Black Versus White: My Church Journeys

Photo credit: www.waytosalvation.org
A slender lady passed by us in jeans and a sweat shirt. She smiled as we made our way into the worship center. This pressed my wondering button. Jeans, sweat pants and snickers, on a Sunday morning in church? Was she on her way to a picnic? After seeing others dressed in a similar manner, I deduced that it was probably the way people dressed to church in this part of the world.

I wore a brown Ankara dress and blazers. My conspicuous African necklace dangled on my neck as I walked around. Looking around me, I felt overdressed. Well, I was not alone. The pastor stood out with his black “clergy man” suit.
A good number of the men had their legs crossed as though they were on a talk show. The environment felt relaxing. Everything was soft, serene and solemn. When the choir sang, I was gradually lullabied.
It was a total different experience when I first  worshiped at the Bethel Baptist church on a little plain in a city in Minnesota. My brother-in-law regularly  attended service there so he took us along to share the experience.
After the short service, he took us around introducing us to anybody and everybody. I smiled sheepishly as I shook hands with various brothers and sisters in Christ. They commented on my braids and my African outfit. With the spotlight on my outfit, I felt like a five minute star.
Then we were served desserts. There were lots of cakes, cookies and drinks to feast on. In fact, the church had a whole kitchen with a cook in service like we came there to eat. This was not a deja-vu for me so I was fascinated at the presence of a kitchen in the house of God.
We kept attending the rather boring white dominated church for a couple of weeks. We listened to sound and sincere sermons and prayed and interceded for others. Yet, voices that filled the air always enticed me to sleep. It was somewhat lukewarm to us.
Then I got in touch with a former member of a ministry I served in  back in Cameroon. He told me there was a branch of that same ministry located minutes away from where I lived. I was excited.
I could not wait for Sunday to come so I could go to this branch of the same church I’d attended just before moving to the United States. Sunday came quickly like it knew I was waiting. I wore an ankara blouse and skirt as I typically dressed back home on Sundays and off we went.
From the parking lot, I saw women dressed in different kinds of African fabrics and I said to myself, “that’s what I’m talking about!”
When we walked into the church, I felt at home. For a second I forgot that I was in America. It was filled with people that looked like my mother, grandmother, uncles and aunties. The sound of familiar choruses filled the air:
Eh ehe he my God is good ooo…
Everything na double double ooo.. 
I wriggled my waist to the tunes, clapped my hands and screamed when needed. This was church like I knew it.
After service I spent a considerable amount of time shaking hands and creating acquaintances. We went back home and narrated our experience to my brother-in-law’s wife who was a little jealous of us.
The following Sundays, we religiously attended our new found gathering. After staring at unfamiliar faces throughout the week and listening to fast-spoken English, church was a place to remind us of our roots.
Church was were you’ll see people speak, talk and walk like you had seen since your childhood days. That was where people wore their best clothes to. I will never forget a certain woman who had a thing for sparkles. If you needed to spot her in church, you just needed to look for a glittering space and there will she be. Women were not ready to give up on their high heels even in the snow. It looked like some of those shoe heels were far higher than the connection they had with God.
After a while, we were getting tired of socialising with people but failing to socialise enough with the God that brought us together. We were tired of the numerous conversations that ensued at the back while service progressed. We were tired of pastors taking offence at members who left the church. We were tired because belonging to the church was seemingly more important than belonging to God.
This branch of “the church” was more laid-back in spiritual matters compared to any other one I had attended. Is it because we were in America where people were confident about their next pay-check? The brethren here did not seem to want God so much like the ones in Africa.
Before, we could say, “What’s going on…” Mr. N had an interesting conversation with his colleague at work. His Caucasian boo told him how much his wife loved the Lord. He told Him tales of literal hearing from God, healing and deliverance.
I was shocked to hear these stories. This was the first time I heard a white man address such issues in Christianity. It sounded more like our charismatic ways.
So when our new friend invited us to their church, we did not hesitate to honour the invitation. The very next Sunday, we arrived Crossroads Church thirty minutes before service began. I was hungry and after looking around, Mr N was able to get me a cup of hot chocolate which I gulped down unsparingly.
We checked our children into age-appropriate kids’ classes. After doing that and having no girls clinging to me, I felt like I was on a vacation. Then I cat-walked into the congregation,.
Sweet worship filled the air. I felt like I was listening to a Hillsong CD. No, it felt more like I was watching a worship video. The stage, the lighting, stage effects and everything was so surreal. This was the kind of music that those pirated gospel videos we bought from the streets of Cameroon had.
People were lifting up their hands in worship, clapping and singing the lyrics of deep spiritual songs. I had never seen white people so expressive in worship. Then one of my favourite parts was how couples held on to each other as though they had just fallen in love. Even Mr. N  held me ooo. Which woman will not like that?
When it was time for the day’s message, something looked out-of-place. The pastor had no suit on. He appeared informal with his unceremonious pants and shirt. But he began sharing deep truths from the scriptures. It was so edifying.
The sermon was delivered in a conversational tone with sprinkles of humour. We were not told to prophesy to our neighbours or shake the demons off. Sometimes in African churches if you are not lucky you may leave with a convulsion. We fitted well into our new-found gathering.
As the name implies, Crossroads Church seems to be where different cultures meet with the one purpose of seeking God. It has an interesting mix of human beings who do more than just socialise. It is a movement of “Jesus-like people dong Jesus-like stuff.”
At the end of the day, what really matters is not if your church is dominated by whites or blacks. What matters is if your church feeds you with the undiluted Word of God. Church should be that place you go to and are moved to go further with God. Church should be where you water your Christian garden so it can flourish lovingly.
What do you love most about your church? Please share with me below.
Have a God-filled week!

