10.21.13

The Gospel Wins Again

sea-of-white-people

I just came back from an exciting weekend with our oldest son — Curtis, his wife, and their six children. Yes, you read it right; they have six children ranging from ages ten to four. We took with us our other two grandchildren, and that brings the grand total to eight grandchildren in one house at the same time. You can imagine the kind of weekend this was.

The fun and excitement was at an-all time high. The grandchildren love it when Papa and Granny come to town and are as geeked about seeing us as we are them.

The noise level was where it’s supposed to be when Loves are in the house. One of my dear friends refers to us as the “Loud Family.” And boy, were we loud. Whether the kids were playing, dancing, or watching American Bible Challenge — quiet was not the order of the day, and Papa and Granny loved every moment of it.

One of the high times of this visit, however, came during family worship, when it finally did quiet down some. The children singing and offering prayer requests warmed our hearts. Yet there was another event which topped off the entire weekend. It was when we went with them to church.

Yeah, we dropped in on that church thirteen strong! The children went to their sunday school class, and we went to “New Member’s” class with our son and daughter-in-law. This was the fourth week of an eight-week class. They covered church leadership and membership. The church is led by male leadership focused on shepherding and discipleship. Membership is based on a biblical profession of faith in Christ and submission to believer’s baptism; it was great stuff! They will cover doctrine next week. I sure would love to be a part of that class. The instructor (an elder) gave a brief intro letting them know the church’s commitment to the Doctrines of Grace. This class was a great first impression. The instruction was informative,  gracious, and no-nonsense. You got the impression you were joining something very special and serious, something that required a lot of thought and prayer.

“It was when we went with them to church…”

After class we rolled into the auditorium for morning worship. We took up a full row, of course. The music was engaging and robustly Christ-centered. Our Lord and Savior was indeed lifted up, and we beheld afresh his glorious worth and beauty in all his saving splendor. My heart was truly edified, which made a clear entry for the proclamation of the Word of God. The Pastor mounted the pulpit (there’s some old Black Baptist lingo for ya’) and took his text from . Let me tell you, the brother handled this passage. He is in the middle of a series in on Acts. His introduction brought us up to the third chapter almost effortlessly. His introduction included real life illustrations that were helpful without distracting from the text.

He then proceeded to point out the intent of the account in , the exaltation of Christ. From verse to verse, (i.e. ), he emphasized the main point of helpless sinners in the hands of a gracious savior. After clearly lifting up Christ for forty minutes, though it seemed like fifteen, he closed his sermon and the worship time in prayer.

Our fellowship with the Lord and His people was indeed a balm to our weary souls. I am overjoyed that our son and his family are joining this congregation. I am certain that by God’s grace they will grow and will be of good service to this church.

However, this was not an easy choice of church for my son and his family. You see, he lives about an hour north of Indianapolis in rural Indiana. He moved to this area about five years ago to attend a Christian college. He was not there long before the welcoming committee chairperson reminded he and his “n-word” family that they were in fact not welcomed to the neighborhood.

His college days were successful academically but not so much socially. He was one of a few African-American males on campus. His only friend in this college was a young white man whom he befriended and actually served as a big brother of sorts. You see, this young man was blind and Curtis spent many days assisting him in various ways. They shared many laughs as Curtis described to him the looks they would get in the grocery store as people could not figure out why this black man and this white man walked through the aisles with arms locked. Both Curtis and his buddy were on the outside of this predominantly white Christian educational institution. He found it strange that many of the young people who would not speak to him on campus attended this solid gospel-preaching church.

This was not an easy choice of church for Curtis. The congregation looked a lot like the unwelcoming neighborhood and school he attended. All he needed to do was drive about forty-five minutes in any direction, and he would have his pick of churches where he and his family would feel more comfortable. This is actually what he did for several years, except on days of bad weather. In those cases, they would attend this church right around the corner from his house.

Driving past this gospel-preaching, Christ-centered church every Sunday just did not make sense to Curtis. All of the reasons for doing so faded each time he sat with this congregation under the clear preaching of God’s Word. He and his wife would be nourished by the fellowship and faithful preaching each time they attended. I knew something was stirring in him when he would call me on Sundays singing the songs from their time in worship. I knew it was just a matter of time.

The one barrier Curtis had to get over was the fact that now even on Sundays he would be in a situation where he would be one of a few African-American men. Actually, in this church– a church with an attendance of five hundred plus, Curtis is the only African-American male. The only other non-white male is another brother from Liberia.

