cross-cultural collaboration, and being engaged in reconciliation, actually doing it. Moving into a neighborhood is your example. I mean, at least we can walk across the street, whatever it is to be engaged. Those are great pillars. And I’d encourage any Christian leader to check out your ministry and the work you do.
Where can people get in touch with you, David?
David: So the best way to do it is to go onto arrabon.com. Always, if you ever—I mean, I would say go onto the website. If you want to send an email, send an email to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. My assistant focuses on my emails to kind of help me to stay on top of things.
Al: Yeah, yeah.
David: But we would love to hear from you.
Al: Yeah. Great, good.
How about one final thing that you’d like to leave with Christian leaders who are listening to our podcast today.
David: Yeah. I would like to say that every community may or may not be a diverse community, but every Christian community ought to be a reconciling community. So I just want to encourage you to figure out, hey, wherever you are, what is the thing that you could do to acknowledge the brokenness that’s going on in the world and be part of Christ’s reconciling of all things?
Al: David Bailey, founder and executive director of Arrabon, a ministry in Richmond, Virginia, I want to thank you for being so open and genuine. It’s really been a great conversation. I sense your integrity, your true commitment to your colleagues, and most of all, I appreciate your devotion and service to God. So, thank you for taking time out of your day and speaking into the lives of so many listeners today. So, thanks, David.
David: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Blessings to you, brother.
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