Houston is a surprisingly diverse city. As you drive through neighborhoods in this town, for a series of blocks you might see huge homes that have been built on lots that were once occupied by much smaller domiciles. These houses are beautiful, enormous, stylish, and the lawns are manicured and clean. On the very next block–no kidding–right next to the posh neighborhood, you’ll find rows and rows of dilapidated apartments and ugly store fronts. It really is a most striking contrast.
I don’t live in one of those posh neighborhoods, but it is an older, established neighborhood. You don’t have to drive far, though, before you’re seeing apartments that really need renovation and store fronts that are unsightly. Our regular path to church takes us right through the heart of a neighborhood that, when we moved here, our realtor identified as the intersection that is always in the news for murders and robberies.
I distinctly remember the day that, as I was reading David Wells’s Losing Our Virtue, I was compelled to put down the book, get in my car, drive down to a bus stop at that intersection, and share the gospel with everyone I could find. Wells diagnoses the moral decay in our culture, and it was so clear to me that the only remedy for the problems in those kinds of neighborhoods (indeed, the only remedy for the problems in any kind of neighborhood) is the gospel. So I had to put down the book and go.
Most of the people I encountered were not like me. Their skin was either tan, and maybe they preferred Spanish or didn’t speak English, or their skin was varying shades of a darker brown. One man with whom I was speaking listened to me patiently, then told me that I should be careful. He said I was probably okay on this side of the intersection, but I shouldn’t go down there around the corner.
As I spoke with young and old, male and female, it became clear to me that their assumptions and questions and hesitations and doubts were different than mine. Their questions about the church were not my questions, and their complaints about the church were not my complaints. I was and am confident that the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). I have no doubt that the good news of what God has done in Jesus can save people in spite of the ways our neighborhoods influence the ways we view things.
Still, I sensed that those with whom I spoke looked at me with some suspicion, and I sensed that others might have more ability to anticipate objections and hangups, might have more credibility, and might be able to diffuse tension more easily than I could. For that reason, I’m thrilled to see this new book by Eric Redmond, Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions about the Church.
My desire to reach people who look different than me doesn’t automatically make me good at it. That doesn’t absolve me from trying to genuinely love those not like me, and it doesn’t mean I’m not obligated to try to share the gospel with them (Rom 1:14). But I’m glad that Eric Redmond has spoken clearly to the questions that he knows men in the African American community have.
I’m grateful for this book not only because I can buy a stack of them to distribute when I try to share the gospel with black men, but also because this book can help me understand the kinds of objections I might encounter as I try to love people by sharing with them the best news they could ever hear. And my friend Eric models how to address these concerns directly.
I recommend you get a stack of these books, too. Read it for yourself and give many copies away for others.
May the Lord be pleased to unify us in the gospel!