Winning the Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Really Working?

Winning the Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Really Working?

by Clarence Dr. Shuler

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It's been said that the most segregated time of the week is Sunday morning. The church experiences the same racial tensions as the rest of society and this certainly does not bring glory to God. In Winning the Race to Unity, Clarence Shuler directly confronts this racial divide and challenges the church to face these problems and tackle them head on. Come


It's been said that the most segregated time of the week is Sunday morning. The church experiences the same racial tensions as the rest of society and this certainly does not bring glory to God. In Winning the Race to Unity, Clarence Shuler directly confronts this racial divide and challenges the church to face these problems and tackle them head on. Come along on this necessary journey and prepare to grow and be changed.

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Moody Publishers
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Winning the Race to Unity

Is racial reconciliation really working?

By Clarence F. Shuler

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Clarence F. Shuler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57567-799-6


Missing the Mark

We Must Refocus Our Aim if We Are to Win the Race Game

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

—John 10:16

God graciously endowed me with the ability to play basketball and gave me the opportunity to play both in college and overseas with missions basketball teams. My sports involvement has been a vehicle He has used to teach me lessons about race relationships. It was (and is) a natural open door for building cross-cultural friendships. I was the first black person many of my new white friends had ever known.

Without question, God used sports to give me a vision for unity in the body of Christ at large. I am convinced that whether we're on the court or in the pew, certain commitments and qualities—such as determination, diligence, and devotion—help to build an unbeatable combination of harmony and integrity. But victory is never easy. Sometimes it requires a flexibility that takes us beyond the familiar and the comfortable.

Another Court

God continues to use sports in my life as an analogy for racial partnerships. For instance, as I've grown older, my ability to play basketball at a certain level has begun to diminish quite rapidly (amazing what happens with age!). As a result, I've decided to turn to tennis. The word spread that I wanted to learn this sport. The head coach of the University of Tulsa women's tennis team was referred to me. As this patient woman began to teach me how to play tennis, much of her instruction did not make sense. In fact, some of it seemed downright stupid. But I had a vested interest in her instruction because I was paying twenty-five dollars an hour to receive it (three lessons; she gave me the fourth for free), so I didn't give up.

To my surprise, when I followed her directions, the ball went where she said it would! Slowly I began to learn the game of tennis by faith as I did what I was told to do. With the instruction of the tennis coach and of Rudy Perkins (a former Southern Cal tennis player and one of my best friends) and Bill Funderburk, I experienced the joy of winning tennis tournaments. But before any tournaments were won, there were many more losses. Fortunately, I was able to learn from them.

The same is true in race relations. Step-by-step we learn by faith what we must do to bring about unity. My prayer is that each chapter of this book would be a step in the right direction for those of you who are serious about improving race relations, or a confirmation for those of you who are already active that you are moving in the right direction. Some of what I am saying may not ring true for you initially. This will not negate the truth of what has been written. This may simply be the first time you have heard some of these truths, or it may be the first time you have had the opportunity to view truth from a Christian African-American perspective. Please don't let yourself become defensive. Instead, ask God to help you to work through the tough issues. This is how spiritual growth takes place as we work through the tough issues by the power of the Holy Spirit—as opposed to running away from our difficulties.

I hope you will be motivated to read this book from cover to cover because of your vested interest. For me, the vested interest in tennis was the twenty-five dollars an hour I had paid for instruction. For you as a Christian, hopefully, the motivation will come from such Scriptures as John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd," and John 17:21, "[I pray] that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

There are other similar passages, such as 1 Corinthians 12:12–26 and 1 John 4:19–21, just to list a few. Our ability to glorify God and the integrity of the Gospel we preach is at stake.

One of my goals in writing this book is to deepen your relationship with our Lord and Savior and the hope that, as a result, your relationship with others will bring you spiritual joy and a better understanding of Christians from other cultures. Many of the truths in this book will make some people uncomfortable, but for those who persevere, the results will be worth the effort. We just need to keep in mind that what we are learning has eternal ramifications.

