At the age of 21, God called me to help plant a church in Washington, D.C. Nine years later, the senior pastor asked me to succeed him in his role. My prayer to God at the time was, “Help me to labor with you in building a church that looks more like heaven than like me.”
In almost every aspect of how that prayer could have been answered, God has seen fit to respond in the affirmative, and I will forever be grateful.
My name is Brett Fuller, and I am the lead pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Va. (a suburb of Washington, D.C.). Grace is a larger-than-small church whose demographics are rare for Virginia: 68% African American, 32% White, Latino and Asian. We intend our unique congregational complexion to have influence beyond simply looking like an unusual family portrait. We sense that we are called to be a witness of what cross-ethnic relational integrity looks like, and what preserved unity produces (Ephesians 4:3). We choose to embrace the difficulty inherent in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), and we consider the inconvenience of someone’s relational insensitivity an opportunity for mutual growth.
Building anything with similar people, who like what you like, think how you think, and feel how you feel is a challenge all by itself. But intentionally adding other ethnicities to the plan exponentially complicates the building process, especially in Virginia. The growth is slower, but it resonates with quality. Never more evident is the usefulness of our particular congregation than when a community quakes from the faults of ancient ethnic tectonic plates pushing just below the surface of our culture. My heart breaks for Ferguson, Missouri and the loved ones of Michael Brown.
I grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. Our family’s first home was in the “hood.” When violence crept too close, Dad began exploring the possibility of moving to “white” suburbia. The year was 1966; no realtor would show us a home. After an extensive search, my father found an owner willing to sell.
Breaking the color barrier for that community was painful. Our house was egged, our cars were vandalized, and I was rarely called by my first name. Although we had few friends, and surprisingly few real enemies, there was no shortage of the disgusted, apathetic, and unhelpful. My enrollment in the first grade could never be confused with being enjoyable. Still, I never heard my parents utter a bitter word. They taught my siblings and me to be courageous and loving. They modeled how to grow through troubles, not just go through troubles.
Mom was “God-fearing.” She did not know many Bible passages, but she did seem to always know what not to do. Her proactive restraint served to build character in her children while ensuring their safety. Unknown to me then, these unforgettable lessons were becoming the prompt to a calling.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Brett Fuller, Ed Stetzer