Where is the Church?

It’s game day.

Dear Christian,

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot these days: Where is the church?

To be clear, I will be sharing about my witness and response to how Christians around me have reacted to this issue of racism. I will be raw and highlighting differently concerns + convictions I have, in hopes to give perspective, cause more conversations and challenge us to be active rather than passive Christians. I share everything with acknowledging we’re all on the same boat and with an open heart.

I’ve seen different churches and christians react and respond differently.

Church

I ask to the church, are we weeping with our hurting brothers and sisters? Are we grieving together and praying on our knees? Recognizing that these are issues — that’s cute. Recognizing is one thing. But how do we lead with opposition? How can we be not just “not racist” but anti racist. Also, *being nice does not equal not racist*. (We have to admit there’s so much we don’t know about race, we have to admit we all have micro-aggressions, we have to admit there’s internalized racist tendencies we ALL have… we have to admit there’s so much work to be done). I strongly believe that before we start telling people our stance, posting on our social medias and having a set & closed off mind — we need to bring this issue to God. That’s where it starts. We need Christians who know how to go to God first, earnestly seek his heart in our quiet places and let him reveal to us what He has to say. We need Christians who have open and soft hearts, willing to repent and weep what breaks God’s heart. We are in need of a church who can listen with others. We are need of a church who can cry. That’s leadership and it doesn’t stop there.

None of us are going to go about this perfectly. And I understand none of us want to make a mistake esp. in such a sensitive topic. But I rather show up and be corrected, rather than not show up at all. I think many times we become fearful of saying something, yet we forget that not saying anything at all can have its consequences. If anything, I believe there is extra grace God has given us to just try. Try our best to care, talk about these issues, lean in and take action. What does faith look like? I really don’t think God is asking for perfection and I wonder how many times the statement “No church is perfect” is really just an excuse to avoid doing the work.

For any ripple effect to really take play within the church, it starts with leadership. It starts there. So leaders at the church, what are your priorities? You’ll know if you pay attention to what your meetings are like. What do your meetings consist of? Because I am a strong advocate that whatever you want to see happen in your congregation, it starts there with leadership. Is your leadership heartbroken or even aware of all these social injustices? Or are you too concerned with yourselves running a church? I ask with stern gentleness because I’ve served during Covid and it’s complicated. But there seems to be a sense of fearing to do the “wrong thing” that’s causing us not to show up at all. Also, maybe it’s a good time to start reflecting: what is the church anyway?

I had this revelation one morning and this thought came to mind: I wonder how many times we said something is out of wisdom, when it’s actually out of fear? It’s such a fine line at times. A follow up question I want to ask is: Are you more concerned about being “right” or following the convictions of God? When it’s more about conviction, I believe we would be bold in leading whatever God puts in our hearts to shepherd others. When it’s more about conviction, it’s less about “hitting the headlines”. *To very clear, this isn’t about reacting to the headlines, it’s the Gospel.

“We know we’re growing in our discipleship if it’s not about reacting to the headlines, but when we’re talking about race as a response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” — Pastor Albert Tate

Christians

If I’m being honest to you, talking about this brings me to frustrating tears. I have seen too may comfortable Christians. We’re privileged to live such comfortable lives and live like these problems aren’t ours. Reality is, it’s probably because it doesn’t directly effect you. You know, talking about issues and not having to experience it is privilege itself. We need to check our privilege. And I get it because I am privileged in many ways as well. But we have to be aware of our privilege and realize WE are the ones who have the responsibility to mobilize change. We ought to defend for our brothers and sisters who may have been marginalized in anyway. It starts with you. It starts with me. Especially to our White bothers and sisters, can we lean in together? (This isn’t meant to be derogatory, but facts). We are given an advantage to make change even possible. So how can we leverage our privilege and do something about it?

“It’s not when the victim marches that the world changes, it’s when the person who could have been willfully blind, marches — the world changes” -Bishop TD Jakes

You don’t have to ask “What would Jesus do?” ! He tells clearly in the Good Samaritan story what he would do and where His values are. But wait, what about “All Lives Matter?”. Yes! This is what the BLM movement is all about. All lives won’t matter until Black lives do. Some of us are getting too caught up with the semantics, when people are dying. Too many of us are putting our heads-in-the-sand (unwilling to recognize or acknowledge a problem) and unknowingly making excuses.

Christian life isn’t comfortable. Love is costly. And love can be uncomfortable. Having these conversations are uncomfortable, but that’s where we need to be. We need all of us to be at the table and talk — because this is Kingdom value. We have been way too underdeveloped when it comes to the topic of race. We need to start talking about this, as part of our discipleship.

Makes me confused when I see non Christians do a better job at loving people and showing up. Just being honest. And honestly, I’m sick of churches or christians that are NOW feeling like “we need more Bible studies or small groups that dive into the Bible and how to love people.” Don’t get me wrong, we need those. There’s 100% a time and place for it. If anything, even better if we do those simultaneously with action taking place. But my point is: Most of us have been in Bible studies learning about love, we have been going to church 2x weekly or even more! some of us even come from Christian households — and NOW we’re getting in a nice little circle together under the ac and studying what the Bible says about love?

It’s like we’ve been training and it’s game day…

and we’re not there.

Where is the Church? I hope this blog post is read with a lot of grace. Like all of us, we are all in the middle of our processes and this is just me being raw about my own.

I deeply want to see the church, Christians and honestly anyone in leadership just step up to love well and take real action (and that’s another conversation of what that looks like). Too many of us aren’t maximizing or being effective with our time. And I’m not saying to just concern yourselves of “doing” this and that. What I’m trying to say is: we don’t have the luxury to not care. Some of us may think “Well, I care!” but do we care enough to do something about it? Reminder: There’s a lot of grace to you. I just believe as Christians and as someone who is a leader of any sort — you are put at a higher standard. Don’t forget that.

“With great power comes great responsibility” — Peter Parker (Spiderman)

But to specifically to my own Christian family, let’s be better. We cannot continue talking like kindergartners when it comes to real life issues such as racism. Something is off and deeply dismaying when Christians and ministry leaders can eloquently and passionately talk through hermeneutics of a Bible passage, but can barely put together 3 sentences about the issues of racism.

My challenge for all of us: We should be in the frontlines. This is living out the Gospel. Whether it is racism or other issues are parallel to it, can we care enough to listen, learn and do? And if we’re in the front, please — let’s make sure we do so by doing the hard work to rightfully be there. I mean, you got to do your OWN research and know enough to even deserve to have an opinion or a say. Sounds harsh? It’s true.

Let’s normalize saying “I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on this yet.”

Let’s not embarrass ourselves. Let’s not just parrot what someone told us, even if it’s someone from a pulpit who told you. It’s good to question what you hear, think for yourself and see where you stand. I encourage you to do that with me.

TLDR; Let’s gain credibility, show up in the frontlines, be open for correction and bring with us the conviction of God.

My hope: Let’s be there on game days.

Sincerely,

Ellie

*I definitely would love a conversation more than this kind of monologue ish environment. This blog itself has its shortcomings and limitations. Plus, this is part 1 of many other parts to this. If you want to have a conversation about this, you can email me elli.kim@biola.edu. I’m learning with you. Thanks!

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Ellie Kim

About me: Recovering from people pleasing, burnout, codependency, religion & perfectionism. This is my story & you’re welcome to join me in my life processes.