What if My Church Doesn’t Care?

by | Mar 19, 2024


Isaac and Austin sit down for the second installment in our FAQ series with a question we often get on the road – “what if my church doesn’t care about ethnic unity?” We talk through scenarios when someone might want to leave their church, but spend most of the conversation cautioning against making quick decisions or judgments about others. Not everyone has to care about and pursue ethnic unity in the exact same way. In God’s economy, our differences are actually a good thing.

Episode Caption

Grace and peace. Welcome back to United. We pray here in the lab with the right Reverend Isaac Adams. How are you doing, sir? And I’m sitting on your right. Yes, you are. How about that? Nice honor. Good to have you. Good to be with you, man. Good to be in the lab with you. Excited to hop in. So we wanted to start this series this year because as Isaac and I travel with United We Pray and we do Q&As at different events and that sort of thing, certain questions keep coming up. And we thought, well, since they come up all the time, why don’t we have a series on the podcast that actually answers them? Does that mean we won’t answer them anymore on the road? Maybe we won’t get them anymore. Really? I doubt that. Yeah. Just before you hop in, it reminds me of the scripture says, no temptation faces you except what’s common to man. And it seems no question faces you except what’s common to man as well. I mean, on issues of race and ethnic unity and that sort of thing, we’ve been dealing with this in the church since the Book of Acts. Yeah. This is a. Yeah. Very common experience. The particulars obviously change over time. This first one in the series, the question we get is usually some variation of what do I do when it seems like my church doesn’t care about ethnic unity? Yes, we do get that question a lot. It’s a sincere question, and I’m sure there’s lots of different, if the question were a house, there’s lots of different doors to kind of walk through to get to it. One door to walk through is just sympathizing with the person of, that can be a really lonely experience, especially if it’s across racial or ethnic lines of feeling like, yeah, they don’t. Austin (02:14.382) care about this and therefore they don’t care about me. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, just sympathizing with that and recognizing that. Now, to use another door, you have to be careful with that line of reasoning because you can project motivations onto people. And awesome, one text I’ve been living in, and this is the goodness of revisiting these questions because this, I wouldn’t have said this on the road. is Psalm 131, which is, you know, yay big, three verses. And it’s funny, because this is how big we should be, is basically the point of the song, humility and contentment. And it says, I do not occupy myself with things too great for me. So peering into people’s motives is too great for any of us. So to say, well, you don’t care, sometimes we mean, and I think I’m sure what you’ll get at is, you don’t care as much as me, or you don’t care like me, therefore you don’t care. And I think we want to be careful with those leaps and they’re easy to make in our hearts. Yeah. And I mean, speaking also about pain and just another facet of the difficulty is bridge building is hard work. Amen. And if it’s lonely and hard, then, you know, that just makes it all the more difficult. But I think we should just all acknowledge as we live in these spaces that when we’re feeling hurt or misunderstood or mistreated by others and we’re in that vulnerable space, we might not be doing our clearest thinking. Well said, brother, well said. And I don’t mean to pile on to anyone who’s hurting, but I say that in suspicion of myself as well. Yes, I hear that as someone you know. We’ve all had our own hurts, we’ve sought to build these bridges. And I actually think that’s relieving, because it’s like, if I can, by God’s grace, maybe I can put… the thinking down for a second and be like, I need to do some care. I need, I need some care from others. Yeah. I need to go see Jesus face. I need to, perhaps this is not the time to analyze and that actually might be what that person needs, which is some rest and a break. Yes. Well said. Going back to what you just talked about, let’s frame the question and sort of ask it differently because we could mean two different things. It could genuinely mean that folks don’t care. Austin (04:37.346) Yeah. Like that is a possibility on the table. But another one that I think we should spend some time on is they don’t care exactly the way I care. Right. Because someone could care about… ethnic harmony in the church and think there’s a better way to achieve it or a different way to achieve it than what you or I think. person who doesn’t care and the person who cares differently are miles apart. Right. Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. And what that does, Austin, is it highlights… I think another way to say what you’re saying is there might be a lot more unity than you’re giving your church credit for. Yes. And that’s huge. So the person who doesn’t think I’m permitted to the Lord’s table and the person who thinks, hey, racism is real, it has divided the church, this is not good. and I have some different thoughts about its effects and implications and extent in our society are in two different universes. Yeah. And so that might give some credence to say, which means we’re gonna have harder work to do because we’re gonna have to have some, it’s not as simple as social media would like to paint of, okay, well, you’re just, you know, whatever. I’m the Marxist, you’re the conservative, whatever counterpart it would be. And so. We’re going to have to have some specific conversations about strategy, about, okay, what are you actually saying in that? So yeah. If I am in the position where I feel like folks maybe don’t care, how do I discern whether or not they care and if their care is just expressed differently than how I might prefer? Well, I think you want to, I mean, for starters, I think you want to pray about it. I think James 1.5, if you lack wisdom. Austin (06:28.21) ask God. So I think you want to pray about it. I think you want to lead in with some questions rather than some accusations. Yeah. And just say, can I ask you some questions about this? And if you have your Bible in hand, even better. Okay, we see this in Revelation. We see this in the image of God in all man. And hey, we see this in our church’s history too. We don’t have a stellar track record on this. I feel like This is a conversation worthwhile amongst our church. Do you feel like you share that burden? Am I missing how you feel that burden? Yeah. And I say that because Austin, you know, we need to, especially when these questions are coming from folks who are younger, you need to recognize the older saints live through segregation. Live through, live through, you know, whatever it may be, the KKK’s activities. And that doesn’t make them right on everything. just as it doesn’t make the younger generation wrong on everything. But there is experience and there is respect to be given and honor to be given as well. Something we keep coming back to as a ministry is just that I often say, like, we have no new ideas. And what we mean by that is the problems of disunity are solved by Christian virtue. And so just in, even when we’re hurting, like, we still need the fruit of the spirit. And we still need to love and part of love is believing the best in others. Yeah. And so that’s not to say that there won’t be any racism, even in the church, or that if we believe the best of others, they will automatically care. But I, I want to lean into that charitable disposition because it’s cynicism is so easy. It is. I mean, as Dan Darling says, it’s a cottage and it’s a cottage industry. Now I will say. All of that, everything we’ve said is true. And just to inject this, you know, the person listening is, you know, maybe they’re frustrated at this point, but it is hard because I think there is a reality where it’s like, yeah, well, no one in the church is gonna say, I don’t support this. Well, that’s not exactly true, but they would say, you know, yeah, I care about it. You know, we care. The moderates during King’s time would say, we care. Right. We care about it, but you need to go slower. You need to do this. And… Austin (08:51.118) So it gets back to, you know, I can’t remember who said this, but as a pastor, and not just as a pastor, but I think human beings in general, they don’t pay so much attention to what you say, but as to what you emphasize. And when we have those gradations of emphases, it gets tricky, it gets complicated. Yes it does. And something you just said reminded me there was not. widespread universal unity even during the civil rights movement among the people who were working together. That’s exactly right. And I’m so glad you said that because I was like, I’m sitting here, I’m like, there’s something I wanted to say. And this is like, in some on some level, and obviously, we’re talking about the church and sorry, I’m cut, I cut you off. But I just want to say this before I forget. On some level, we’re talking about the church, but this, this exists among human beings, regardless, who are trying to accomplish a common objective. And not let’s just even make it more specific and maybe even a little sharper. This isn’t just like, oh, white people think this way, black people think this way, and there are two monolithic positions that are at odds with each other. Right. Within these different ethnicities communities, whatever it may be. And obviously not just white and black, within different Asian communities, within all different communities. There are just like in your family, brother A might have an opinion, brother B might have an opinion, and brother C might have an opinion. And I was struck by this when I was in DC, going through the National African American Museum. Uh, that Ida B. Wells, W. E. Deboy and Booker T. Washington all had very different ideas about how to make progress racially. So interesting. All of them agreed. We must make progress racially. So it’s just, it’s just so interesting to be like, yeah. And then you have, I mean, um, the Francis Grimke is just going to come out, you know, so just bear with me. But uh, you know, Francis was with W.E. Deboy. Interestingly enough and starting the NAACP and so and at odds with Booker D Washington on some of this stuff So it’s just super interesting and all that to say we’re not the first ones to disagree Although we might share a common objective, but those common objectives are very important and we do need to ask Is that a common objective you hold in theory and how? What does it look like for your common objective to have some boots on the ground? And I think that’s often where some of the dissonance happens is you say you care about the poor budget, but you know Austin (11:14.082) This book is saying, yeah, if