Trillia Newbell Shares How She Gained Unity by Sacrificing Comfort to Stay In a Predominantly White Church

Trillia Newbell
Trillia Newbell

I became a Christian at the age of 22, by way of someone I never would have expected. It was the summer of 1998, four years prior to me submitting my life to the Lord. I was leading a private camp and awaiting the arrival of my assistant. She bounced in with her blonde ponytail, blue eyes, and bubbly spirit. She was a few years younger than I — and seemed it. Not that she was immature, she wasn’t, but there was innocence about her that poured out as she spoke and interacted with the campers. Our first meeting would be God’s way of changing the whole course of my life.

She and I were polar opposites. I was black and she white. I was in college and quite academic and she had decided to leave college early to do campus ministry. Later I would find out that she came from a fairly wealthy family and I was poor. Most importantly, she was a Christian and I was not. She would eventually share the gospel with me and I would resist it for four years.

Growing up I attended church on major holidays and for a short time during high school. So, my first real and extended experience with American evangelicalism came by way of this unexpected friend who shared the gospel with me. I resisted her invitation to faith for years, but on the heels of a broken engagement, I started to listen, and I joined her at church. I remember the day I submitted my life to the Lord like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday morning. While singing the worship song “Rock of Ages” the Lord began to soften my heart and reveal His grace to me. After the meeting three new friends prayed for me. And I was saved.

That was the beginning of my journey in the American evangelical church. I became a Christian as an adult and then remained in that predominantly white church. The most challenging aspect of being one of few Blacks is that my struggles, concerns, and ideas felt difficult to explain, so often I didn’t share. It took nearly a decade before I sent an email to my pastors outlining some areas at church I struggled with. I described being uncomfortable at events like the Cowboy Olympics, my fears that I would never marry as I was often the only black single in the church, how at times I felt strange or like an alien as well-meaning friends would ask questions about my hair and skin, etc. It was difficult to explain my sense of isolation and loneliness.. But when I received questions like, “Does your skin burn in the sun?” and “Can I feel your hair?” I wasn’t offended, it was simply a reminder that I was one of few and therefore people were curious.

My pastors were eager to hear more and invited me to review the book Bloodlines by John Piper. They placed the review on their website for the members to read and consider. They were open to my opinions, thoughts, and concerns. I was thankful for that. I prayed that it would be beneficial for the church to consider and that it would bless and encourage the younger members who were walking through similar things.

So the challenge for me was feeling like I didn’t always fit the mold. Now that I have written my book United, I am aware that there are many Christians who have experienced similar feelings of isolation and confusion. In my situation, it wasn’t that anyone intentionally harmed me, on the contrary. I felt loved at my church, but the reality of our differences, often pointed out by other members, produced in me an even greater awareness of myself. I wasn’t just a member of the church, I was a black member.

But why did I stay?

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today
Trillia Newbell

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