A few years ago, I finally got my dream job. I got to work for the multiethnic Christian Reformed Church I have been attending since I was a 17-year-old back in 1990. When I began coming to the church, I started to get involved in their music ministry, learning to play gospel piano by ear, and was lovingly mentored by several African American gospel choir directors and worship leaders. Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention that I'm a white guy, a formerly-rural but still Dutch white guy. At times, I was the only white face on the team, a perspective which became invaluable later on. I was an "only" for only an hour or two during rehearsals, as our church was diverse but still mostly-white, but I got the opportunity even in this little tiny way, to experience something which profoundly shaped my life. I was lucky that my time being an "only" usually was positive because even as an "only" I had privilege ... but I also was challenged and grew under the African-American leaders I served under for the next few decades.
Anyway, I never left the church, and was a regular volunteer in the music ministry.
After a career in social work, I was hired to help other worship leaders at the three campuses of our now multi-site church to learn some of the same things I learned as someone who was himself mentored in cross-cultural worship ministry.
This is a challenge, especially as a person who believes that the best way to learn about cross-cultural ministry is to be accountable to someone through mentorship or partnership with someone whose culture is different from your own. Especially if you are white, because we white folks often don't have non-white friends we are close enough with who can speak truth to us. And so here I am, a white man leading a majority-white but multi-ethnic group of worship leaders, being tasked with training these leaders to lead their multiethnic congregations in worship with knowledge and skill. This is my dream job, and it kinda goes against my own core beliefs about cross-cultural ministry.
In general, I believe white people should not be telling other white people how to do effective multi-ethnic ministry because we are more likely to have the same cultural blind spots and cultural preferences as the white people we are talking to. All multiethnic leaders need to hear the perspectives of people of color, but the white people especially do because we have less access to the knowledge people of color can share with us.
In addition, all effective multiethnic worship leaders need to have cross-cultural intelligence built on the foundations of scripture and a commitment to seeking justice. If we say we want to be a multiethnic community, we need to want the communities we come from to be as whole as possible. So we need to seek justice for one another. A part of this justice work means that we as leaders have to confront bias, privilege, internalized oppression, feeling superior, and systemic racism. Having a few trainings each ministry year wasn't going to help with this very much ... especially since a number of members had difficulty attending because of their young families. We had to try something other than offering a few trainings. We needed to find a way for busy people to learn when they have time to listen and think about how to be a skillful and effective worship leader in a multiethnic church. We decided to try making some recordings people could listen to when they had time, like when they sat in the pickup line at school, while they did housework, while they were on their daily commute, or while they were out taking a jog.
So, we made a podcast and named it after the first multiethnic church in the New Testament. The Antioch Worship Leadership Podcast was created for multiethnic worship leaders to have a way to continue learning about worship and community life in multiethnic churches.
We have been putting out an episode about once every two weeks. The episodes are a mix of interviews or round-table discussions where we talk about governance, worship, and community-life in the multiethnic church. We've found that more people are interested in this outside of our congregation ... and so, I'd like to share it with you. If YOU would like to be a member of this community learning about how to be culturally-intelligent worship leaders, then by all means please like our Facebook page and subscribe to Apple Podcasts.
Our most recent episode features a son of the Christian Reformed Church, the Christian speaker and Native American activist Mark Charles. On this episode, entitled “The Trauma of the Doctrine of Discovery, ”we catch up with Christian speaker and Native American activist Mark Charles. In this conversation, Mark shares his thoughts about the intersection of his activism and his Christian faith, particularly around creating a common memory when it comes to the how colonization and Christianity impacted African-Americans and the indigenous nations of the Americas. Sprinkled throughout this conversation, Mark discusses several of his upcoming projects, including the 5th Annual “Would Jesus Eat Frybread” conference, the National Dialogue on Race, Gender and Class, as well as his thoughts on how Christians of all ethnicities may want to mark Thanksgiving Day in the United States.