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Editor’s note: Jamil Stell, and his wife, Vanessa, have served as U.S. Missions Chi Alpha Campus Ministries missionaries for nine years. They currently are the Chi Alpha directors at Stanislaus State and Modesto Junior College in California.
By Jamil Stell
My junior year at Stanislaus State, the Holy Spirit revealed that I had an underlying level of racism in my heart. My campus pastor, Jeremy Anderson, had asked me to join the student leadership team. I declined, claiming that I didn't have time to commit to leadership responsibilities.
Back then, Chi Alpha group was primarily white, with a handful of other ethnicities. I was one of the few African-Americans. So, when asked to join the leadership, I thought, I don't want to join this white movement. In my mind, I felt justified in such a response. That is until I met an African-American lady at work who ministered to me. She shared how through reading the Word, Jesus revealed that she was grieving the Holy Spirit by choosing not to engage with the body of Christ based on racial preferences. Specifically, she said the Lord asked her, “What do you think heaven will look like?”
At that point, I felt deeply convicted for my racial preferences and unwillingness to serve in the body of Christ because the leadership didn’t look like me. They may not have looked like me, but they were willing to run with me. I quickly repented and asked to join the student leadership team.
From there, I made the decision to purposely choose to identify more with who I am in Christ, rather than my racial makeup. Jesus said, “Who is my mother, who is my father, brother, sister? Those that do the will of God.” It’s clear that the eternal bond we have in Christ transcends any racial, cultural, or social backgrounds.
It is the Holy Spirit who continues to make us relevant to anyone, anywhere, anytime. We must be willing to cross different barriers as Jesus did. Jesus crossed the gender line, cultural line, and racial line in his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7).
The Jews and Samaritans had no dealing with each other. With over 500 years of racial tension, Jesus still saw fit to go out of his way to engage with the Samaritan woman. He didn’t focus on the barriers they had, but operated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He set the example for us of not limiting our ability to minister based on our racial differences, or even the racial tensions that plague our world, but rather to reach out to everybody as He did.
Though my wife, Vanessa, and I are both minority leaders, we know it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to reach every ethnicity for Him. We love and celebrate our racial and cultural backgrounds. However, as ministers of the gospel, we consistently make the conscious effort not to lead solely from it.
If we lead only from our culture, we limit ourselves regarding who we minister to, and eventually our ministry will look more like us, rather than the kingdom of God (every tribe, nation, and tongue). We often are asked, “How do you connect with a person from a different race, social class, or cultural background?” Our response is, “You’re not here to give them you; you’re here to give them Jesus.” It’s really that simple. We may all have different upbringings, backgrounds, and racial makeups, but the Word of God, the Holy Spirit’s voice, and Kingdom values are nondiscriminatory. They are eternal truths, which allow us to operate in one blood.
We are committed to seeing diversity in our Chi Alpha body because it is a picture of God’s heart. Diversity will continue to be one of our core values because it is only through diversity that we will see the fullness of Christ. We know it won’t happen just because we are minority leaders, and it will not continue just because we are seeing it now. Diversity will continue through the generations of Chi Alpha students that are empowered to reach every ethnicity for Christ because their identity is rooted solely in Him.