My wife, Brenda, and I conduct marriage seminars around the country. We have found that as we explain to husbands and wives how and why they are different, it gives them understanding and security. We have discovered that a basic understanding of differences reduces competition, alleviates fear, and produces patience. My hope is that this book will birth in you some of these same results in cross-cultural relationships. It is critical that we who are Christians learn to complement one another in the body of Christ. We need each other. The key is interdependency.


The starting place to learn about anything is to ask questions. I asked my tennis coach how to serve the ball or hit a backhand in order to improve my game. The same is true when we begin to address the racial issue.

God is opening the door for me to consult with individuals, Christian colleges, churches, mission organizations, parachurch ministries, and general managers of Christian radio stations. All of the above who have hired me to consult with them have asked me the same question initially. It is intriguing to me that all these people from all these organizations ask the very same question. What is alarming is that they are all asking the wrong question. They are missing the mark.

Whenever I am asked this particular wrong question, a warning bell goes off in my head. This bell comes from the experience of thirty years of racial dialogue. It tells me that the individual (or organization) asking the question is probably not genuinely serious in his or her attempt to secure and practice information regarding Christian African Americans.

The authors of this question are usually looking for a way out. They are like those Christians who say to me, "I'm color-blind," or "I don't see color in my relationships." My response to such a statement is to tell them that's not true. Ask an individual the color of his car or his eyes and he will tell you they're blue or brown. So how come the color of someone's skin can't be assessed?

I usually engage the owner of this statement in a conversation that quickly reveals that he (or she) is not as "color-blind" as originally thought. The real issue is not the color of someone's skin, but how you treat him because of the color of his skin.

What is the wrong question? It reminds me of the question the rich young ruler asked Jesus about how to obtain eternal life. Jesus responded in Matthew 19:17–26 (NASB):

[Jesus] said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." Then he said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

It seems the rich young ruler was asking the wrong question. He was asking, "Am I on the right track to get into heaven?" But Jesus, being Jesus, was and is in the stretching business. He was not about convenience but about a faith that requires risk and sacrifice. It is interesting that the rich young ruler knew that what he was doing was not good enough for him to gain entrance into heaven. What is frightening is that he was not willing to do what was necessary to spend eternity with Jesus. He was more than willing to rule but not willing to give up what he had and believe that Jesus could possibly give him even more.

It is easy to sit back and say that the rich young ruler was unspiritual. Yet many of us have the same response to cross-cultural relationships. Without a living, active faith in God, it will always be impossible to improve race relations even among Christians. Too many Christians have become comfortable and do not want to be stretched any more by God in any direction.

Surprise, Surprise

When I think of the wrong question being asked so frequently these days about race, it also reminds me of the question and response in Luke 10:25–37 (NASB):

And a lawyer stood up and put [Jesus] to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (vv. 25–29)

Jesus, of course, goes on to tell him the powerful parable of the Good Samaritan (vv. 30–37). The question should not have been, "Who is my neighbor?" but "How can I serve my neighbor?" Can you see the implications of this parable? The Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans the Jews. Jesus was commanding the Jewish lawyer to serve everyone, even people who were not of his culture or race. And he said this at a time when Jewish tradition did not even allow Jews to walk through Samaria!

To everyone's surprise, Jesus held up the Samaritan as the model. Here the outcast of society accepted and aided his enemy. This principle is true in our society. Christian minorities are often more accepting of those in the Christian majority than those in the Christian majority are of them. In fact, like the Samaritan, Christian minorities will often go out of their way to help. They have to because they understand the pain of rejection. Not helping someone in need would make these Christian minorities just like the people they don't want to be like!

And so the wrong question many white evangelicals are asking when attempting to relate cross-culturally is this: "How can I relate to the African American?"

What is so wrong with this question? It seems harmless enough, but let's look at it closely. Why? Because the reality is that Christian African Americans see white America as controlling the economy and real estate, starting businesses and white parachurch ministries, even going overseas as missionaries—all without asking for any input from African Americans. But when these same white Christians go overseas as missionaries, they learn the language (many times from nationals) and the culture, study the history of the people they intend to serve, adapt to the food, and often wear the clothing of the country. Much of this is done before they ever step foot onto the mission field.

