Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Empire and Ministry: An Analysis of Privilege and Disparity

Every once in awhile a blog post pops up, inciting a lot of tweeting and Facebook posting with a lot of follow up comments.

Here's the latest:

Writer and speaker Christen Cleveland has done the church in America a great service - she has pointed out a major blind spot among well resourced suburban churches.

In her post she points out that in cities experiencing or attempting to resuscitate urban renewal, suburban pastors come rushing in to plant their franchise of ministry. In doing so they run roughshod over existing ministries and urban saints that have been laboring for years.

This exact same thing happens in the world of global missions. When well meaning, but completely ignorant mission agencies comes to "evangelize" a nation with complete and total disregard of national ministries.

Cleveland gives an example of a white pastor who has planted an inner city church and makes the statement: "This is not your grand momma's church". In that one statement he has done two things: proven his complete ignorance of the surrounding neighborhood culture and insulted a culture that hold "grand momma's " in great esteem. I have seen this EXACT same thing happen when I was ministering in India. An american mission team from a wealthy church in California came in and one of the pastors ridiculed how anyone could worship a rock God or an elephant God. I left the meeting in disgust at the blatant ignorance and insensitivity of this man.

What Cleveland has done is portray what happens when privilege collides with urban reality. There is no communication, no recognition of the existing ministries. There is s stunning lack of Kingdom mentality among many Christian leaders in America. The drive to "succeed" in creating MY ministry, MY church leads to kingdom blindness to everyone and anyone else who is also ministering.

My plea is that my friends and colleagues who are leading large suburban churches would begin to listen and learn from the saints laboring among the urban poor, disenfranchised and rejected. When we pastor a large, growing church it is possible to develop ministry blinders that keep us isolated from being to even comprehend that there are other metrics for measuring effective ministry.

1 comment:

Edith said...

Well said Santosh. I think this blindness goes well beyond large suburban churches. It is human nature to be ego- and ethno-centric. One of our problems is that we don't know what we don't know. We assume we understand things that we don't. Anytime we enter into a new situation we need to enter in as "learners" (ala Tom Brewster's teaching on language acquisition). We need to assume that people in a given culture, situation have good reasons for doing what they are doing and that we need to understand those before trying to suggest/implement changes. Respect for those we want to come alongside is of utmost importance. I think Jeremy and Bethany Colvin are a great example of this.