The Need for Other Voices

31 01 2010

Today I watched part of a training video from a large,  successful and well-known church. Because I respect the church and the training material they produced, I will not name them in this post. Before watching the video, I’d read a book written by the same author and mostly respected the book. When I saw the video, I was shocked.

Now, before I tell you what shocked me, you need a little background. I’m white. But I’ve been in an Asian-American sub-culture my entire adult life. So, I’m sure I’m about to offend some people. In fact, if I heard another white person say this, I’d be offended. But here it is: I’m Asian. Well, Asian-American: in my thinking, at least.

So, here’s what shocked me about the video:

It was a group of middle aged white men. They were American. They included pastors, authors, etc. They were trying to act casual in the video, while still teaching.

The one overwhelming feeling I had, was a sense of “other”. They seemed so very foreign. Remember, I was also watching this in Korea, in a room filled with Koreans, Westernized Koreans, and Westerners living in Korea. In other words, a very Asian setting. Furthermore, we were mostly young / single.

I looked at these white men and I thought, “What can they know of us?” Most of what they taught was solid and truly applicable to any group. But a few “americanisms” slipped in – cultural assumptions, attitudes, and suggestions that betrayed how very much they are entrenched in white culture. I could just imagine them with a beer in their hands discussing sports instead of church matters, which made it terribly difficult to focus on the good, true things they did say.

Suddenly, I experienced what I’d only heard of – the need for minority leaders / voices / etc. I was recently reading some Asian-American reactions to TV actors, and the repeated lament of not connecting to them or of being mis-represented. Since I have never been much for pop culture, I didn’t understand the complaint. But today I did – I couldn’t listen to the message because of the messengers.

So… we need great Asian-American leaders in the Church. And great female leaders. And great Latino, African-American, and NON-American! Until we see people in leadership and authority who look like us, sound like us, and think like us, we’ll have a hard time really supporting them and following them, mainly because it’s hard to believe they understand us or really know how to speak to us.

My prayer, then, is for God to raise up a new generation of leaders in the Church. A generation of cultural and racial diversity which can speak to the whole Body.