I’ve got to admit that I do miss the predominantly black church. The big choir, the animated sing/preaching, the dancing during praise, the soulful southern gospel style of music — almost everything. Yes, it is easier to go and be with people that also love those things, were brought up speaking the same kinda slang and understand the nuances of the challenges unique to the black experience here in America. Yet… I choose to leave a mixed congregation and joined a “White Church”. But, why?
When I first visited these people I fellowship with, the group was a bit different. The church itself was different. Being brand new to the church experience as a Christian (I often went before my conversion experience), I had different expectations of what the church should be.
“Oh, these are nice people”, “the sermon was pretty good” and “the worship and prayer is unlike anything I’ve witnessed in a good way” were some of the thoughts swirling through my head as I left the first time. The pastor recognized that I was there and engaged me, something completely foreign to me at that time. All these things were pleasant for a new Christian. There was one stumbling block: everybody was white.
Despite all the good things that the church was, what it wasn’t is what I chose to focus on. I wanted to join a church with established diversity. I wanted to see people culturally and ethnically different joining hands to be the church. I wanted to walk right into that and dive in. I had no interest in joining this church simply because there were so many white people, but the pastor’s kindness (and the preacher that day randomly mentioning Hurricane Katrina 3x in his sermon) convinced me that I should give it another try. So, I did.
After my second visit, my car broke down. I couldn’t go even if I wanted to. Bewildering and confusing as all get out to me, the pastor of the church went out of his way to make sure I had a way there (often personally giving me a lift himself) to and from the church. Talk about a warm reception! I didn’t know what to make of it, but I decided that none of these things could be just a coincidence. God led me to that church for a reason.
Fast forward 7 years and many stupid and sinful mistakes later, I am apart of another church plant with that pastor and some members of the former congregation. Over that time, I learned what it meant to not expect the church leadership to do everything, but to get my hands dirty myself. I chose to love these people as they’ve loved me and to lend a hand in what it could be in terms of diversity.
Not everyone has the experience I did. Some find it difficult and scary to join a church where their ethnic tribe isn’t present. That’s one of the reasons I stay. I hope my presence communicates how I feel as part of that body: I am loved, I am cherished, I am trusted, I am family, my voice matters. That’s why I stay.
I want to share this security with other minorities. I want them to see the love God has showed me through them. I want to join hands with my white brothers and sisters that want to see this happen. It’s a joy to have tough conversations about racial differences and actually be personally involved in the hard work it takes for racial reconciliation to be more than superficial.
There are many things I miss about the black church, but God has given me a great joyful task in being called to something else. I honestly couldn’t see myself in any other position at this point in my walk. I am looking forward, God willing, to see him bring others that were once where I was and reconcile them to Himself as members of our little church body.