Listen in as Jenene Stafford and Bralynn Newby have a conversation with Josh Clemens of OneRace.
MM: I saw your movement come across Facebook and the only way I can describe it is like, I could just feel the Lord so happy over what you’re doing. I could feel the emotion of the Holy Spirit over this thing. I feel like right now I’m going to cry just thinking about this because there’s so much ugly out there.
And you know…with what’s going on. This has been one of those things where I’d been like, “Lord, how do we talk about the stuff that’s going on out there? and how do we be the church and love each other when we disagree politically and all of these things?” And I don’t know, when I saw your guys’ stuff, I was so thrilled, for lack of a better word. And I know God was thrilled too. I love the whole idea. I think I saw a video where somebody was washing someone else’s feet on stage. Was that you?
JC: It was actually Pastor Lee Jenkins, one of the pastors here in the city.
MM: Okay. Very good. Sorry. It’s been a long time since I saw it, but I just remembered that and I was just like, “Oh, this is so good. This is so good.” Just a whole idea, which is such a biblical idea really, of us coming together and being one race. You know, we are one kingdom race—we are one family. Also, I saw something recently on your website or somewhere on social media that talked about oneness. And this is where I was trying to get you into the last issue because the last issue there was a huge theme of oneness.
So when did this movement actually start?
JC: It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m certainly excited about what you guys are doing and the fact that you’re interested in this topic. You know, because the conversation of race and culture, I mean, it’s divisive, it’s toxic, it’s, it’s broken. It shows the brokenness of humanity. And so to have someone wanting to cover from a godly perspective means a lot. It means that the message is getting out. We’re beginning to speak truth to culture, and so I really appreciate you guys being willing to cover this topic with regards to OneRace and how it started. Well, I’ll give you the shorter version because I could probably spend 30 minutes talking through it.
It was during the summer 2016, and it just felt like it was the height of racial tension. (I don’t care where you turned) there were killings and police killings and different kinds of things going on, and the outcry was everywhere. So there were four pastors here in the city who all happen to be friends of mine that came together and said, “Let’s seek the Lord about this thing. Let’s take some time away and let’s get together and pray about a solution for us. How do we as a church address those? How do we speak truth to culture? How are we salt and light here in the city?” It was Billy Humphrey, Garland Hunt, Scotch Free, and Corey Lee and their wives who all went away to pray. [From this place] this idea of OneRace was born.
And thereafter they began to meet every single month to do the same thing, to just pray and to fellowship. They felt like a directive from the Lord that relationship was the only way forward. That if we’re going to heal the wound, that if we’re going to close the chasm, we have to do it in an authentic relationship. There’s no other way to pursue this. They began to meet and that would become the seed group for the other groups that we would start here in the city. This idea of OneRace was born and somewhere along the journey, the dream began; what would it look like to bring pastors and leaders together, and where we do this? It became very obvious that Stone Mountain was the place. The story here is that in 1915, Methodist Episcopal minister and a hoard of thugs went to the top of Stone Mountain to burn a cross publicly for the very first time.
And most notably, we can hear Dr. King screaming or exclaiming, “Let freedom ring from the top of Stone Mountain!” Well, why is he doing that 40 years later? Because he knows about the seed, about the ministers who went there. He knows about the clan and he knows about the hate that’s reigning from the high place here in the city. He’s exclaiming, “Let freedom ring from the top of Stone Mountain!” And we felt like it was a directive from the Lord that we were supposed to go to the high place in the city, that a wound that a minister would open, ministers should [also] close. The idea, of taking pastors and leaders to the city. . .to the mountain, to the wound to ask for healing, was born.
From that time forward, we started about 17 groups across the city. Pastors and leaders praying together, seeking the face of God, relating to one another out of their four key pillars that we built our groups around. The first one being prayer. We consider ourselves a prayer movement. The second thing is, is authentic relationship. There is no moving forward without relationship. We’ll have conversations about things, but if it isn’t rooted in relationship, we typically, you know, devolve into arguments and debates and futility. Then the third pillar here is critical conversations. What are the things that divide us? What is it that keeps the tension alive? How do we address those things? [Essentially] that points to justice, and justice would be the fourth pillar we built our groups on. How do we move forward in works of Kingdom justice, serving one another in love?[Well], these groups met all over the city (geographical groups) pastors and leaders together every single month, and then the run up to Stone Mountain. Along the journey we did about 30 prayer gatherings ranging from 200 participants to 1,500 participants all over the city. Those groups would, in essence, bring their churches together to do prayer gatherings in different parts of the city, inviting their congregations in on this conversation about racial reconciliation. We prayed and did those 30 prayer gatherings around the city and [eventually] they’ll all culminate into one large prayer gathering at Stone Mountain, on August 25th, 2019. And so that’s the story there.
