|One aspect of in-person worship that I miss most is hearing folks’ reaction to the teaching, the feedback that encouraged discussion and built relationships. Over the four years since I became a pastor at NCF, I’ve begun to know Lehman Waisvisz and especially value his insight and encouragement. After every service, when he came down the stairs, I’d say, “Well, Lehman, what’d you think?” and look forward to his response.|
Lehman is not a typical Christian, attending church to be with people who think like him. He doesn’t come to NCF for a “safe space”, or to have his own political views mirrored and reinforced. In his words:
My thinking is libertarian/conservative, and this is quite at odds with a lot of the members. However, as a child of God (or maybe because I am stubborn) I force myself to break free of my prejudices and listen. I knew going to NCF would cause discomfort, and the topics do at times! But it can be a real blessing and it opens up myself to revelation I would have missed.
Lehman models the courage we need in our walk with the Lord, to be open to what God is speaking to us, and willing to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations to hear people whose experience is different from ours. I won’t pretend this is easy. When I have felt the Spirit prompting me to invite Lehman to Leadership Team meetings, I haven’t known what to expect! And he probably didn’t either! But each time the Spirit has been powerfully present, as Lehman has spoken shockingly strong words of encouragement, or shared visions from prayer that resonated with truth.
There are times when I feel the Lord’s direction clearly, resulting in decisions that have far-reaching impact. But much of my life, there are just the quietest nudges to sustain me. A verse from scripture, a word from a friend. Sometimes I am tempted to doubt the direction I’ve taken, when things seem to go silent. God doesn’t keep repeating the initial instruction, reassuring me with constant repetition. Lehman and I have discussed this dynamic, how we both have learned/been taught to stay with the last word we heard until we are told something different. He describes how that relates to his continued participation at NCF:
I have shared my testimony (receiving Christ) before in the past, and what I do know that those “checkpoints” where God has impacted me the most are just the things that are needed when I feel I am in a spiritual valley, or basically down to earth and essentially feel as a carnal Christian.
At times I have to go back to my last “restore point” (some computer-eze) when I am in that state. Remembering what God has and is doing for me.
When I feel that NCF isn’t for me, I go back and remember why I attend.
I know that God will judge my life, but having a bad memory for some things I just do a review with Him of what I know sometimes before I go to sleep or if I am awake at an odd time in the morning. I don’t want to be caught off-guard!
Belatedly listened to Sunday’s service and Gladys’ testimony. Now I am reminded why I attend NCF. I intentionally put myself “outside my comfort zone” as a member. I did not “get” what white privilege was and was easily offended. The “white privilege” topic I now see as a systematic problem inbred in societal norms, and that’s what makes it insidious. I forget it exists until someone remarks to me that “you don’t have a hook nose” or “I didn’t think Jews were generous, you’re different.” and these were my friends! It is a societal problem that affects all peoples that are not in the majority. It’s an embedded sin of our culture.
It’s easy to hide or be part of the majority “white” Christian thought. What NCF does is challenge the norms, and I balance that with my knowledge of Christ and his character and the word. Carnally, I didn’t want to hear the message, but I “pushed through” because I was forcing myself out of my comfort zone as I remembered why I attend. In doing so, I realized that what is being portrayed as “white privilege” really is societal norms based on the majority class. And it’s not necessarily fair. Gladys showed that in her testimony.
When I got this feedback from Lehman, I was so encouraged. I know that I am not the same person I was ten years ago, and that my thinking has changed even in the last few months. To me, it is a sign of hope that we are open to the Spirit to change our hearts and lives. Testimonies to this truth help us to feel not alone. God, indeed, is at work. May we have the courage to be vulnerable to hear and respond.