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This week's eNote
november 12, 2019 by pastor scott blevins
Do Not Be Afraid
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…
Last week the Garfield Memorial Church staff along with some other leaders in the church attended the 4th Mosaix National Multiethnic Church Conference. The conference was stunning in both the amazing and painful sense.
It was amazing to receive the teaching, preaching, worship leadership and testimonies of so many faithful, insightful and prophetic women and men of diverse skin tone and ethnic backgrounds. We learned a lot and were inspired even more.
It was painful, though, to hear testimony after testimony of lives broken and almost destroyed by past and present acts of racism and bigotry. By their testimony they would have been destroyed but for the saving and redeeming power of God. As painful as it was to hear those stories, though, I have to remind myself that it is far, far, far more painful for the people who have to endure these experiences.
It was amazing to see how far the church has come since this movement began in earnest only a decade or so ago. It was painful to see how very far we still have to go to have truly healthy multiethnic churches and multiethnic lives.
This multiethnic race we are running is a marathon, not a sprint. Like a marathon, it won’t be finished quickly, and it won’t be finished without pain, suffering and sacrifice. We know where we’re going: a church, a world, and lives in which people are judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin, including churches in which we truly value multiple cultures, not merely diversity of color. We know what it will take to get there: the increased prioritizing of the voices and leadership of people of color and the humble surrendering of power and privilege by men who look like me. (In this I am continually challenged and encouraged by Pastor Chip’s reminder that Jesus, who had all the power and privilege imaginable, gave it up, to come to us in humility and grace.)
In the context of multiethnic church and multiethnic living, it’s not a matter of not knowing what God wants. One of the speakers, a brilliant Latina woman named Noemi Chavez observed, “We want what God wants to do next, but we're afraid of what it will cost us.” Fear is a powerful force that wrecks many churches, communities and nations. It drives us to run away from God, his will, his way, and his presence. Maybe that’s why one of the most repeated instructions we have from God in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.”
One of the workshop leaders, Michelle Higgins, a brilliant African American woman who is a worship leader and an activist with faithforjustice.org, shared that she reached a crisis point in her life and ministry in which she had to stop seeking safety and instead start seeking not to be afraid. In the midst of this crisis she recalled the words of David, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” She recognized that David did not “fear no evil” because he was safe, but because God was with him.
I want to join Noemi and Michelle (and David and Jesus) in this kind of living, particularly as it relates to multiethnic living and multiethnic church. There will be costs involved in living and loving this way, but as another conference speaker, Bryan Loritts said, “If you ain’t payin’ a price, it ain’t love.”