Becoming Brave

Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now

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Foreword INDIES 2020 Book of the Year Award (BRONZE Winner for Religion)

"[A] powerful work. . . . Provides a road map for any Christian seeking greater racial justice."--Publishers Weekly

Reconciliation is not true reconciliation without justice! Brenda Salter McNeil has come to this conviction as she has led the church in pursuing reconciliation efforts over the past three decades. McNeil calls the church to repair the old reconciliation paradigm by moving beyond individual racism to address systemic injustice, both historical and present. It's time for the church to go beyond individual reconciliation and "heart change" and to boldly mature in its response to racial division.

Looking through the lens of the biblical narrative of Esther, McNeil challenges Christian reconcilers to recognize the particular pain in our world so they can work together to repair what is broken while maintaining a deep hope in God's ongoing work for justice. This book provides education and prophetic inspiration for every person who wants to take reconciliation seriously.

Becoming Brave offers a distinctly Christian framework for addressing systemic injustice. It challenges Christians to be everyday activists who become brave enough to break the silence and work with others to dismantle systems of injustice and inequality.

Foreword by Austin Channing Brown
1. The Law of Timing
2. The Making of an Activist
3. What Called You Forth?
4. When Politics Becomes Personal
5. Palace Living
6. The Prophetic Power of Lament
7. What's Going On?
8. Healing the Disconnection
9. Breaking Our Silence
10. Intercessors for Justice
11. Speaking Truth to Power
12. The Reconciling Power of Women
Conclusion: Seizing Our Moment of Destiny


"In Becoming Brave, Dr. McNeil exercises uncommon courage. Part confession, part biblical reflection, part call to storm the gates, Becoming Brave declares that the Christian call to do justice cannot and shall no longer be guided, shaped, and defanged by sensibilities more loyal to white people's comfort than to God. McNeil has led two generations of evangelical Christians into the value and practice of racial reconciliation. With Becoming Brave she returns and calls her followers to gird their courage and engage like never before, for the sake of the gospel. This book is a must-read."

Lisa Sharon Harper, founder and president, Freedom Road

"Brenda Salter McNeil has been a giant in the work of racial reconciliation among evangelicals. Like Tom Skinner and Bill Pannell in previous generations, she defines for this generation of evangelical scholars and pastors what real racial reconciliation means on the ground. There is simply no one who has worked with more thoughtfulness, theological precision, and faithfulness at this vital work than Brenda Salter McNeil. There is no one who understands more clearly what is necessary to move white evangelicals forward beyond their racial captivity than McNeil, and there is no more important book that must find its way into the hands of students, pastors, Christian activists, and all those who understand the urgency of this moment than Becoming Brave."

Willie James Jennings, professor, Yale Divinity School; author of After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging

"This is a beautiful and courageous book about journeys. Brenda Salter McNeil takes us on hers, even as she invites us to newly understand Queen Esther's and--ultimately--our own. Real prophets lovingly criticize and truthfully energize. McNeil does both with clarity and with the kind of rare vulnerability that--when offered by a justice-leader in it for the long haul and deeply responding to God's call--enables the rest of us to get quiet and ask again what it is that God requires of us. This book will move your heart and compel your feet to move as well, with others, in response to God's call to do justice."

Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America

"During a time requiring moral clarity and moral courage, Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil calls any and all with ears to hear to be brave. Through a combination of personal reflection, cultural awareness, and biblical exegesis of the book of Esther, she provides a roadmap for leaders to become and to be brave."

Bishop Claude Alexander, senior pastor, The Park Church, Charlotte, North Carolina

"Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil explicates that to speak about the centrality of justice in the story of God and in the gospel of Jesus Christ is to speak about the wet part of the ocean. A Christlike church cannot depart from Christlike justice. She urges the church to grow in the paradigm of racial justice and reconciliation into what the Spirit is calling the church to be now. For such a time as this: a just church that repairs broken systems. With over thirty years of ministry experience as a reconciler, she walks us through her own growth and development of a racial reconciliation paradigm with honesty, candor, challenge, and kingdom urgency using the courageous story of Esther. This book is light in our darkness and an urgent prophetic wake-up call to a church that has lost its reconciling credibility."

Inés Velásquez-McBryde, pastor, speaker, and reconciler; chaplain, Fuller Theological Seminary

"There is not a more credible, seasoned, and dynamic voice in the country that could speak to us about leadership and reconciliation than Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil. She has guided countless organizations and individuals through these choppy waters, and there are literally thousands of people who could bear testimony to the way she has changed their lives--including me. That is why I cannot recommend Becoming Brave strongly enough. In this book you will be equipped and moved to become someone different and better than what you've ever been before."

Daniel Hill, pastor; author of White Awake

"Once again, Dr. McNeil proves herself as a leading theologian and practitioner of reconciliation and justice. She brilliantly uncovers, through the book of Esther, how God uses the marginalized as brave vessels of transformation. I am grateful for her reminding us of the courageous women of the Bible and how they can inspire justice-oriented disciplemakers today."

Efrem Smith, co-senior pastor, Bayside Church Midtown, Granite Bay, California; author of Killing Us Softly

"Rev. Brenda illuminates a justice path for those seeking to be brave or simply responding to the times. With truth-telling, vulnerability, and profound scriptural insights, Rev. Brenda's work reflects the complex struggles that come from a long engagement in reconciliation work. In Becoming Brave, Rev. Brenda, one of the American church's great leaders of racial reconciliation, delves into the unexpected disruptions she has encountered during her journey toward deep reconciliation. She models and illuminates a path for others. A fantastic resource for advocating for and embodying justice."

