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 Acts 3:1-17. 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 Acts 3, the exaltation of Christ. From verse to verse, (i.e. Acts 3:6, 13-16), 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:
- The Pastor preaches the gospel graciously but without compromise.
- The church leadership appears to be godly men who love to shepherd.
- The church’s doctrine is on point biblically.
- The class instruction is solid.
- The worship time is God-honoring and Christ-centered.
- The people (those he’s met) are kind and welcoming.
- There’s a variety of opportunities to serve.
- 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.