He struggles with this. Was he wrong for sometimes wanting to be around people who look, act, talk, and dress like him? Was it sinful thinking to make his choice of church purely on ethnic grounds? Is God calling him at this stage in his life to abandon all cultural identity? White neighborhood, white grocery stores, white college, white employment, now white church? This was not an easy choice of church for Curtis.

“I knew it was just a matter of time.”

Well, he and his family are now in the New Member’s Class. My son, his Mexican-American wife, and their six children will soon become members of this predominately white congregation. They will look around every Sunday into a sea of faces that look nothing like theirs. They will be confronted with cultural traditions unlike their own. They will hear time and time again racist remarks from some well-meaning brother or sister who has no idea they’re being racist. They will be reminded every Sunday in some way or another they are the ethnic minority. It will be uncomfortable for them in many ways we can’t even think of. But this was his choice.

Why did Curtis make such a decision? Why would he put he and his family in a predominately white congregation when he could have just driven forty-five minutes to a much more comfortable African-American church? Here are his reasons:

  1. The Pastor preaches the gospel graciously but without compromise.
  2. The church leadership appears to be godly men who love to shepherd.
  3. The church’s doctrine is on point biblically.
  4. The class instruction is solid.
  5. The worship time is God-honoring and Christ-centered.
  6. The people (those he’s met) are kind and welcoming.
  7. There’s a variety of opportunities to serve.
  8. Living forty-five minutes from church made it difficult, almost impossible for them to attend Bible studies or other fellowship opportunities with other members and serve faithfully that particular branch of Christ’s body.

I am thankful Curtis and his family are becoming members of a gospel-preaching, Christ-centered church. I realize this was a difficult decision for him to make. I also know that Curtis is one of many African-Americans who find themselves choosing the gospel over ethnic and cultural comforts. But at the end of the day, rightly understood, the gospel always wins.

3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. (ESV)

3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (ESV)

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

Acts 3:13-16

13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. (ESV)

Louis Love
Louis Love serves as the pastor of New Life Fellowship Church, which he planted in 1997. Joyfully married, Louis and his wife, Jamie, have three adult children and ten grandchildren.

C’mon Up!

  • Georgetta Carvin

    Great article! I think the same can be said of non-blacks who worship at predominantly African-American churches. Though its rare, it happens. The church that I previously attended was intentional about becoming a multi-ethnic church. So you had a black pastor with about 4 white families. The church at that time was small and was fairly new church plant. However, I can imagine when they looked around and didn’t see many faces like theirs. The great part about worshiping with other ethnicities is that we are doing here on earth what we will be doing in heaven.

  • Louis Love

    Hey Georgetta:
    You are absolutely right. We have several brave, self denying families in our congregation.

    Thanks for stopping by the Porch, I hope you come by again real soon.

  • Christoph

    This is the kind of article that made me join the Front Porch. Since I became a Christian, racism has been a non-issue for me. Our church in the Southwest is mostly white, followed by Hispanic/Native American. The only African American I know is a dear friend to me.

    I’m sure I have blind spots and biases, and I hope to have some of that cleared up here. What do I do to make sure my church is open to anyone regardless of skin color, being someone who doesn’t care what color you are in the first place? That doesn’t mean color blind; your different heritage probably includes, besides many other things, all kinds of delicious foods! So let’s get together, eat, and talk about our common Jewish Savior who saves from all tongues, tribes, and nations!

    Back to the article, I wish your son all the best and hope God blesses him and his local church to do mighty things in His name!

    • Louis Love

      Hey Christoph:
      Glad you come up on the Porch often.

      When it comes to blind spots, I don’t think any ethnicity has a corner on it.

      Regarding your church, YOU just keep on being loving and accepting, man, and pray that your example becomes contagious.

      And we both can pray the Lord will continue to raise up brave, self denying Christians who for the Gospel’s sake, will venture into ethnically uncomfortable situations and find people who for the Gospel’s sake are ready to build a relationship with them that’s loving and lasting.

      Let’s talk again, my brother.

      • Christoph

        Thanks, appreciate it! Just to clarify, I am far from the only one like this in my church. 🙂
        And yes, we can definitely pray for that! May it start with me. Soli Deo Gloria!

        • Louis Love

          I feel you, brother. I just know there’s always room for one more.

          By the way, I’m digging the hat in the photo. Where can a brother pick one of those up?

