Race & an Externally Focused Church

Race & an Externally Focused Church Hero Image Race & an Externally Focused Church Hero Image

These last weeks have brought the national conversations on race and racial conflict to our doorstep, as we faced tragedy in Dallas and the loss of one of our own members, Officer Mike Smith.

Certainly, we (as individuals and as a body) continue to grow in our understanding of race and related themes - just as our pastor himself described growing in this area in a recent sermon. It will be exciting to see God continue refining, pruning, disciplining, and growing us in this important area.

But I'm also thankful to be at a church that isn't brand-new to issues of race and diversity. We have chosen to be an "externally focused church," dedicated to connecting with people in our community from a variety of races and backgrounds.

As I said, we still have much to learn. But because our church has decided to stay "externally focused," we each have chances to build relationships and connect with new friends - including others who don't look exactly like ourselves.

Knowing Our City

First, Watermark's people have gotten to know communities that reflect the diversity of our city. The neighborhoods of Vickery Meadow, West Dallas, and Cornerstone Heights (in South Dallas) have long received time, talents, and treasures from Watermark members. Recently, we've also begun serving corporately in Lake Highlands, through the QuestCare Clinic and Northlake Elementary, and in the communities that connect with M.L. Phillips Elementary in Fort Worth, RISD Academy in Richardson, and Sigler Elementary in Plano.

Our "one" DFW Metroplex is actually made up of many unique neighborhoods - with diverse cultures and specific needs. So it's amazing to be part of a church where members are leaning about communities other than their own.

Relationships with Many

As we serve in various places, we get to build relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds. For instance, Vickery Meadow, the north end of Lake Highlands, and parts of Fort Worth and Plano have high numbers of refugees and other recent immigrants. Cornerstone Heights is a majority black neighborhood, and West Dallas has a large number of both Hispanic and black households. So whatever our own background, we have the chance to build a relationship with someone from a different one.

Another fun opportunity is the chance to connect with churches all over our city. In South Dallas, we have the privilege of partnering directly with Cornerstone Baptist Church, a largely black congregation. But through our Ministry Partners, we've connected with several other churches that have racial makeups different than Watermark's, too.

Conflict Resolution & Racial Reconciliation

God has taught our members much about conflict resolution, including in the area of race. For instance, our members travel with ALARM to train leaders who serve within racially-charged contexts overseas. In some of ALARM's African contexts, long-held tribal or ethnic animosity is rampant, and training these men and women in resolution and reconciliation has borne some really exciting fruit.

Locally, an instance of involvement in racial reconciliation is the work of ACT in West Dallas. With their efforts to connect neighbors, ACT has had the opportunity to build relationships across racial lines through Bible studies, fellowship gatherings, and the love of Jesus.

Hope for a Hearty Welcome

We've also seen God draw a much greater diversity of people to our church, and we want to provide a welcoming home. For instance, our Spanish Ministry has for several years translated sermons and gathered Spanish-speakers for fellowship. And now Spanish options are offered within a variety of our ministries (from Membership Class to Re|engage). We've also added a staff member to oversee and innovate in this area - my teammate, Oscar Castillo.

We have also seen God draw people to Watermark after originally visiting our Watermark Urgent Care. Since Watermark Urgent Care draws people from all over the ethnic, racial, and linguistic spectrums of DFW, this means yet one more chance to welcome a wide variety of people here. Oscar also oversees our work with international populations, so we're excited to see what God has in store for us in the coming months and years.

To learn about our local Ministry Partners in all these great neighborhoods, visit this page.

And be sure to return weekly for our External Focus blog. Or subscribe to get them sent to your email!