‘The Help’ and Are the Doors of Your Church Open?

Part 1: Racial Stereotypes and ‘The Help’ from Nicole and Natasha

Part 2: The Pursuit of Interracial Friendships from Nicole and Natasha

The conversation continues…

Nicole to Natasha: Why are you worshipping at a primary white church?

Let me start by saying that I did not seek out a primarily white church. Actually, my husband and I specifically wanted to join a multicultural church. I’m not suggesting that all churches should necessarily be cross-cultural, but I do believe multicultural churches provide wonderful opportunities to consistently learn and work through some of challenges that we have discussed here. In light of our desires, God made it clear through prayer that He wanted us to join our current church. So, we were obedient to his leading.

I will say that I have spent the majority of my life (28 years to be exact) in churches that were predominately black (in most cases 100% so). I have found that give and take (grace) are required in both church situations as with any other church dynamic I’m sure.

We are at a place in our spiritual walk where making a decision for church membership prayerfully consists of three considerations: 1. is whether or not the church preaches the Word of God (rightfully divided), and I don’t presuppose that happens in every American church that is labeled “Christian;” 2. Is this a place where we can fellowship (meaning, is this a place where God’s love is expressed freely? Are the people genuinely nice, kind, etc. and do the people desire to grow and challenge each other in their walk with the Lord? Do they have a heart for the things that concern God?); and finally 3. Is this where God wants us to be right now (as discussed above)?

I believe that we witness certain levels of spiritual immaturity when we see churches split over issues like styles of worship and choosing church membership based primarily on where we feel comfortable, whether we ‘like’ the preacher, is the person charismatic enough, or whether or not folks look like us. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul warns us about these very divisions in 1 Corinthians Chapter 3.

In the examples presented, we witness Christians adapting to our American culture. Americans like having choices, far too many choices, and instead of seeking God for his best assignment for the individual right now and availing themselves to Him, no matter what He may say, or what that may mean, people select the church where they feel most comfortable because that’s the easy thing to do, and when they get bored or don’t like something, they simply move on to the next church.

So I think at the heart of the matter, you ask a very important question: What do we look for in a church and why? Taking it a step further, considering American history and the context of this discussion, why should racial reconciliation be an important consideration for our churches? Dr. Tony Evans does a superb job of addressing this question in his book entitled Oneness Embraced and I will be elaborating on this very point in my reflections on Thursday.

Natasha to Nicole: What does diversity look like in your church? Does your church intentionally pursue cross-cultural relationships?

This is probably the source of this whole conversation for me, because our church is pretty white. Meaning, it’s white, and it’s pretty. People generally look affluent and put together, like life is going their way. But if stay around long enough, you realize that may be the first impression, but that’s not the reality. People are people, with difficult families, broken relationships, addictions, financial troubles, illness, pain, depression, and loneliness. Our church (and every church) is made up of broken people seeking hope. And broken people seeking hope transcends class and color.

We’ve talked as a staff about diversity and what that means for us. I honor my pastor’s wisdom that diversity is about more than color when it comes to life in the church. It’s about diversity of culture: spiritual backgrounds, education, family culture AND color. And although we do a good job attracting people who aren’t comfortable in traditional “church”, I think we have a lot of room to grow in the area of intentional cross-cultural ministry. There are many ideas on how to do that, but as a new, rapidly growing church, there are so many areas that need tending! I believe that if we continue to humble ourselves and listen for God’s leading, He will light the fire in hearts for intentional ministry in this area.

One of the coolest places of cross-cultural ministry has been a thrift store we opened this year. It’s just about a mile from our church in a strip mall, and attracts people of every class and color. It’s been a great start in busting the church out of its four walls.

Like you said, we need to know what we look for in a church. And if we are called there to serve, we stay put until God tells us to move. For my family, that means we stay in our pretty white church and look for opportunities to reach out more intentionally with what God is already doing in our church.

Nicole’s blogger’s are also talking about “Black Churches, White Churches, and Everything in Between

My Closing Discussion Reflections coming on Thursday, August 25

 

What’s going on at your church (and for context, where do you live)? Does your church intentionally pursue cross cultural ministry? Why or why not? 

© Natasha S. Robinson and Nicole Unice 2011

5 thoughts on “‘The Help’ and Are the Doors of Your Church Open?

  1. I found y’alls “Help” discussions through Rachel Held Evans. Thank you for doing this. I’m a white girl from the south, but actually disliked The Help (the book at least….haven’t seen the film.) I won’t go into details about why. My thought out critique is on my blog http://www.ranchedonjesus.com/2011/08/why-help-isnt-helpful.html.

    Anyway, I wanted to comment on the church discussion as I have been in two very distinct circumstances. As a white member of a 95% white church and as a white member of a 95% black church.

    I grew up in a predominantly white church. The street I lived on was diverse. I also went to a fairly diverse school. So for me, Sunday was the most segregated day of my life.

    My husband and I have always hoped to find a diverse church. We have a full time ministry in Uganda and are very, very close friends with a Ugandan family there. Spending so much time in the African church has really impacted us. We live in a southern neighborhood that is largely African American and when we moved here we joined a local black church.

    It really was a great church and it was actually in our denomination. I always felt comfortable there…but I never got close to anyone. We spent a year and a half there. I struggled to make friends. I think part of this was owing to the church’s structure. There was little fellowship time during the week. No women’s Bible studies, small groups, etc. It was hard to get to know people. It was even harder, I think, because we looked different. Everyone was very kind, but I still felt lonely.

    We eventually decided to leave that church as we had no community there. The church we are at now has lots of community…just mostly white faces. I feel like there is really nothing in between and I get discouraged.

    We’ve had friends involved with some very intentionally diverse churches and it has been exciting to see. But there is nothing like that in our area.

    This turned out to be a LONG comment! But I so appreciate your discussions and wanted to contribute. The issue of diversity in our churches is very much on my heart.

    • Jamie,

      What an excellent blog post. Thanks for tackling some very challenging issues. I agree that we definitely need to ask ourselves some hard questions if we truly want to see change.

      Tough, though accurate, literary critique of the book. I will say that I entered the pages with the mindset of pleasure reading, so I didn’t allow those distractions to hinder my enjoyment of the book.

      I shared my Her.meneutics article on your blog where I also spent some time reflecting on the racial concerns presented, though not thoroughly explored in the book or movie.

      Thanks for making the effort to reach out and enter a different church culture as you have indicated here. Not everyone is that courageous. I will definitely be exploring more and digging deeper concerning diversity in our churches. Just ordered Scott Williams “Church Diversity” and looking forward to reading it at some point in this lifetime. :-)

      Blessings, Natasha

  2. I too, found this discussion through Rachel Evans. I’ve so enjoyed reading it. And I, too, wrote about ‘The Help’ – http://thedramatic.com/index.php/2011/08/19/the-help/

    I live in central Arkansas and work at a church (http://fellowshipnorth.net/) that is intentionally trying to bridge the racial divide. We began nearly 30 years ago as a mainly white church. About 15 years ago, our senior pastor began talking to us about racial unity. For the last 5 years we’ve had 2 main pastors, one white, one black. It’s complicated, and hard – and so good, too. We are not done yet but I am so grateful to be part of the journey.

    Thanks for partnering with each other and for writing it down – this conversation is important to have!

    • Sarah,

      Thanks so much for sharing your link. Excellent post!

      I also love your church 6 year anniversary video! I believe that it is a picture of what is described in Rev 5:9, and you get to experience a small glimpse of that. What a phenomenal blessing.

      Keep writing and sharing your story.

      Blessings, Natasha

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