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12 Comments

  1. Your article was so amazing that I realized I finished just when I started. I had my own experience back in London, was invited to a church where many friends from Africa went to but all I felt was like it was a business environment. Where people traded blessings for tithes and offering.Then I was invited to Hillsong Church London thats where I knew what true fellowship was everyone was so real. People sang earnestly during worship which was my favorite part of the service yet. Immediately I got fully involved in all the activities of the church and served in a team.
    Coming from a charismatic background I didn't understand why people hardly spoke in tongues and the pastors weren't 'so profound'. Nevertheless I was amazed by the character of Christ exuded by the brethren. Verses emphasizing on the gifts of the Holy Spirit started resurfacing in my head. I began to worry that I wasn't so blessed, I met a friend and explained my concerns. This friend of mine was also from Cameroon and was a leader in Christ Embassy before he joined Hillsong Church. He said you are free to speak in tongues if you wish but we try not to make a whole show of tongues if its not interpreted because, it also gives an impression to those who aren't speaking like they are not there yet. I definitely understood because tongues is for personal edification and prophecy is for the edification of the church. It definitely doesn't make sense when you don't speak in tongues at home but want to speak in the midst of people and unconsciously intimidate those who aren't speaking. I personally had to deal with that hypocrisy. He then continued and told me the ministry focuses on the person and character of Christ because that's what will make a difference in the world. Given that the devil can mimic miracles, healings etc but can't mimic character or the fruit of the spirit. All of a sudden everything fell in place. I was impressed by a set of people who were so simple in their approach to Christianity but then profound in manifestion no doubt there was always a queue every Sunday, thats what I had been looking for all my life. The youth pastor with tattoos and slim fit jeans who was accessible at any point in time. In fact he was part of us.. In the midst of this freedom every now and then testimonies came in of miraculous healings without any laying of hands.
    I remember an instance where I disagreed with what Dan preached, I went, met him and raised my concerns .Dan who was the youth pastor invited me for coffee on a different day and gladly said he will love to diligently hear me out. The following week we met and I started expaciating on my own point of view ..to my greatest surprise a pastor in charge of 4000 youths started taking notes and expressed how he never saw it from my view point, had learned something new and will go back home and do more research. His behavior blew my mind because the last time I checked I was just an ordinary member in the consolidation team. Then it dawned on me that Dan saw Christ in me and not otherwise.. Till date am in awe of that man's character and attitude I could say beyond reasonable doubt that I met Christ in the person of Dan.
    Coming back to Africa was my 'worst nightmare' I looked for a ministry homologous to Hillsong or free spirited and relaxed but I couldn't find..All I saw were self consumed pastors who enjoyed lording over members, reigning down condemnation to people who erred as if they were free and deceived them that being subservient to them was giving glory to God. Till date rather than going for drama to see theatrics in the name of preaching I rather fellowship in small home communities with like minded Christians. Meet real people with real issues who have nothing to prove to man but to serve God.

  2. Futi, your experience is very similar to mine! I had goose bumps as I read through your story. It is funny how Pentecostals claim to know it all yet when it comes to living the life of Christ and manifesting genuine love, they are lacking.

    The pastors in Crossroads church carry a similar air of humility as Dan. They are not Papas, Bishops, Apostles or Senior Prophets. They simply identify as Pastors. Not that they don't have these gifts. But what is the point in calling servants high-sounding names when the greatest man that ever lived was simply called, Jesus? He is everything to us but we call him Jesus.

    I am surprised at how accessible the pastors are at Crossroads church compared to the ones back home. There is no protocol to see them, After service, you find the main pastor in the lobby gisting with others. He is simply called, "Phil". This is a church that sits thousands. If it's in Africa to see him eh, you will sweat. Then other people will give testimonies on how God has 'lifted' him. That's not Jesus-like!