you say you care about the poor and you let your brother go unclothed, you don’t really care about the poor, you see? Thank you for letting me inject that. No, I think that’s great. And even just in naming like those three titans who all had very… It kind of gets to where I wanted to go next, which is just our difference of opinion and emphases and even priorities while we share big picture priorities. Hopefully, that’s a good thing. The Bible says that’s a good thing. So, 1 Corinthians 12, as it is, God has arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts yet one body, that I cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. And like God’s word, it cuts both ways. I think that should be a huge encouragement to the person who’s sitting there being like my church doesn’t care because what it means is your church needs you in that sense. Like, and you know, we have in talking about race, we have that whole, um, basically flow chart to think through whether or not you should stay at your church. And that’s a different question. Um, but your church needs you and you are, whatever, if you’re an elbow there and you’re like, there’s only one other elbow in my church. Well, yeah, body, I only have two. And so like, uh, and you, but you also need those other saints who it’s like, yeah, that sister, uh, I don’t love using the abortion example because I think that is a racial justice issue, but that’s for another episode. But yeah, that sister who cares about X or that sister who cares about Y, you need that sister and injustice is, let’s just take injustice, the category is this hideous hydra with so many heads. It’s going to take so many responses to cut it off, chop at it, push back on it that we don’t, this isn’t the only sin to care about and to push back on racism. I mean. It’s we have a whole ministry about it. We think it’s worthwhile We think Satan is he has used it in some of the most pernicious ways in the church’s history, especially in American soil So obviously it’s important But it’s not the only and it’s just easy to think about what I care about is the only thing to care about Yeah, if we’re not careful, especially when we’ve seen its horrible effects. Yeah Okay, so most of what we’ve talked about so far is sort of not pushing back Austin (13:39.022) or, you know, tamping down the concern of nobody cares about this. Right. But we just broadening the perspective. Right. But we acknowledge at the beginning that there could be a situation where a Christian who’s listening to this is in a church that doesn’t care. Correct. And we need to acknowledge that. And doesn’t care is I don’t know if you want to talk about antagonistic. Yeah, because that spectrum there. Yeah. Say antagonistic. Yeah. I mean that we just need to ignore I think some people on the other side of this listening to it could be like Yeah, see like cynicism is cottage industry. Well, you know the cynicism The frustration is usually not without cause right? It’s like it’s not like you can we can find those examples and Apathy I mean on some level apathy is almost harder than antagonism like antagonism At least you at least it’s clear. At least it’s clear like apathy is like Austin (14:40.39) The listeners can’t see me. I’m just like moving my hands. Like, come on. Like, why are you not, like, where are you at? Like, are you hot? Are you cold? So I say all that to say, that’s a real category and something to really think about. And you need to think through, you know, so we get this, like, what should I do, basically, if my church doesn’t care? And one is, you know, basically go through, Basically, what we just said in the first half of this was check yourself on some level. And that’s good. But someone can do that prayerfully, humbly, and the honest truth might be, yeah, this church just doesn’t really care about that. This is not a priority for this church. They don’t believe the problem to be that significant. And so I say, pray for your church. Start first off. I think that person has… I wonder what conversations they’ve had and with whom they’ve had them. Are you only talking to the people who are like-minded in your church? Or can you talk to some of the leadership, some of the elders? Are you having those conversations in good faith? Are you trying to engender the conversation in your church? I mean, churches are different and cultures are different just as every family is different. But I hope there’s a culture in which… You as a Christian have the freedom to start a book club in this church. In fact, your pastor might be thrilled for you to do it. And I know that puts more weight on the person’s shoulder, but we do have to be willing to take some initiative. Because often, I think it was Russ Moore who said this, often when pastors hear like, hey, we’re not talking about it, what they’re hearing is, hey, you’re not talking about it. And hey, we need to do something. Hey, you need to do something. You need to write a curriculum, start a small group or whatever. And so it’s like, so do you remember, okay, now let’s say I’ve done all those things and there’s just no burden. I think you have to, I think you have some honest questions asked like, okay, can I stay in this church and remain contented? Am I expecting change too quickly? These are some of the questions we get at with thinking about whether you should stay or go. So yeah, I’m probably hopping maybe too quickly to the end of the line. No, no, you’re fine. And we were talking about churches in Austin (17:03.07) a lot of different situations. And we’ve already acknowledged that if you are perceiving that your church doesn’t care, it is possible that they do. It’s also possible that it is on a range of anywhere from apathetic to hostile. The closer you get to there, the more I’m encouraging someone to get out. Rather than to bang their head against the wall. And by that you mean join another church. Right. Leave and join another church where you can. where you can serve and can do so without being opposed and mistreated. Because I don’t want the thrust of this episode to only be, well, you just need to tough it out where you’re at because you could be in a situation, brother or sister, where you need to get out for your own soul’s sake. Yes. I was going to say something on the… Austin (17:54.846) And if we sound like we’re talking out of both sides of our mouths, it’s difficult on a format such as this with listeners all over the world to advise on every situation. I’m just trying to cover the different possibilities and sort of contextualize our advice and our counsel because most of what we said, I think fits the majority of churches that are out there, which is going to have a spectrum of people, some who care, some who maybe don’t care as much. And you know- And this is what I was gonna say earlier. I think you’ll be helped as you do the kind of prayerful diagnostic work, both on yourself and on your church, is to define in your own mind what does care look like. So when I say y’all don’t care, if I were to be asked, okay, if we were to care in your mind, what would that look like? You should have some, like it would look like X and because I find sometimes that list is actually not that If you force me to articulate it tonight, I yeah, well what I was gonna say also though, uh Often it’s Yeah, I would I would just love for us to pray about this as a church I would love for us to talk about it. It’s rarely this church Must march Or else, you know, so I say rarely I mean at least in my experience. It’s um, I find that there can be reasonable things on that list. And it’s like, again, you need the elbows and the body. But just on the leaving thing, I mean, you know, something we say at our church is if you’re leaving your church and it’s hard, in that it makes you sad and all these things and people are sad when you leave, that usually means you’ve done something well, something right. It should be like, hopefully leaving our churches, even for another gospel sound preaching church. Isn’t like an easy like, well, forget about you all. See you later. See you in heaven. Right. So, but I just want to give people that freedom. It’s not a sin to leave your church for another sound church. And life is short. And Jesus was just, Jesus did not seek to change everyone’s mind before he went about doing the work he felt the Father, he knew the Father was calling him to do. And so in that sense, Jesus was very disciplined. Austin (20:22.512) Um, you want to think about, man, am I. Am I trying to push a mountain, a boulder up a mountain of indifference that I don’t need to be pushing this boulder? Yeah. When I could be, when I could be doing this other. Yeah. Something else I wanted to think about and sort of caution against is the self-righteousness that can creep in when you feel like you’re the only person who cares or the only person who gets it. And I was thinking about a piece Alicia Aikens wrote for us back in the day about being patient with those yet unseeing. I think that’s the title of it. As Alicia does, just very helpfully distilled this idea that if you understand something, there was a time when you didn’t. And why are you now being self-righteous as if all those other people who don’t get it? You know, that’s it was just really awful for me. Yeah, that’d be I mean, let’s definitely throw that in the show notes because I was thinking about this, you know, just driving the other day. The first description is of love is that it’s patient. Well, that’s good. Yeah. And so I’m with you. Like, I don’t want to just say, oh, just be patient. Just tough it out. Like, there is a time where it’s like, Yeah, I’m so dis- I’m a problem here and here is a problem for me. And it’s just like, yeah, we’ve got to make a decision here. But man, love is patient. And this is another thing I’d want to just like exhort people to. I think sometimes we want to see change and we want to see it so bad. And sometimes we’re just too tired and we don’t, we just, we don’t have the patience. But I think the spirit can also fill us with patience. And I think. Austin (22:16.446) I think if you took the five or 10 year view on some places, it would just be different. Like, sometimes I get sad for people who I’m like, oh, I know you want to see the change. And I think it’s going to come actually sometime in the next decade. But for some people, that’s way too long. So Austin (22:38.942) Anything else you want to say to the person who feels this way? Austin (22:49.654) Just that your burden is a good burden. Like, I feel like I appreciated your clarity about the thrust of this episode because we don’t want it to be. just love people and you’ll be fine. Like it’s a good thing to care about. Yeah. And maybe what I would say is you’re not crazy. Yeah. You know, and you know, we got a note recently, someone’s just like, I’m in an environment that doesn’t care or is downright hostile. Yeah. And y’all have helped me see that I’m not crazy. And you’re not crazy. And God loves you. and has and