So when white evangelicals ask, "How can I relate to Christian African Americans?" Christian African Americans are shocked. We are shocked because even asking the question is confusing! We wonder why these same white evangelicals don't take the identical approach with African Americans here that they do with indigenous people around the world. Could it be that these same white evangelicals don't value knowing Christian African Americans as much as they do those people who have the same dark complexion but live overseas? Could it be that these same white evangelicals know that those people of a different complexion who live overseas are not coming to their America?

I know that question isn't a nice one. Nor is it easy to hear. But with no answers coming from the white evangelical community, inquiring minds want to know. Minds tend to wonder. With little explanation given by white evangelicals, their silence seems to say quite loudly that many white Christians don't really care about their Christian brothers and sisters who are of a different race and culture yet live right here in America.


When white evangelicals ask this question, it looks to African Americans as though they are looking for a way out of developing a serious relationship with African-American Christians. We African-American Christians have a question of our own: "Do white evangelicals really want to relate?"

I believe that any white evangelicals who are serious about relating to African-American Christians will read the history of African Americans (written by African-American authors, Christian and non-Christian), study the culture, and understand that African Americans are more expert on themselves than whites are (later in this book, suggested readings will be given). The fact that many white evangelicals don't study African-American history and culture continues to assist in building the wall of racism between the two races. I know that your reading this book means you are doing just what I'm recommending, and I commend you. Please keep reading. There are many insightful and helpful books written by African Americans about the African-American experience and heritage, including contributions made by blacks not just to America, but to the world. Your reading books such as this one is a step toward breaking down the wall of racism. Later in this book, I'll discuss specific examples in history that will help in our understanding.

As a history major in college, I learned that historiography teaches that the more you learn about other peoples, the more you learn about yourself. So, even from a selfish perspective, all Christians should be motivated to learn about as many cultures as possible. This point makes it even more amazing that it seems few white candidates for missions work in Africa study African Americans. What a tremendous opportunity this would give them to learn about African culture by studying African Americans before going overseas to minister.

African-American Christians know that whites who are serious about developing a relationship with African-American Christians don't sit around asking how, but start doing something. They know that you can't learn how to swim if you never get into the water!

White evangelicals who are serious about cross-racial understanding will go (the Great Commission) where the African-American Christians are, just like the missionaries do. White missionaries have never asked the people of various countries to come to them. How could white Christians ask people of different cultures here to come to them? But they do. How many times have I heard from white Christians, "We'd like to hire African Americans; we just don't know any. Besides, none have applied for the job." This is one of the major problems in bridging the race gap between white and black Christians.


Another way many white evangelicals—and here I'm speaking especially of churches, missions organizations, and parachurch ministries—miss the mark in their attempt to relate to the Christian African-American community lies in their policy of assimilation. This is the idea of absorbing the Christian African-American culture, history, and traditions into the white Christian community without the white Christian community having to make any basic adjustments.

This is not at all what the Bible has in mind. All cultures must make adjustments for the sake of Christ.

Matthew 9:16–17 states:

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.

Al Campanis, formerly of the Dodgers, and Jimmy the Greek, a former sports announcer for CBS television, both said that they did not believe that blacks were as intelligent as whites. Therefore, whites should not allow blacks to be placed in positions of authority or any decision-making positions. (Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek faced the red eye of the TV camera: here pretense must be maintained. Both men were fired from their jobs. Their punishment was manifestly unfair.)

I'm not sure their firing was right because they were simply expressing their own opinions and perspectives. They were fired for being honest. Yet, when you look at sports organizations in general, and blacks in decision-making positions in those organizations, you have to wonder if the administrators who fired these two men weren't hypocrites. What is sad to me is that this situation is comparable to that in the evangelical community.


