A couple years ago, when I did my first Welcome to My Library series, I realized that I was reading a lot of books written by white men. This isn’t a bad thing, but it helped me see who was shaping my worldview and my faith. There are thoughtful, insightful, and Holy Spirit led men and women of all different races and I was missing out on their wisdom. Since that realization, I’ve been trying to be more diverse with my own reading and especially in those books that I am recommending.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness has been on my to-read list for a while now. I first heard Austin Channing Brown on a podcast where she shared the story of why her parents named her Austin: they wanted to get her in the door when she was interviewing. They knew that if she had a white, male name on her resume, she was more likely to get a foot in the door. That story shocked me and has stuck with me through the years. I had always thought that baby names were chosen based on what a parent liked—I never realized so much strategy went into some name selections.
This is just one of many stories that Austin shares throughout I’m Still Here that caused me to stop and think. She passionately and insightfully expresses her experience and, as I was reading, I was consciously aware of just how much I don’t know. I was overwhelmed by the fact that I have so much to learn from wise women and men of color.
One of the things that really stood out to me in this book was Austin’s love for the Church. In one chapter, she writes about the 1963 tragic bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that resulted in the deaths of four young girls. The sad truth is that tragedies like this are still happening in our lifetimes. In 2015, nine people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in a horrific and racially motivated shooting. Here’s what Austin writes about the night she heard the horrific news:
“I turned on the TV and watched the news for as long as I could stomach. My heart grew heavy as my eyes took it in. My beloved Church had been attacked again.
I’ve never stepped foot in Mother Emanuel, the loving nickname for that Charleston church. I don’t know any of the congregation members, and I had never heard the name of its beloved pastor, or any of the people killed that night. And yet, despite the geographical gap, it felt as if my own home church had been violated.” p. 154
I don’t think I’ve ever thought about the Church as a whole more than I have in this particular season. Even when I was working for various churches, I was focused on my church and what we were doing, rarely did my concern venture out of our own buildings and certainly not to churches in other states. But reading Austin’s account makes me wonder how our communities, nation, and the world might change if we dared to think of the Church more. What if we had the courage to look outside of ourselves and our own communities and saw the global Church? What if we adopted a Kingdom mindset?
Even if we live in different states or countries, if we have the same shared faith in Christ, we are part of one body. And that’s not something I think about very often. People who live radically different lives than I do, with different struggles, hopes, and dreams than I do, are my brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of God’s family.
I don’t have a clear next step for this or a practical application because I’m still processing through this myself. But I really do wonder how we’re doing as a global family on mission. Do we know what our brothers in the next state over are doing, let alone our sisters down the street? Do we pray for the Church, not just our own pastor or that church attendee who really annoys us?
So maybe that’s my encouragement, challenge, and application to myself (and you, if you would like to partake): pray for the Church. Despite all of the things we’re currently facing, God is still moving and he’s moving through the Church. My guess is that our Church family needs our prayers, just as we need theirs.
Then, as with everything else, as we pray, we can speak and act as the Holy Spirit leads. But it all begins with prayer.
How can you pray for the global church today?
How is God leading you to move and speak in this season?
And check out I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown!
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