    I was equally worried about the absence of speaking in tongues and the gifts of the Spirit. But now that I've read your article/comment, my heart is at ease. No wonder Jesus said many will say they performed many miracles in His name and He will say, "I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity." But then again, He will say to others: "come and enjoy with me for I was sick and you visited me, I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked, you clothed me, I was in prison you visited me…" That shows that what really matters to God is Godly character and that is what I admire in my church. They are so much into helping others.

    Thanks for commenting Futi! It feels good to see someone that relates with my story. I was edified! On a lighter note you 'contaminated' me with your comment. See how I produced another article here. Lol. Stay blessed, bro!

  3. Whao .this article shed lights on many things.however I would like to limit myself to my present church.when we moved to Lexington,we followed our host to thier new found church,before we even started attending the church they told us it felt like home ,it was exactly that….to me it is more than home .The church is a predominantly white church .infact I always look forward to each service because the worship is true worship .from the choir ministration to the message is always awesome.i would admit that I didn't know if I could meet a set of people who are honest.,the pastor preaches the undiluted word of God free of "the new gospel"messages which is everywhere.the way offerings are collected amazes me.the offering box is located at the rear of the church .so whether u put offerings or not ,it is between you and God.after the church service you see people going there to put in their offerings.This is the pastors personal idea cos the church is part of The church of God.Recently there was a project to help an orphanage in Israel.,believe me,the pastor announced about the program one month before n on the day the offering was collected.he didn't take upto 5mins to talk about the vision n abt $25.000was collected without coercing people with bible passages…i was just like….hmmm in Africa…the gospel would be twisted to get the last franc out of your pocket…eventhough we know God loves a cheerful giver not a giver who gives out of pressure.
    Also the humility of the pastor too.which is kind of common in the west.At the end of the service,the pastor rushes to the door to greet everyone…..no protocol…whosai over protocol.sef commot for House of God eh
    on the contrary,What amazes me is that my pastor had a call into full time ministry at 57n he has pastored for 7years yet he is just like one who has been a full time pastor all his life,
    I'm glad I'm part of this family of God.im even tempted to say if that's the only reason God brought me to the US….he has done enough already cos I have learnt so many things.

  4. Weeeh my sister oooo, those of us who have tasted both sides of the pie know the difference. I can join you to say that if I came to the US only to experience this then it is enough.

    The giving, oh the way the give. At Crossroads church, they just pass the offering basket around. Some people give, others don't. There are many ways to give. You can give online, you can text to give it all depends on you. In our churches eh, you must dance to the front to give. So some people give not because they want to but because they don't want others to judge them for staying back. Yes, I prefer cheerful giving more than pressured giving. I feel more led to give in my present church.

    Whosai protocol really commot for God e house??? Jesus was so accessible. He walked the streets. People could touch him, they could talk to him. For us, when a pastor had a church of a few hundred members, he becomes a demi-god. He now moves with an entourage and then you need to follow protocol to see him.

    Thanks for sharing your interesting story, my sister. I really hope many will learn from this.

  5. Great article sis Precious. This has been on my ' to read list' since I saw it on my timeline and I must say my two minutes were not wasted especially since I felt like my experience was being narrated by another person. Back home, we are so accustomed to the usual raucous that comes with 'church' and we erroneously assume that any church that is not 'loud' with rambunctious and conspicuously dressed members is not 'spirit-filled'. The Cross Roads church you describe here is akin to my Bethel Cincinnati church where the presence of God speaks for itself and does not need to be amplified by all the 'extraness'. May God help us to look beyond the surface!

  6. My sister Ayenika, i'm glad to see that you too can relate to this. Back home, some of our churches seem to be characterized more by noise than by substance. I guess the saying, "empty vessels make the loudest noise" is true after all. Let the presence of God speak for itself, we do not need to help God with our loudness, dressing, charisma, gimmicks etc. Thanks for sharing with me, my sister.

  7. Hahaha pre pre again

  8. Lol. "What have I do?"

  9. Sister Precious in the spirit. Halleluyah.
    The first comment is really food for thought. God help us all.
    I attend an "African church". They aren't all the same cos I used to attend a laid back, easy going church but I realised my spirit man was hungry for something fulfilling. I heeded Holy Spirit's directive to change churches and instantly I could feel the difference. It's important to attend one that concentrates on feeding the soul and preaching heaven as opposed to others who do not.

  10. Hahahaha Sister Funmi, how are you doing? You are very correct. A church that focuses on feeding you with the Word of God and making you conscious of eternity is doing the right thing. Thanks for stopping by, deary!

  11. Oh my God! So true! I was even told I had a demon when I was not slain in the spirit like the rest of the congregation. You have a powerful way of translating your thoughts into words. Please do keep writing!

  12. What??? Some of that (and I dare say a lot of that) 'being slain in the spirit' is staged. Not that God's presence can't manifest like that but we have to be careful about trying to get ahead of God. Thanks for reading sis, and for your motivating me with your words!

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