What is our place?

What is the place of the white American leader? That’s one of the questions I’ve been chewing on for the last two years, and I’ve been bringing it forward to chew on more deliberately here in Peru.

One theory comes from my Dad. As the saying goes, he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But that doesn’t stop him from singing. His guiding principle is to “Make a joyful noise.” So he sings, and he sings loudly. He models what he wishes every Christian in church would do: sing with gusto the praises of our Lord. If they don’t like his singing, they should sing louder and drown him out. In other words, Americans shouldn’t necessarily hold back just because the rest of the world is emerging in leadership.

I heard another viewpoint yesterday from a Latin friend of mine. The place of the American is not to step aside and give ministry over to the minorities or non-western church. That’s not what they want. To turn it over would be like a bad manager who delegates to the point of abandonment. Instead, the place of the American is to welcome the Latins to their rightful places in leadership, then stick around and lead together.

The problem with the first theory is that my poor Mom strains her vocal chords every week at church, trying to outsing my Dad. That theory is too much about competition. The second theory is about collaboration. That’s the goal of the Latin leaders here. They want to know that they’re equals in the task, that they won’t be discarded when Americans’ usefulness for them is past.

One of the best lines I heard an American say yesterday was that if Wycliffe were to pull out of Vision 2025, he had no doubt the vision would continue to begin translation work in every language in this generation. Organizations like those represented in the room would keep working at it with all their hearts. But the goal isn’t to replace ourselves. The goal is that all of us — and many that have not gotten the vision yet but will — work toward this future together.

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One thought on “What is our place?

  1. Thanks for this, Roy. It’s an issue that I’ve often struggled with (both the not singing well, but also being a white American leader). It’s good to know that others are struggling with and thinking about this as well. I’m more than happy to continue and lead alongside my colleagues from Africa, Latin America and elsewhere–and it’s good to know that this would be welcomed and not discouraged by these colleagues.

    I really appreciate your blog. Since Threshing Floor doesn’t work so well for me anymore, I’m getting a good dose of this kind of thinking via the Backrow Leader. 🙂

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