  • Seth Reinoso

    As a latin american I can relate. I too forsook going to a church where “my peoples” were at so that I may be fed solid biblical teaching. I like to think that my time at this church, where I was the only inner city latino, was mutually beneficial. I learned to love people who were radically, culturally different than I and they learned that there are gospel starved, Christ seeking, people just like me in the city.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Seth:
      Praising God for your commitment to the Gospel. You are 100% right regarding the mutual benefit. It will always happen when folks are believing the Gospel and behaving in ways that adorn the Gospel.

      It’s good to have you on the Porch. Let’s hang out some more.

    • Christoph

      Hey Seth! Thanks for commenting. It sounded like your choice was made easier by the absence of solid biblical churches that are mostly Latino, is that right? Would you have preferred one of those over against the one you ended up going to?

      I ask because I am fortunate to be in a solid church that happens to me mostly white. I think if I had a choice between it and an equally solid non-white church, I’d still go with my current one. That’s what is making me think and examine my motives. Still working through that.

      • Seth Reinoso

        Yes the pandemic dearth of Biblically Orthodox churches had a great deal of influence in my decision; after all, my hometown is in the “Burned Over District” of western NY state, where C.G. Finney has a high school named in his honor.

        I think if there were a biblically orthodox church, in the inner city, at that time, that consisted of inner city types (euro american, african american, latin american, etc) I would have not ventured 15 minutes east of the city.

        In that, though, I see that it was greatly beneficial that I did venture out of my comfort zone. It has given me a wider, more clear view of the gospel. Being loved by and loving brothers who seem worlds apart from me, all because of the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also learning to love that one person who does not see any redemptive value in my inner city culture.

        All this has grown me in the application of the implications of the gospel.

        • Christoph

          Thanks for the helpful reply bro 🙂

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  • Ritetheology

    Here’s an idea, how about us planting more AA churches that take into consideration the key reasons Curtis and his family are at this current church.

    • Ritetheology

      I fully agree.

      • Louis Love

        Hey Ritetheology and “Guest”. Welcome to the Front Porch and thanks for your comments.

        I agree that we need more African Americans focused on planting biblically solid churches. I’m sure we both would agree that there will never be enough churches whether they are in areas with a high concentration of African Americans or not.

        I think what you perhaps missed in the post is that Curtis lives in predominantly white “rural” Indiana. The “reason” Curtis and his family are in this Church is because he felt his family would be better served and more effective in this Church close to home as opposed to driving 45 minutes to a AA Church where they would be more “ethnically” comfortable. Church planting would not change Curtis’ situation.

        So I agree with both of you regarding church planting. I’m a church planter. I also agree that there needs to be an emphasis on AA church planting. My motive however would be the spreading of the Gospel and the glory of Christ. Not so Blacks would not have to attend white Churches or vice versa.

        We have several white families in our congregation for the very reason you so oppose. None of them would consider their decision a “horrendous choice”. They love the Gospel and they love the Christ of the Gospel. Their pastor is an African American and they love me too.

        Thanks for coming on the Porch and stop by again real soon.

  • Ritetheology

    “….I also know that Curtis is one of many African-Americans who find themselves choosing the gospel over ethnic and cultural comforts. But at the end of the day, rightly understood, the gospel always wins…..”
    I Think there is a way for AA to NOT have to choose between “cultural comforts and the Gospel”. It’s called church planting. Why do we AA have to make this choice? White Christians arent having to make this choice, Why us? You’ve heard of the Movement? How about the “Blacks 29” movement. This movement is committed to planting solid AA churches throughout the USA. No longer will blacks have to make the horrendous choice between their culture and the Gospel.

    • Tony Carter

      “Blacks 29” LOL!

      • CurtLove

        Two years later this is still the best response to any comment in the blogosphere!!!!!! LOL!!

  • Ritetheology

    Dear Brother Louis, thanks for the warm welcome. Is there food? On the porches I was exposed to, there was always food. I agree that the “Gospel always wins”. BUT, I didn’t realize the Gospel was in a fight with my ethnicity. When I became a Christian, I don’t recall having to choose between “Cultural comfort and the Gospel” This seems to be a new phenomena encouraged by minorities. Tony Evans wrote a great book years ago that asks a key question, “Are blacks spiritually inferior to whites”. Obviously many of us think so. Therefore the result is to abandon ship rather than strenghthen the ship. The Black community is in desperate need of sound, biblical, ethically relevant communities of believers. Black America is being ravished by charismatic heresy, ravished by egalitarian lies, ravished by century old traditionalism. Ravished by unbiblical church leadership structures. Ravished by social and familial dysfunction. The black community needs called, qualified culturally sensitive churches led by called, qualified, culturally sensitive black men more than ever. Let’s not confuse biblical choices with convenience. Louis, had Chris decided to make the 45 min drive outside of his rural context, the Gospel would still win.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Ritetheology:

      Good to see you back. Of course we have food. On this porch, it’s called conversation.