Nikki Toyama-Szeto, executive director, Evangelicals for Social Action at the Sider Center of Eastern University

"Brenda's reflections in Becoming Brave could stand in for countless numbers of people in the community of color. For many, the first years of faith disarmed the gospel of its resistance to injustice--the restoration of God's shalom--replacing it with the placating call to piety, to 'Just follow Jesus!' We celebrated soul salvation, our ticket home to a triumphant eternity, with the implicit expectation that earthly matters were important only inasmuch as they ensured we could 'occupy until Jesus returns.' This truncated experience of salvation meant that continuing injustice went unaddressed by many gospel-embracing believers. Clearly, a disarmed gospel is no gospel at all. If we are honest, most people of color can insert their names, stories, and journeys in the place of Brenda's. The gospel we initially responded to was about soul salvation and piety. Her stories, rooted in women of action in Scripture, inspire us to deepen our faith and take the whole gospel to the whole of creation. Paul admonishes us that 'the whole of creation awaits the revelation of the children of God.' Perhaps this is less about us being revealed than it is about us experiencing the gospel more fully. In Becoming Brave, Brenda challenges us to be woke!"

Terry LeBlanc, director, NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community

"I want to be a leader for racial reconciliation. Dr. McNeil's book is an essential tool for my leadership education. It is not a book for the faint of heart. Dr. McNeil anchors her wisdom in the book of Esther. And while I was inspired by the wisdom of the book, it's going to challenge you. It pulls no punches. And for these reasons, it is an essential read."

Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

"For years, Dr. McNeil has been a pioneer in awakening churches to the biblical call to racial reconciliation. She is now taking a bold and courageous step forward into new territory. My prayer is that all who have received and appreciated her ministry will follow her into the wilderness--in a parallel journey to that of Moses and Miriam leaving Egypt. In this brilliant and powerful book, Dr. McNeil makes a case for recognizing this kairos moment when traditional reconciliation models don't go far enough to liberate us from fear and captivity. This book is a clarion call that cuts through the fog of our partisan arguments and blazes a path to abundant life for all. All of those who are suffering unjustly at this time need you to read this book and respond. This book will equip you to hear your equivalent to the call of Queen Esther--that you are who you are in order to speak out in your place for such a time as this."

Alexia Salvatierra, Centro Latino professor, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Brenda Salter McNeil
    Zac Davis

    Brenda Salter McNeil

    Brenda Salter McNeil (DMin, Palmer Theological Seminary) is a dynamic speaker, award-winning author, professor, and thought leader. Her mission is to inspire, equip, and empower emerging Christian leaders to be practitioners of reconciliation. Dr. Brenda is...

    Continue reading about Brenda Salter McNeil


Foreword INDIES 2020 Book of the Year Award (BRONZE Winner for Religion)

"In this powerful work, pastor McNeil (Roadmap to Reconciliation) uses the story of Esther to guide readers through the process of developing greater courage as part of an effort to realize racial justice. . . .While McNeil's broader goal of cultivating leadership qualities in her readers applies to a wide audience, she also argues that leadership should be different for white communities and communities of color: 'Instead of reconciliation being solely focused on getting to know and understand people of color, there must be a new focus for white people, one that is directed at understanding, unpacking, and confronting their own whiteness.' This accessible work provides a road map for any Christian seeking greater racial justice."

Publishers Weekly

"In a book that is both necessary and prophetic--composed of equal parts history, biblical commentary, and personal narrative--Salter McNeil offers a distinctly pastoral approach. Her book is an exhortation to storm the gates, an admonition beyond heart and into the realm of action. . . . By telling uncomfortable truths, both about herself and her audience, Salter McNeil compels her readers to wrestle with the limitations that keep them from fully engaging in this work. But in the end, her invitation is pastoral at heart. Like a good shepherd caring for her flock, she leads us into the deep work of reconciliation with compassion and grace. In so doing, she helps us--in the words of her book's subtitle--find the courage to pursue racial justice now."

Cara Meredith,

Christianity Today (5-star review)

"This book is part memoir of a life's journey and part recognition of the need to do more than just talk about racial reconciliation. . . . This book challenges all of us at our very core to ask what we mean when we say we are Christians."

Diana Hayes,

National Catholic Reporter

"A call to action for people in congregations who want to get more involved in the work of changing America. At various points in the new book: McNeil talks to us as a teacher; sometimes she preaches a little bit; occasionally she tells compelling stories of real people she has encountered--and her entire narrative is interwoven with the life of Esther. . . . The book is perfectly designed for small group participants in congregations--many of whom like to have a biblical basis for their discussion. There are millions of these small groups in congregations, some of them called 'Sunday School' or 'Bible study' or 'men's group' or 'women's group.' McNeil's teaching style, interwoven with the story of Esther, can fit into any of those formats."

David Crumm,

Read the Spirit

"[McNeil] is a stunning Christian leader, a great communicator, an excellent teacher, an evangelist, and author of a good number of books. . . . [This book] does seem to be painfully urgent, an anguished cry to deepen our faith, step up, being bolder than ever. I am sure it will be stimulating, passionate, biblical, and written with a charming touch, even if the material is at times difficult. I'm sure it will be wise and useful guidance for anyone wanting to, as the subtitle explains, 'purse racial justice now.' Becoming Brave takes its cue from the book of Esther, and I am sure that this will become a classic study of the book."

Byron Borger,

Hearts and Minds Booknotes