One Body Growing Together


This week I have been enjoying the Mission America Coalition’s Leadership Consultation in Orlando, a gathering of 700 persons who work in the area of national and global evangelism. It has been engaging on numerous levels. Perhaps the greatest joy is worship and interaction with sisters and brothers from a wide variety of social and ethnic backgrounds. As I reflect on the theological significance of this diversity, the following quote from Robert Smith helps to shed some light on its meaning. 

Robert Smith (1949 – ) is the professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. However, he is more than an academic. Before earning his PhD, he served for over twenty years as the pastor of New Mission Missionary Baptist Church. Smith is an African-American working toward an end to racially motivated hatred. In one sermon, “Shattering Wall and Veil,” he exhorted believers to move beyond their comfort zones. It is, he said, “time for us to act.”1 And yet, even as Smith calls the Church to action, he does so with patience—urging the Church to look forward to that day when action is no longer needed, when every prayer for racial harmony will be answered.

When I was a small boy, we did not get a lot of new clothes. My mother and father, generally my mother, would take us down to Goodwill and Mama would always buy clothes that were larger than our sizes and kind of stitch them and, as we got bigger, unstitch them so that we could grow into our clothes. You buy clothes larger than the person so that they can grow into them. I think racial reconciliation is a process of always growing into our clothes—growing into the clothes of racial reconciliation; never getting there. . . .We are growing into the clothes of it. We never get there until the eschaton. There, people from every nation and tribe and kindred and tongue will be one, and finally the prayer of Jesus for the church will be answered. We will be one even as he and the Father are one.2


1 Robert Smith, Jr. “Shattering Wall and Veil,” in A Mighty Long Journey (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000), 140.

2 Timothy George and Robert Smith, Jr. “A Conversation on Race and Reconciliation,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, vol. 8, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 55.

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