      The Gospel is in a fight with anyone or anything that elevates itself over its central purpose, cf. , even if it’s your ethnicity.

      You seemed to have read right past how difficult this decision was for Curtis. He did not make it because he felt the white people in this church were superior to the black people in the Church he came from, (Porch Talk: man, you trippin). I certainly don’t know who the “us” are either. I don’t normally (knowingly) hang out with folks who think like that. Nor did Curtis abandon “ship”. Keeping with the metaphor the “ship” is the Church, my brother, no matter where it is.

      Also, I think you missed how difficult this decision was for Curtis. Re-read the post! Pay particular attention to reason # 8 for Curtis’ decision.The “convenient” option would be for Curtis to continue the drive. To do so would mean halfhearted service and attendance. In your description of the needs of the Black community you left out “committed”, and “reliable”. Due to the distance, Curtis could not be everything you suggested and be committed and reliable too. Thus the Gospel loses and the Church too. This is what bothered him, along with going to a white congregation.

      So the choices were not simply between a long drive and a short drive, or between an inferior Black church and a superior white one (still don’t know where that came from).

      The questioned that Curtis had to answer was this: Where could I be the most effective “shipmate” (in keeping with your “ship” metaphor).

      One last thing. Your comment seems to suggest the Black Church Curtis left was in dire straits theologically? It wasn’t. As a matter of fact, it is one of those biblically sound, ethnically relevant, non traditional, non egalitarian, non charismatic Churches you long to be in the Black Community. Check this out! One of the men who discipled Tony Evans in his early days also discipled the Pastor of this Church, who is currently in the DMin program at Grace Seminary.

      Whatever made you think the community where Curtis’ church was didn’t have the kind of church and the kind of men you described? Maybe it’s you with the low view of the Black Community and the Black Church. Just saying!

      The Old Ship of Zion is still a float, my brother, even in the Black Community.

  • Peterson Onyeukwu

    It’s good that he’s joined a church that welcomes although he is different. However, the idea that a homogenous church pleases God who created our diversities is a non sequitor.
    It’s great that he’s joined, but the church has some serious failings if he’s one of a few.
    Period.

    • Steve

      Hello Peterson,

      I get what you’re saying, but it’s notable to consider that geographic location has a lot to do with the demographics of a church, especially in class-segregated states. This is something that can’t really be controlled because of the way communities are built in many states/cities.

      Blessings!

  • Steve

    Wow, thank you so much for posting this. This particularly hits home for me because I presently find myself in an almost exact same dilemma (I’m a Mexican-American attending a predominantly white congregation). The list of 8 reasons as to why your son Curtis has chosen that congregation was eye-opening for me as it reassured me that I have made the right choice for my family and I. I honestly feel that God has providentially placed us where we are with His will in mind, for our good, even though we can’t fully explain why yet. Blind obedience when God directs us to a place that may at first be slightly uncomfortable is something that God honors and I’m confident that He will reveal His purpose in due time. Thanks, again! I really benefited from your blog post.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Steve:
      Welcome to the porch, my brother. I am so glad you joined the conversation. I think you really understood where I was coming from, whew :-).

      I see you are all up in the conversation with Peterson too. As Thabiti put it, we’re listening.

      • Steve

        Thank you for the warm welcome!

  • TrinaLomack

    PTL! This story is right on time and I thoroughly understand. I’m in the same position only difference I’m a woman and a widow. I’ve had some hills to climb and some corners to turn but I held on to God. The Gospel is not racist and God knows who to place and where to place them because only the strong can survive this position. But, God chooses the strong to use as pillars to break the barriers of racism. Louis Love your son is probably a prayer answered, I know I was.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Sister:
      Welcome back to the Porch. Here’s an update for you and the other readers. The AA Church Curtis left is currently pursuing him to be the pastor. He and his family are slated to move near the congregation by the end of summer. He will be bi-vocational and by God’s great providence, he just got a transfer in the vicinity of the Church.

      The Gospel wins again and again. Stay strong my sister.