Recently a friend of mine asked me if it bothered me that I go to a predominately "white church." Without hesitation I said "It used to but it doesn’t anymore." After I thought about it for a couple seconds more, I felt a need to add to that statement, "That factor almost hindered me from joining that church. But I’m so glad I went ahead and joined because I feel like I’ve bonded with the people there more than I ever thought I would." Hmmm…so true.
I’ll never forget the first time I pulled into the parking lot at Buckhead Church at the grocery store. I was on crutches (broke my toe) and they let me pull into the handicap parking spot in the front. I remember sitting there in my car and looking at all the white people going inside. I think I may have seen one or two black people and that was it. And I thought to myself "I can’t do this, it’d be too uncomfortable," so I drove away. As I got to the light on Roswell Rd., I felt ridiculous for having pressed my way with a throbbing toe, driven all the way down to this church because I felt like I had to see the environment that this guy Andy Stanley had helped create, and then turning away without even giving it a try. I turned back around.
When I went back and resumed my parking spot, I was amazed at their hospitality and friendliness. I was even more amazed at how awesome the service was. I never stopped coming back after that day, although the race issue was always something that kept me from diving in and getting as involved as I wanted to. Growing up all my life in a "black church" this environment was completely foreign to me, but I continued to be so filled every time I left that place.
I struggled for a long time with whether or not to join Buckhead Church because it was so outside of my comfort zone. But I remember one night talking to a friend of mine and going on and on and on about how great BC was, but at the same time telling her I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable going to church with so many white people. I’ll never forget her response to me. She said "You say that as if you think God is black." That comment really took me aback and challenged me quite a bit. If we’re all made in the image of God, wouldn’t that be kind of insulting to God for me to think I could not worship Him in a "white church?" God is a spirit, so it shouldn’t really matter. The more important issue should have been "Where would God have me to be?"
Well, this isn’t really a blog about "white church" vs. "black church" or what color is God. But it is about what I would have missed out on if I had let something like race keep me from experiencing what I have at my church. I feel like I have grown by leaps and bounds within the past two years just because I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to turn back around on Roswell Rd. I’ve laughed, cried, and shared with people that I never thought I’d have anything in common with and discovered that these are my sisters and brothers too. My small group has been tremendous in helping me get real in facing certain issues in my life and trying to deal with them. Oddly enough, some of my friends at church have even in their own way helped me reclaim my identity as a black woman.
I still have a lot of growing to do, but I think that sometimes we really miss out on good relationships with people because of our own hangups or judgements about their race, their appearance, their background, or whatever the case may be. And I just don’t think that’s what God intended for us. As believers we all have the most important thing in common–that we all love God, yet we’re all flawed in some way and need each other to stay on track and to be better human beings. After all, we really are all ONE body, right?