he will lead you. And so when it’s time to move, he’ll let you know that it’s time to move. And here’s maybe just on the idea of patience. This is where I do think the black church is just a tremendous model and example for it. Because it can sound like, yes, you had the obvious example of King, letter from Birmingham jail. how long do you want me to wait until, you know? So obviously you have that. But you also have, you know, calls to patients can just simply sound like calls to complacency, calls to enabling even the sinful behavior or indifference. When in reality, this is why you need those older saints because you look at some of these older saints who have lived through these times. And they required great patience. And you know, that’s why hopelessness is so dangerous because it robs you of the patience you need in which to believe that something, something is still coming. Warning is still coming. And the night really will end here. But if I just throw out my hands and I go, it’s just too dark. It’s just too dark. Well, so yeah, it is dark out there, but Jesus is still on the throne. Austin (24:57.502) Yeah, I mean, that’s the last thing I wanted to say to someone who’s felt this way. And I have felt this way, you know, which is just that you have an empathetic high priest who knows what it’s like to be misunderstood and to have people around who had different priorities. Tell us, brother. And he promised that we would have trouble and that a servant is not greater than his master. And he also promised that he has overcome the world. Hmm. And I mean, it’s just peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. And it just, yeah, like, so maybe the caution then I would draw out of that is just be real careful that you don’t think, well, okay, I’m gonna join this other community and there won’t be any thorns or thistles in that garden. Yeah, there’s no sin in that church. Yeah, right. It’s just like, man, yeah. Switching churches is a lot of work. And like, if we go in thinking, well, they’ll, they’ll fix it all for me. Yeah, it’s just, it doesn’t go that way. Do you wanna pray for our listeners? You can start us, I can close us. Yes, let’s pray. Father, we do thank you for the burdens that you give us. We thank you for the diversity of your body, the diversity of perspectives. And Lord, we do pray that we would all see and walk in step with the truth. And when that truth is less clear, we pray that we’d have great humility. Lord, for people who need to care more and who are listening to this, I pray that you would lead them to repentance and lead them to tenderness on this issue. And for people who are assuming, perhaps wrongly, that what people are thinking or what people are caring, I pray that you would lead them to repentance, lead them to humility. But also for that dear sister or brother, I pray that they would know the empathy of Jesus. Austin (27:06.434) the kindness, the tenderness, the patience, the sympathy of Jesus. And I pray that you would give them great endurance that they would not grow weary in doing good for in due season they shall reap and their labor is not in vain if it’s in you. So keep our labor in you because if we labor and you don’t build, we labor in vain in Jesus’ name, amen. Amen. Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for. our high priest who understands us better than we understand ourselves, understands our situation better than we understand it or can perceive it and who promises to give wisdom to those who ask it. So, we pray for listeners out there, folks who are trying to discern if they’re in the right place, if the people around them care about these things that you clearly care about and are expressing that in helpful ways. I pray that you give us all wisdom. Um, make us grateful for each other when we do have differing priorities, uh, assuming that obviously the main things are the main things. Um, thank you that you’ve made us different and that you’ve gifted each of us in different ways to serve differently in the body. And we pray against any kind of self-righteousness that would assume that my giftings are the best. Just make us humble, make us unified. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. Lots of links in the show notes today, so be sure to check those out. Grace and peace.

LINKS & SHOW NOTES:

  • This UWP Podcast Episode was produced by Josh Deng with editing by Roshane Ricketts.
  • Our episode on how hard bridge-building can be.
  • Our episode on whether to stay with or leave a difficult church.
  • Alicia Akins’ article on being patient with others.

To learn more about United? We Pray, follow us on Twitter and keep exploring our website. Please consider rating the podcast on Apple Podcasts, and subscribe using your favorite podcast client to hear more!

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  • United? We Pray

    United? We Pray is a ministry to help Christians pray and think about racial strife. We want to encourage Christians amid the strife to rely upon God in prayer. So our prayers can be informed, we strive to learn and write about race, racism and its effects, and theology. We aim to be biblical, beneficial, and clear in all our efforts. While we’re burdened for all racial strife, we focus on racial strife between Christians because of the unique privilege and stewardship God has given his people: to bear witness to Him and to love all people, especially one another (Gal. 6:10).

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