On Being Uncomfortable

On Being Uncomfortable

Last night I was scrolling through Facebook and reading some news, reading some of what some particular authors said, reading some of the funny things my friends do (Looking at you, LeMarr and also Todd).   I came across an article that a number of the leaders of/in not only my church but other places around were commenting on and talking about.  It made me stop and read the article.  (I can’t locate the article otherwise I would link to it.)

I read it and it made me sad.   I started composing a comment but I decided that I would be better off waiting to the next day and write it out in more detail.   If I had to summarize it in 3 points, well, here goes:

  1. There are more multi-cultural churches now than there have been.
  2. There is a strong feeling among church leaders who are persons of color that they have to act more “white” to be able to play a leadership role in their church.   I believe that the term that’s often used is “code switching.”
  3. There are a fair number of white people (people like me) often middle aged (kind of like me) and usually middle class (yup) who like to have a multi-cultural church but they like it only if it’s led by people like them.  (NOT ME)

That reminds me of something our former (since retired) Senior Pastor, Pastor Dave used to say.   I remember it still because he said it one of the first times we came to visit Madison.  

 “Be prepared to be uncomfortable.  Because worship is not about being comfortable.  Worship is about talking with God.  Worship in a multi-cultural church is about talking with God the way that you are used to.   But also the way you are used to.  And the way that the lady on the aisle who is _________is used to.  And some of that is going to make you uncomfortable.  That’s okay.   Actually that’s good.  Because if you, Mr. White People, are always comfortable, then your neighbors, the people of color sitting in the row in front of you, across the aisle and scattered throughout your church, they don’t get a chance to feel comfortable.

They don’t have a chance to feel comfortable and so then they don’t that God and God’s people are welcoming them.  Welcoming them as they are.

Let me say that again but in a slightly different manner.   If you “do” worship and everything about your church so the white guys are always comfortable, that sends a sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle message to the people of color, “Sorry, this is our church.”    What do you think Jesus would say about that?

When my kids, especially my two youngest adopted from Haiti kids, moved from our old church to our new church, one of the things that made a huge difference for them was the fact that the leadership looked like them.   At our old church, the only time someone who wasn’t white was behind the pulpit was if there was a special service – like a missions Sunday.   There were three people who felt uncomfortable there, and as my kids grew up, they and we felt more and more uncomfortable.

I am comfortable with being uncomfortable.   I know that Madison is not “my church.”   I’m a part of God’s Church at Madison but there are many others of different nationalities, different races, different colors who are also part of God’s Church at Madison.

Come on, my fellow white people, if you’re going to go to a multicultural church, then you should have the grace and wisdom to make sure that the leadership is adequately balanced so everyone has “ownership” in the church.   Plus, why do we, as white people, think we are the only ones who can do it?  

If you belong to a multi-cultural church, you should be willing to be uncomfortable and to step aside and do things “different.”  Those in your church who don’t look like you will appreciate it.  Your church will be better for it.

If you can’t let someone who puts the “multi” in multi-cultural church be part of the leadership, if you are constantly pushing for having white people in positions of leadership, then what do you really want out of being part of a multi-cultural church?  Is it a status thing?   A “holier than thou” thing?

If you aren’t willing to be multi-cultural in the leadership of your church, then what are you doing?  You want to be comfortable and multi-cultural?   How’s that work?

Come on, white guys, we know better.   Step aside and let your friends of color be the leaders too.

You’ll be pleased with what God’s up to.

Tom

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