By Sadell Bradley, Co-Pastor
New Life Covenant Cincinnati
Fatigue is extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness; it is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity or stress. Racial means on the grounds of or connected with difference in race - each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics; a group of people sharing the same culture, history, language, etc.
The movie "Dear White People" (above) recently opened, decrying the racial injustices that are unfortunately still experienced in college campuses. Watching it, I was faced with some eery flashbacks of college days! Though my identity as a Christ-follower is now primary, I believe God also uses the uniqueness of culture, gender and experiences to His glory to help sharpen His Body toward love.
I was at a Mosaix Cincy meeting of Tri-State pastors who have a heart for planting and populating churches that look like Heaven: with people of every tribe, language, people and nation. (Rev. 5:9) Our children and grandchildren have grown accustomed to diversity. If the Church continues to be segregated, it will be irrelevant and left behind. So we address the racial, class and gender divisions in the US Church.
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) We seek to embody this statement of truth from Paul, and to help lead the charge toward the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23 (below), which is a redemptive revelation of the Sonship of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father for this world. Dwelling together in unity is where God commands His blessing and life forevermore. (Psalm 133:3)
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-I in them and you in me-so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
The term Racial Fatigue or Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF) was coined by William Smith in the Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Society (2008) It is a theory attributed to the psychological attrition that People of Color experience from the daily battle of deflecting racialized insults, stereotypes, and discrimination. RBF is the cumulative effect of being "on guard" and having to finesse responses to insults, both subtle and covert. Contrary to popular opinion, this is NOT a post-racial society.
Caucasians experience a different type of Racial Fatigue. They get tired of hearing of and talking about race. Minorities tire of talking about it too, but we are more tired of living with racism -as the ad above from Ferguson, MO suggests.The same holds true for poverty, and the gender inequality revealed in issues like domestic violence and human trafficking. I am an African-American female, who is an orphan, from an urban setting, in the male-dominated field of ministry. At times the Call to be the 'only one' in settings, or to insert the cause of the disenfranchised into discussions is overwhelming. The deep fractures that exist in this City, the US, and the Church are historical, complicated and necessitate deep, loving and honest discussion toward reconciliation.
If you are fatigued or weary in doing any of the Lord's work, be encouraged by these Scriptures: "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap of we do not grow weary (if we do not give up)" (Galatians 6:9) "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." (Jeremiah 31:25)
There seems to be no more divisive issue, at least in the initial stages of diversity development, than music style in your congregational worship service. How do you meet the needs of everyone you are trying to reach and create the kind of cultural experience that is appropriate to all?
Well, first let me say that you need to be asking the above question. If you have not, then your goal may not be diversity but a diverse group of people attending a mono-cultural congregation. Now if true Biblical diversity is your goal, then you need to process some cultural, sociological, spiritual, and practical issues.
First thing we need to realize is that different cultures have different ways of connecting with God. There are different histories, different journeys. What it boils down to is that people have different comfort zones when it comes to connecting with God. Can a Spanish believer worship God in English? Sure, (if they speak English). But it can sometimes feel like walking around in someone else’s shoes. Making the effort to give attendees something they feel comfortable “putting on” communicates value, respect and hospitality.
Sociologically speaking, minorities are used to adapting themselves to the majority culture. Majority people rarely, if ever, are asked to make such adaptations. The truth is that most everything in our society caters to the majority person. In a campus experience, classes, dorm life, and even cafeteria food targets the majority population. While minorities are aware of this fact, majority members don’t notice it. For them this is simply the “way things are.” It is the status quo. Due to these sociological realities, making changes in your music styles to create a more broadly accessible congregational experience will produce two simultaneous results. While minority people will feel more at home and, hopefully, appreciate the effort at hospitality; majority people will most likely, perhaps for the first time in their lives, begin to feel uncomfortable. Reactions may range from annoyance to anger. Having become accustomed to always having things as they desire, some may even feel that their needs are being “completely overlooked and ignored” and that everything now is for “them”.
The solution to this apparent lose-lose situation is the gospel. One the surface it may appear that building a multi-ethnic congregation means no one gets what they want; how much easier to have a homogeneous group and keep everyone happy. Even if God would be happy with us segregating ourselves into our own groups to satisfy our preferences and desires, it simply won’t do. We are called to be a church of everyone nation, tribe, people, and language. And while asking everyone to die to self and prefer their brother and sister over themselves may be anathema to our American culture, it is right at home in the kingdom of God. So what at first seemed like a lose-lose, turns out to be a win-win where everyone gets to practice the gospel in true Christian community.
Now- please don’t tackle these issues in secret. Deal with them up front. Teach through scriptures like Phillippians 2, John 17, and Romans 12:10 to challenge your people to true discipleship. Don’t just make changes and hope for the best. Teach, preach, inspire, encourage, rebuke when needed, guide, and lead your people into a true kingdom manifestation of Body life. Oh, and don’t forget to pray. The battle is not just against sociological and cultural realities, but against powers in high places and strongholds that are not broken except by truth and prayer.
Finally, there are practical considerations. You may want to make changes to your music style, but simply do not currently have the resources to do so. This is the place most of us start. You can begin by incorporating recorded music wherever doing so is appropriate, before and after service or during a special tims. This is good. But here is the thing, you can start here, but can’t stay here. What do you do? Pray, ask, pray, and ask. Get your whole group praying. Pray at your meeting. “You know part of our vision for our group/congregation is to be fully diverse, not just in the people that attend, but in our culture too. In order to do this, we need a variety of music styles as part of our services. But right now we don’t have the people do to so. Let’s pray that God provides what we need to make changes.” Public prayers like this serve many, many purposes. In the end it’s your commitment to a full, Biblical expression to Christian community that will overcome all cultural, sociological, and practical obstacles.