Excerpted from Winning the Race to Unity by Clarence F. Shuler. Copyright © 2003 Clarence F. Shuler. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

I have just finished reading Winning the Race to Unity.  I must immediately take two simple actions.  I'll call my friend Laurie who attends an African American church in Chicago and ask if I can go to church with her next Sunday.  I need to sit in her congregation to listen and learn.  If we do not become active participants in the solution, we will be counted among those perpetuate the problem and thereby break, again and again, the heart of God.  The first edition of Winning the Race to Unity opened doors of understanding and healing between blacks and whites in "Bridging the Racial Divide" small groups at Willow Creek.  May the impact of this second edition be even broader and deeper. 
-Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, author, editor and speaker

Winning the Race to Unity is thorough, insightful, provocative and distinctively Christian.  Clarence Shuler has given us an excellent resource to stimulate, guide and stretch us in our interracial relationships, so we as Christ's followers can lead the way instead of always trying to catch up.  This is a book to be read, discussed, prayed over and acted upon.  I highly recommend it.
-Randy Alcorn, author of Dominion and Safety Home

Clarence Shuler's book is a must-read for people of every race and culture who are confused about the term racial reconciliation, and frustrated with the current state of race relations.  It is an equipping, challenging, healing, and compelling book!  Through powerful personal stories, we are led to a singular conclusion --only by following the healing power of the Word of God can we build what he calls racial partnerships as a way of life.  Clarence Shuler's message is clear.  There is no middle ground.  White believers must take the initiative to remove the pain and injustices caused to people of color by racism, but everyone must act.  The bottom line is --the Church must choose between Christ and culture in order to bring about unity within the body of Christ.
-Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Clarence Shuler cuts through some of the smokescreens, walks us through some of the unpleasant history we must accept, and draws us into action-oriented biblical justice with fresh earnestness.  This book forces me to think, to pray and to change.  Be prepared!
-Robert C. Andringa, Ph.D., President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities

Clarence Shuler has been a wonderful resource to Moody Bible Institute, bringing a wealth of experience both personally and professionally to bear on the issue of racial partnership.  This is a must-read for anyone desiring to move boldly into God's perfect will for His body --a body without schism --fit for heaven!
-Joseph Stowell, President, Moody Bible Institute

It is time for all of us in the body of Christ to be serious about loving one another, regardless of race or ethnicity.  This is a life message and a burden that I believe God has placed on the heart of my brother Clarence Shuler.  As you read this book, pray that God will speak to your own heart about what you can do to help bring about true biblical unity among Christians.
-Bob Lepine, Co-Host, FamilyLife Today

I heartily endorse Clarence Shuler's book Winning the Race to Unity.  I have read several books on the subject and this one spoke to me more deeply than most.  Clarence is helping the Christian community understand what biblical diversity looks like and how we can take practical steps toward an authentic unity through his writings and seminars.
-Dr. William J. Hamel, President, Evangelical Free Church of America

The church cannot focus too aggressively on the need for transethnic sensitivity and spiritually motivated therapy for our wounds in this arena of separation.  If Christians can gain ground in racial unity, maybe we'll be able to learn to win the big battle --the one that separates the church attitudinally, as our sectarianism biases divide us.
-Jack W. Hayford, Senior Pastor, The Church on the Way

Clarence Shuler has captured through his life experience the principles that lead to deeper dialogue and practice in race reconciliation.  I encourage the reading of this important book.
-Matthew Parker, President, Institute for Black Family Development

Shuler challenges us to hunger for the nations in our own communities.  With thought-provoking questions and biblical principles, Shuler breaks down the communications barriers among God's people.
-Myrna Gutierrez, President/CEO, Integrated Solutions

Clarence understands both the black and the white communities with striking depth and compassion.  He challenges us in this book as few could.  Clarence is helping us to move forward with vision and hope.
-John and Susie Yates, popular writers and speakers in the area of family life

Clarence's book raises crucial questions concerning authentic racial unity in the body of Christ.  His chapter on how to relate to the Black community is an instant classic.  For those tired of playing the same old games, I heartily recommend this book.
-Chris Rice, author of the best-selling book, Grace Matters, Graduate Student at Duke Divinity School

Finally, a thought-provoking book that asks readers to discern racial reconciliation from an African American perspective!  Clarence Shuler challenges Christians to examine the misuse of culture, power and ethics within the body of Christ and to work for the fair treatment of all humanity regardless of their social status.  A must read for all who wish to transcend racial and cultural barriers.
-Alvin Sanders, Senior Pastor, River of Life Church, Doctoral Associate at University of Miami (OH)