MM: I love that story. Oh my goodness. Okay. Wow. I feel like the questions I wanted to ask, I’m not sure that I want to ask them. Like, that story is so rich—what you shared is so incredible just to think that [through] the Lord, it all came back to that original spot. I’m just amazed. [The] restoration, that’s incredible.
JC: Yeah. And you know, Stone Mountain is the high place here in Atlanta. And I think the cooler thing. . .in days ahead, we’ll have more talk about it, but the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (you know, Abe Lincoln freed the slaves, Abe Lincoln? Good, old, honest, Abe, right?) The steps of the Lincoln Memorial were hewn from the granite there at Stone Mountain. You think that the monument dedicated to the man who (and it’s intentional of course) ended slavery, would be hewn from this place. This, years later, there would be such an offense and affront to God. And then we get to come together years later and ask the Father to heal that place in our hearts. It’s a powerful, powerful testimony.
MM: What is the heart of the Father for the movement? So yes, the story is amazing and incredible, but we’re kind of like, well, what’s next? How are you moving forward? What’s the heart of the Father. What’s He saying to you right now? I know you have this big event coming up in August, but flesh that out a little bit. Unpack that.
JC: Absolutely. Well, reconciliation, this idea of racial reconciliation can’t be accomplished in a day. It just can’t. You know, I like to tell the story of the last 400 years. August marks a 400th year anniversary of slavery entering the US colonies here in the US, or what would become the US. If you think about that 400 year history, let’s break it down just a bit. Two-hundred forty-six of those years African American folks were slaves in this country, not to mention how indigenous people were treated here. You’ve just got a root of pain and hurt. Then to complicate things further, you have a hundred years of separate but equal, and Jim Crow, and you know, the Chinese exclusion act. And in that same period you’ve got the evil that’s happening to the Jewish people around the globe. So that’s about 350 years.
We’ve lived in the post civil rights era for the last 54 years. Well, that’s 87% of the history of the US. But that’s toxic, that’s broken, that’s evil. And then we wonder why we have some of the events happening that we have happen when we’ve got a root here that’s toxic, that’s broken. With respect to that, I believe the heart of the Father is that all people would be dignified, all people would be honored, all people would be celebrated because we bear His image, right? It starts there in Genesis 1, “And I breathed my spirit into you. I impressed my image upon you. And thus you have inherent value because of that.” And so we believe the heart of the Father is [pointed] at all people groups regardless of believers or nonbelievers, regardless of your faith background, whatever. You’re made in the image of God, that’s a truth. And then secondly, that means that you’re worthy of value. You have value. And then, as it relates to the brokenness, we believe that the heart of the Father is that we would be one. That we would be united (in the spirit of Psalm 1:33 and the spirit of John 17 and the spirit of Ephesians chapter two). That the cross has destroyed the enmity between us, and made us one, new humanity as a result of that. The heart of the Father is that we would be one people with one sound, with one God ultimately.
MM: That’s so good. And we all know that. I mean, that’s exactly what the word says, “Father, let them be one as we are one.”
JC: Absolutely. Yeah. And the glory that’s shared between the Father and the Son, He’s asking that we would share in that same glory there. This idea of oneness and unity really has some power to it, when you think about Him saying, “Let them share in the kind of unity that we share in together.” It’s just a powerful idea.
MM: Oh my gosh, this is so good. You mentioned that your fourth pillar is justice and how you are moving forward with the kingdom. Can you give us a gold nugget of what that is, how you walk that out in practical terms? What is that piece of moving forward?
JC: Yeah, I’d always like to start with the Gospel, right? That the Father judiciously dealt with the Son, right? It wasn’t that we got a get out of jail free card. No, He, Jesus took on sin. He took on hell. He took on death on his body when He went to Calvary. And that’s a justice in and of itself. So we see that in the heart of the Father, justice is a motivation of His. This idea of making wrong things right comes into focus. And we do this in light of the Gospel. Now there are a lot of movements out there that claim to be justice movements. That claim to be justice oriented. You know, social justice gets a bad rap because of that. But I believe that the kingdom [is] coming to earth, and the poor, the widow and the orphan, the disenfranchised. As scripture says, the sojourner would be cared for. They would be taken care of in the sense that where there had been slights, where there had been wrong, where there have been gaps between us, that we seek to be a bridge to love and serve one another.
MM: Yes. Oh my gosh, I love this. This is so good. Is your movement facilitating the practical steps of what that would look like, or are you more like inspiring and educating?
JC: So it’s all of the above. It’s all of the above. You know, the first year, or year and a half of our movement, we bit off a lot trying to rally pastors together and to build this massive event. That justice really was a lacking piece for us. But just as we’ve sought the Lord and began to pray, we really feel like we’re supposed to do two things here. We’re supposed to serve. We’re supposed to serve our city, love our city well. And then secondly, we’re supposed to call pastors and leaders (these different groups, these different hubs we’ve got going on around the city) to begin to dream of How do we serve our community? How do we serve this part of the city well? Without us having to inform that piece of that.
I’ll give you, within our organization, how we’re going to go about this idea of justice. In the days ahead, we’re going to call churches. We’re going to call city leaders, call people to service. How do we serve our city well? How do we serve the underserved? How do we get involved in our communities? That might look like tutoring. That might look like mentoring. That might look like we serve our local schools. We’re going to call the different churches to be a part of a movement that does just that. You know, we could get political real quick. And I think that when you start talking about kingdom justice, I don’t think that you can avoid it, because I believe that the truth of the Gospel should inform how we do politics. It should inform how we legislate in those things. But we’re seeking to start the ball rolling and allow the Lord to do what He does best, which is to reform hearts and change minds on these things.
MM: Amen to that. That’s good. One of the things that keeps coming to me is: when we’re bringing people together, it often seems like there’s a disparity, of the visual, the socioeconomic, like “lower” areas of town, get all of the service. They get all this stuff, right? And yet in the more affluent areas or, or other areas, people are starving for God. You know what I mean? They’re stuck in their technology or they’re stuck in their cliques and things like that. So are you addressing any of those areas of the city, or are you focusing on the lower end? Or how are we bringing everybody together here?
JC: Yeah. You know, you hit a really good point, and I’m going to say this before I move on, that also a piece of justice is the Gospel. We talk about within our movement. . .reconciliation relationally, which is a horizontal reconciliation. There also has to be a reconciliation unto God, which is a vertical. We’re in this for the name and the fame of Jesus to be made known. So shifting gears to your question, absolutely. I think that there is a reconciling that has to happen across class. I always talk about ethnic. I talk about race or ethnicity. I talk about race and we’ll talk about class because those things play together so often. There has to be a reconciliation across all of those different categories. Have we perfected, that piece? No, I’m not going to tell you we have. But I’m going to tell you that we have to begin to consider, How do I, as a person of privilege—how do I get involved with this whole thing? How do I—and I’m not talking about a socialist idea—how do I leverage my privilege? How do I leverage my status to serve someone else?
MM: Yeah. Right. It is a responsibility that we have, but yeah, that’s good. That’s really good. I was saying I was so excited about your movement, and I was thinking this needs to be like across the nation—what you guys are doing. And I believe that Holy Spirit is revealing that you’re creating a model that needs to be replicated across the nation. So are there plans for that? Are you guys talking about that? Are you praying about that? Are you seeing that? Like, what—what does that look like? Because I just think the Lord is absolutely moving in cities right now, and He’s even waking the church up to transforming cities across the nation. It’s so obvious the last couple of years. And so that’s what I see. And I know even in Sacramento, God’s doing amazing things in this city and waking people up to this city. There’s a lot of models. I feel like He is creating models here too. But I think people are still trying to figure out what’s the model here, and we have a lot of challenges here in Sacramento as well. So anyway, I’m curious about that.
JC: Yeah. You know, I’m having a hard time responding to my text messages and emails presently. And it’s really the sheer ballgame of work that it takes to make this whole thing go. You know, we spent, yesterday (we drove down, we’ve got a group) in Columbus, Georgia. It’s about a two hour drive away and we spent about, me and my partner Hazen, 14 hours together on the road. And then today, you know, I started at 7:00pm and got in the house about 6:00pm. What I’m telling you is that the sheer volume of work is just tiring. And frankly, the opportunities always outweigh the resources typically.
MM: Yes. We hear you on that one!
JC: We’ve got a small band, a small team of folks who make all of this go. . .we sat with the president of Christianity Today earlier this week, and he’s like, “Why don’t you guys take this to Chicago?” I was like, “I would love to take it to Chicago, but I’m tired brother.”
So let me get out of my jovial mode here.
We do have intention on scaling it to other cities, because I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had around the nation. I don’t care where you go, I don’t care who you are. Wherever you go in this nation right now, there is a tension around race and culture. But if we don’t bring the Kingdom of Heaven to this conversation, I just can’t imagine where we’ll be 20 years from now. The sin nature, the nature of man, it’s just running rampant. So we have plans to; we want to. We want to make sure we do a good depth of work here, and sustain it here. And then we want to scale, so that we do things responsibly.
MM: Yeah. Maybe there’s an opportunity that you could teach people from other cities your model, once you have it perfected, you know. And your processes and templates and that kind of stuff. So yes, there’s an opportunity there. That’s really exciting.
MM: And, and obviously the world we’re living in now, which is such a technology-based world, so much of the models that are being developed are going to be delivered, through technology. And then, maybe you have one big event, an annual event where all the chapters and all the different cities actually come together. So you’re getting some of that relationship, you know, with people in the same room. But you can take the models and create the videos and produce the technology that shares the model. And that’s just what I think is gonna happen. You guys are doing a great job on your social media and all your stuff. I’m so impressed with your gal. I saw your team when I was looking at your website today. She’s doing a fantastic job.
JC: Yep. I’m going to tell you, our band, our team of folk—money can’t buy them because we certainly can’t afford their talent for sure!
MM: We have a small team too, and we really need more help with the amount of work that we are doing. But that I feel like it is definitely a season where the people that are saying, “Okay God, we really want to see the cities transformed.” I feel like God is bringing favor, but also we are working and things are being accelerated at a much faster pace right now. We are in a season of having to carry a lot more than the norm. In fact, He’s building capacity for over a year now. But it’s definitely one of those things where it’s like, yeah, building our capacity, showing us that the Lord’s got to do the work. He’s got to do the heavy lifting and you know…
JC: If the Lord doesn’t build the house, the laborer labors in vain.
MM: Yeah, absolutely. So at least you know what we think the future’s going to hold. I feel really confident that you guys are going to end up here. That OneRace movement is going to make its way through the streets of Sacramento one way or another.
JC: I told you that I got hit from Sacramento. I feel like it’s been four times over the last two or three weeks. Yeah, it’s interesting. We just put the different cities that we’ve gotten invitations to up on the board, and we’ve just been highlighting every single time we get a ping from it just to see what is the Lord saying and how might he be trying to speak. Just with the people who are reaching out and the different relationships that are being established and that kind of a thing. So we’re sensitive and aware of these things happening.
MM: Yes. That’s good. I’m just curious. You just made me think of something. Are you guys involved there in your city with the National Day of Prayer?
JC: Yeah, we are. We were a part of the local day of prayer here in the city last year. David Franklin is the leader of that here in Georgia. Good friend of ours. Yeah.
MM: Okay. Very good. I was just kind of curious about that. In California, the directors have been coming here and meeting at our offices and we’re starting to get involved and that kind of thing too. So, we all do so much with so many different ministries throughout our city. Well, is there any final words that you want to make sure that we convey in the article about OneRace?
JC: Yeah, absolutely. We’re a movement of a presence—a movement—the racial reconciliation unto revival. And I believe that when we get this idea of race and community and oneness and unity together, I believe that the Father is going to release some glory on the church here in these last times and we’ll begin to see harvest like never before. We’ll see power like never before. And so I just can’t overstate the importance of us coming together and seeking to live as one.
MM: Yes. Oh my gosh, that’s great. Well, we are so in accord with that and just thrilled, absolutely thrilled for what God is doing. I thank you so much for making the time for our conversation.
*OneRace exists to displace the spirit of racism and release a movement of racial reconciliation across Atlanta, the Southeast, and the nation. God desires a young adult movement that will counter the tide of racial division in our city and nation.