Cultural sensitivity is the ability to see through eyes other than our own. More than anything, seeing through the eyes of others requires humility—the humility to recognize we have so much to learn, and especially from people different from ourselves.
Resonate Global Mission has identified listening and learning as important postures for effective mission work in and through the Christian Reformed Church. With this in mind, I learned of Reesheda Graham-Washington, director of Communities First Association and co-author of SOUL FORCE: Seven Pivots Toward Courage, Community, and Change.
In SOUL FORCE, Graham-Washington and co-author Shawn Casselberry share their perspectives on ministry. Graham-Washington, African American, and Casselberry, Euro-American, write from deep life and ministry experience in urban Chicago.
In basketball, a pivot requires turning just enough to get to the basket. Similarly, Graham-Washington and Casselberry explain that, in ministry, “a pivot isn’t an entire overhaul. It is a slight directional turn that can open up new possibilities and pathways.” (17)
The authors flesh out seven pivots, basic and bold, that can radically transform our lives and our ministry impact. Each pivot includes brief quotes that hopefully whet your appetite for more listening and learning.
1. FROM FEAR TO FREEDOM
“I have learned that it’s hard to fear others when you love them, and it’s hard to love others when you fear them. Love does indeed drive out fear.” (32)
“Once I pivoted toward courage and freedom, I trusted in the vision I was called to, and I carried out decisions and plans that were in alignment with freedom rather than with fear.” (36-37)
2. FROM BARRIERS TO BRIDGE BUILDING
“Be humble. Remember, we only see in part, so don’t be a jerk. (That’s a paraphrase of the apostle Paul.)” (67)
“Bridge builders look for common ground … Establishing common ground safeguards against demonizing people who disagree and allows us to engage others with dignity.” (67)
3. FROM SELF-CENTEREDNESS TO SOLIDARITY
“Self-centeredness is the life, love, and legacy snatcher in our families, in our country, and in our world.” (70)
“One aspect of solidarity is the willingness to see all life as sacred and worthy of love and belonging.” (85)
4. FROM HURT TO HOPE
“Hate is poison to the soul. Soul force—the alignment with love over hate, peace over violence, and faith over despair—preserves our own soul in the fight against evil.” (105)
“The resurrection is not only something that happened two thousand years ago, but something that can give us power and life and strength every day. This is indeed reason for hope.” (108)
5. FROM CONSUMING TO CREATING
“God is not a consumer. God is a creator. Being created in the image of God means we are made to create too.” (114)
“Life is too short to neglect the gifts and passions inside us. We are more than consumers; we each have a calling to come alive that is just waiting to be discovered.” (126)
6. FROM CHARITY TO CHANGE
“Soul force takes us beyond charity work and personal change to engage in community building so that we can bring about collective change.” (136)
“Share resources. We cannot have equity or justice if those with power are not willing to sacrifice and share … How can you leverage your own privilege to open doors of opportunity for others?” (154)
7. FROM MAINTENANCE TO MOVEMENT
“Maintenance is … contentment with the way things are … When we are operating from a place of self-centeredness, we can obsess about our own survival rather than the survival of us all.” (158).
“For movement makers, justice looks like hungering and thirsting for what could be, what should be, and what must be: liberation for all.” (165)
In addition to a great personal read, SOUL FORCE is an excellent resource for discussion by church staff and ministry groups for personal and community transformation. Appendix C is designed for this very purpose.
Written by Al Mulder, Great Lakes Regional Mission Associate Leader for Resonate Global Mission