Washing the Wounds of Racial Trauma

Washing the Wounds of Racial Trauma


DR. CHRIS WILLIAMSON is the founder and senior pastor of Strong Tower Bible Church, a multiracial fellowship in Nashville. He is author of two books, Making Disciples Who Make a Difference and One But Not The Same: God’s Diverse Kingdom Come Through Race, Class, and Gender. Pastor Chris is a pioneer in “The Fuller Story” initiative in Franklin, Tennessee, to include the agonies and accomplishments of African Americans through historical markers in places of equal nobility around the city’s Confederate monument. He and his wife, Dorena, live in Franklin and have four children.

Q: Some churches are making intentional efforts to become more racially and ethnically diverse. Naturally, leaders in such congregations are more likely to counsel or provide pastoral care to people from a different cultural background than themselves. What is a healthy way for pastoral caregivers to consider race or ethnicity as a factor in mental health or relational issues? Or should it be considered at all?


When someone says they’re hurting,leaders need to validate that pain. Many people in leadership do not know what it’s like to be a woman or a person of color,because they’ve never experienced it. To be fair, as an African American, I have not experienced what a white man goes through as he’s trying to live the principles of Jesus. So I think it gets down to obeying Paul’s instructions to bear one another’s burdens. If one part of the Body is hurting,we all hurt.

If we’re going to be pastoral caregivers,we have to believe that racial trauma is real. There are so many suffering from racial “battle fatigue.” They come into church traumatized by what’s happening in their neighborhood or at their job. They’ve gotten pulled over or followed by police. It’s real. When they come to church, they’re looking for people who will listen to and lament with them—not try to fix it.

A lot of us have been running around trying to fix the problem, but I think we should consider Job’s friends: They were cool until they started talking. They sat with him in his pain. Like Job, traumatized and hurting people in our churches don’t need a sermon or a class. Can’t you just see that I’m hurting? Can you sit with me in this pain?

John Burke talks about how when Paul was arrested in Philippi, the Roman jailer beat him and threw him and Silas jail (see Acts 16). Then God shook the prison, the doors flew open. And without being told, the jailer showed compassion and good sense enough to wash Paul’s wounds—the wounds that he and the government he represented unjustly inflicted on the apostle.

When it comes to trauma from racism past and present, leaders need to be willing to wash the wounds. Whether you personally inflicted those wounds or they were perpetrated by the unjust system we’re all a part of, they’re there. And we are called to wash them.

Back to the Study

Where Do People Turn For Support & How Can Churches Help?

Read Section