John C. Richards, Jr.
7 Takeaways From Know Own Change
As part of my regular reading diet, every year, I read a book a week. This reading habit helps me feed my desire to continue to learn. It also helps me become a better leader, pastor, husband, father, and friend.
This week I checked out Know Own Change by Joshua Clemens and Hazen Stevens. The book was written to help folks understand the importance of biblical reconciliation movements. The authors are clear that they aren't talking about the "kumbaya" version of reconciliation, but espouse a deep work approach that involves knowing the story, owning the story, and changing the story on personal and systemic levels.
I've come to know and appreciate Josh through his work with OneRace and I can say without a doubt that he lives what he and Hazen write about in this book.
Here are 7 other takeaways that I found really helpful from this book:
1. The journey toward wellness requires a mind that is hungry to listen and learn so it can know, an engaged heart that is willing to own, and hands that are willing to serve so the story can change.
The preacher in me appreciates this outline of the framework of the book before they get into the details. It's short, memorable, and deals with the three areas of the change necessary (head, heart, and hands) in reconciliation work.
2. The change we long to see in the world “out there” needs first to begin “in here,” deep in the sanctuary of our own hearts.
I really like how Clemens and Stevens point out the need for spiritual disciplines in owning our respective stories. This isn't talked about enough when it comes to reconciliation work. Much of it is driven by corporate actions, but Clemens and Stevens rightly point out that the work really starts within our own hearts.
3. There can be no reconciliation without a great reckoning. We must reckon with all that divides us that we might see reconciliation in our moment in history.
There have been so many reconciliation efforts that have taken place over the past several decades that it's mind-boggling. All this reconciling, and nobody has been reconciled to anyone. Why? Well, probably because the honest reckoning that needed to take place didn't happen.
4. There are three steps toward wellness and healing: diagnosing where we are, determinging the role we each play, and charting a course to move from here to there.
Any time anyone quotes King's Where Do We Go From Here? I'm in. Clemens and Stevens challenge the reader to really clearly define where "here" is when it comes to reconciliation work. That means that we have to properly locate where we are in order to get where we want to go. I appreciate Clemens transparent anecdote about his own diabetes diagnosis as an illustration of this truth and it really drove it home.
5. Pride says, I know it all; humility takes the posture of a learner ready to receive.
I've written and spoken about this before, but I think this is the biggest issue for some of my White Christian brothers and sisters. It's new territory for them. They have always approached things in their life from a teaching or majority view position. Very rarely have they had to take on a learning posture. But when it comes to this work, it's probably best to learn from those who have been doing it much longer and have done it out of necessity rather than writing papers about it.
6. It’s bad enough to have White moderates in society; it’s inexcusable to have them in the church.
Drawing from King's Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Clemens and Stevens warn against White moderates still present in the church. It's always good to remind folks that King's biggest issue wasn't the blatant racists, but the moderate Christians (including Billy Graham) who wanted him to take a wait-and-see approach to address issues of injustice.
7. Truth and humility have been the glue that has made our relationship and work stick together. It is the very substance of reconciliation.
I appreciated the many personal accounts that Clemens and Stevens gave highlighting their own reconciliation work. In the book, they highlighted the need for a proper balance between truth and humility (I think I read that somewhere before in the Bible). I always say that if we serve a Jesus who was full of truth and grace, then we need to be known by the same two qualities. They are not oil and water, as some might presume. As I heard one pastor say, "Sometimes hard truths need to be accompanied by soft words."
I enjoyed reading this book. The closing chapter provides a good list of "so what" commandments to help the reader work through what's next on their journey. It is filled with practical ways to approach this know, own, change framework they set out in the book. Includes things like using one's social media profile for action and serving alongside specific reconciliation initiatives as boots-on-the-ground action items.
It's worth the read for anyone interested in knowing where to start doing reconciliation work in the way Scripture prescribes.
Watch the video below to see the seven takeaways from this book: