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