Winning the Race to Unity by Clarence Shuler is perhaps the best book on race relations in print!  It deals with difficult, sensitive matters in a Christ-like, graceful and sensitive manner.  While one is convicted of his past and present sins of prejudice, discrimination and racism, one is moved to positive Christ-centered response in dealing with issues for the glory of God.  I have distributed this book widely in various parts of the world through our missionaries, but also in North America to key pastors and Christian leaders.  It has helped me immensely in my personal walk with God!
-Doug Nichols, International Director, Action International Ministries

God has used Clarence Shuler to speak to the greatest hindrance to the influence of the church today.  Until Christians can genuinely love one another as Clarence teaches in Winning the Race to Unity we will be unable to effectively reach our world.  This book is a must-read for everyone who is serious about expanding the kingdom of God in America.  If we don't win the race to unity we will lose the race!
-B. Courtney McBath, Senior Founding Pastor, Calvary Revival Church

Clarence writes with love and compassion for the victims of racial bias as well as for those persons or groups who perpetuate it.  This prophetic book is rare in its honesty and practicality.  Reverend Shuler provides several illustrations of real problems as well as tangible steps to ameliorate them.  As a sociologist who has worked in evangelical settings for nearly three decades, I think that Reverend Shuler has written one of the very best books for helping evangelical Christians understand the subleties of racial conflicts.
-Henry Allen, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Wheaton College

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rightly criticized the church, stating that eleven o 'clock Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America, revealing the historical trend of God's people to be last in efforts of racial unity.  Clarence's book is very insightful in explaining why the church has been slack in the race.  This is a must read book for God's people who are no longer content to bring up the rear, but rather determined to win the race for racial unity.
-Vernard T. Gant, D. Min., Director, Urban Education Association of Christian Schools International

Clarence Shuler uses his gifts as a researcher and communicator to bring home some much-needed truth.  His honest use of his personal history combined with the eye-opening glimpse into our nation's past allows us the opportunity to run a race free of the burden that has weighed us down for so long.  I believe every member of the body of Christ should be ready to run this race, and this book will give us the courage and freedom we need to win. 
-Jerald January Sr., Author, and senior pastor, Vernon Park Church of God

Clarence Shuler writes with integrity.  I was surprised at how superficial my understanding of race is.  A continuing dialogue is necessary, for there is such a long way to go for both sides.  He has started us on the difficult journey.
-Fred Smith Sr., Businessman and contributing editor, Leadership Journal

Clarence Shuler's book is sorely needed.  It is a creative and thoughtful discussion of the issues of racial reconciliation in the evangelical church.  This book should be read by all who are involved in building relationships between evangelical institutions and minorities.
-H. Malcom Newton, Director of Globalization, Denver Seminary

Clarence Shuler's book is a gift for those willing to hear hard truths gleaned from his familiar storytelling technique which stirs the conscience and sharpens our perception on reconciliation.
-Dr. Cynthia D. James, Director of Northern California, Nevada, Hawaii Association of the Churches of God

Meet the Author

CLARENCE SHULER (Denver Institute of Urban Studies, Ph.D.; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; B.A., Covenant College) is the President/CEO of BLR: Building Lasting Relationships, which conducts marriage, singles, men's, parenting, and Biblical diversity seminars throughout the United States and internationally. He is a member of Dennis Rainey's FamilyLife Speaker team, along with his wife, Brenda. Formerly, he was President of Moody's Alumni Board. Clarence's forty-plus years of professional cross-cultural consulting includes churches and organizations such as the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Evangelical Free Church of America, Moody Bible Institute and Wycliffe Bible Translators. Frequently, he speaks for Iron Sharpens Iron and in National Football League chapels. He's been featured several times in Essence Magazine, Discipleship Journal, Black Enterprise and other magazines as well as radio, including Dr. Gary Chapman's Building Relationships, Family Life Today and Boundless - Focus on the Family's Singles podcast. Clarence is the author of several books, including Winning the Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Really Working? and Keeping Your Wife Your Best Friend. He and Brenda live in Colorado Springs, Colorado and have three adult daughters.

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