In many conversations I have about the ethnic church, I often get accusatory questions that can be categorized together.
“Why do you want to be comfortable by being with people like you?”
“Why do you want to stay in your bubble?”
“Why are you taking the easy way out?”
It’s another way of condemning ethnic-specific ministries. It’s hurtful to hear, and comes off as quite sanctimonious. Here are some thoughts in response.
- It reveals a fallacious belief that the hard way is the godly way.
This should be obvious, but in many people’s minds, it’s not. Just because an activity has less resistance or challenge than another doesn’t mean it’s automatically selfish or immature to participate. I don’t make things difficult for the sake of being challenged. In the name of wisdom, I don’t go out looking for trouble.
- It is simply not the case that ethnic churches are comfortable.
If you get to know me and listen to my experiences, I can give you countless stories of how uncomfortable I’ve been in ethnic-specific ministries. I’ve had so many misunderstandings happen because of the multi-cultural (whether you choose to recognize this or not) nature of the ministry. I’ve been berated, excluded, conspired against, and threatened. I often found myself walking on eggshells. No, I was not comfortable. It’s a major straw man fallacy to say that it is comfortable. Come take the time to listen, watch, and grieve with me. Then maybe you can tell me if it’s comfortable or not.
The peculiar thing is: often the same people who accuse me of being comfortable, when they find out how many unhealthy issues arise in ethnic churches, tell me that it’s a great reason that I should leave. In other words, they are telling me to run away from something uncomfortable. You can’t have it both ways.
Because of the difficulties they face in ethnic churches, there’s actually a good portion of those in ethnic churches who feel like those who participate in multi-ethnic churches are taking the easy way out. I can write about this dynamic at another time.
- Even if it was comfortable, I don’t choose to participate for that reason.
Implicit in the accusatory question is a condemnation of my reason for serving and participating in an ethnic-specific ministry. You don’t know my intent, yet you’ve judged my character and maturity. Come learn my intentions. I can share with you about contextualization, kinship dynamics, values, and expressions of spirituality. Let me introduce you to some of the wisest and godliest mentors I know. They’ve chosen to be involved in ethnic-specific ministries. Their reasons were not to avoid challenge or difficulty. It is fallacious to automatically assume that someone is lazy because they are picking fruit that you think is low-hanging.
- In whatever church you choose, you do it based on some form of homogeneity.
I’ve discussed this elsewhere at length. People choose churches and ministries because they have something in common with the people in them. Perhaps it’s culture, gender, or socioeconomic status. But perhaps it’s music style or life stage. A major form of homogeneity is theological doctrine (I’ve actually seen ethnic churches be quite diverse in terms of doctrine, sometimes all over the board). One form of homogeneity that many churchgoers don’t realize they are perpetuating is church mission or ideology. If you want a multi-ethnic church, you go and find other people who also want a multi-ethnic church. You are comfortable with them. It’s homogeneous. Ultimately, there is a double standard. It’s okay to be comfortable in some respects, but not in others? Then the issue really isn’t comfort, is it?
- If I don’t minister to them, will you?
For those who accuse me of just being comfortable, here’s my challenge. If I turn my back on these people just because they are like me, who will minister to them? Will you come, spend time to learn their stories? Will you come, be uncomfortable with them, and observe how to minister to them effectively? Let’s say you do come. It will take a long time, but after a while of learning and listening, you might end up being comfortable. Then with all your experience and knowledge of a church’s and people’s culture, putting you in better position to minister in a contextualized way, will you suddenly leave because you’re comfortable?
What about you? Have you been accused of just doing what’s comfortable or taking the easy way out? How did you receive it?