Remember when I told you about the ICU group at my church? Remember how I said I’d introduce them to you in the weeks ahead? Well, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten. I haven’t. But, it turns out this is more than a notion. They had to decide whether or not they wanted to write their own account, or did they want me to send them questions, or did they want to have a conversation with me that I record and then transcribe to appear here as a post on the blog?
Also? I had to take their pictures. I took a few of each one of them, and then they wanted to choose the ones they liked best. So, I just want you to know we’re working on it. We are. You are going to love them. Just like I do.
These days, the ICU, along with some other women from the church are studying a book called “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…And Rethinking Faith.” The book is by David Kinnaman, and I think I’ve mentioned it here before. We’re reading it together because we are serious when we say we don’t want anyone marginalized by the Church. Together, we are peeling back the layers of our preconceived notions about millenials, and we’re discovering things we’ve done (or do) that might make a younger (in age) Christian feel, well, you know…frustrated.
So there’s that.
But, on top of that, the other night, when we were all together around the coffee table in my living room, I felt a familiar pit in my stomach when I looked around the room. Not because of who was there. Rather, because of who wasn’t there.
Our church is small in number, but one Sunday I took a count, just to see for myself. That morning, there were 50 people in the sanctuary. 21 men and 29 women. Thirteen people with brown skin. Five people from Asian countries. 32 people with white skin. In the congregation that morning, were eight people for whom English is not their primary language. There were people from Haiti, the Congo, China, Korea, Burma, and Russia. The youngest person in church that morning was six years old. The oldest was past her 90th birthday. On the platform that morning, leading worship, were 3 people with brown skin, and 3 people with white skin, and an even number of men and women.
And I haven’t even gotten into the socio-economic differences and the spectrum of mental and physical health represented there.
But in my living room last Thursday night, sat eight white women, each born in America. And me.
I took a deep breath and said to the group, “So, how can we do a better job of including everyone in this group?” I didn’t have to explain myself, because these are the kinds of conversations we have all the time.
Marge answered without hesitation. She held up her book and said, “Well this might be a barrier.”
Duh! I thought to myself. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered it before, but seriously, the act of forming a group for the purpose of reading a book written in English automatically leaves people in our congregation on the margins. Out.
And, in this case, I was the ring leader! Ay yi yi!
Not that there’s anything wrong with a book club. There isn’t. But, when a church family includes people who don’t speak and/or read English, it’s time to rethink the way we’ve always done it.
“The way we’ve always done it” doesn’t cut it when you’re building something new. Tearing down old walls to build bridges instead, doesn’t look the same as dry-walling a division between me and you.
Divisions are old school.
So, it’s back to the drawing board for this rag-tag group of cultural pioneers. We have no idea what we’re doing. That much is clear. It’s the reason we’re consulting the Engineer who knows how to get things done. He figured all this out before we even realized it was a problem. Thank Him.
I’m sharing this embarrassing tidbit of information to let you know this whole tearing down the walls thing is a journey. It would be easy for me and my ICU buddies to think we’ve got it figured out. We could pour what we know in a bottle and market our formula on QVC at 3:13 in the morning.
But we’d be frauds if we did that.
In the first place, I don’t think there’s one formula that fits every situation. Now, don’t get me wrong. Grace works in every situation. But grace is not a formula. Grace is what shows up when you and I surrender our agendas, our plans, our privilege, our pride, and our hearts to whatever it is God wants to do through us and to us, and in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Grace is s a gift, and we can’t conjure it up. The dry-wall or plaster or stone-cold cinderblock walls we use to keep each other at a distance are no match for grace.
And in the second place, it’s God who gets the glory in this. Every one of my shortcomings points me back to God. Each time I look around my room and realize I’ve left someone out, it points me back to God. Whenever I recognize I’ve missed the mark, it makes it that much more obvious that God is God and I am not.
So, we’re back at the drawing board, which is just another way of saying we are on our knees. And that life together is messy. And that God’s not surprised to find us here. He knew we’d be back. And He’s got just what we need.
Q4U: Sometimes it’s easier to relate to being the one left out. But, what happens when you realize you’ve been the one who left someone standing on the outside looking in?