White Ice is Colder

 W.I.C Syndrome– Also known as “White Ice is Colder,” or, “White Man’s Ice is Colder,” Syndrome, is when a Black person believes that Blacks are inferior and Whites superior. Therefore, leading to Blacks being 13.2% of America and the poorest race in the United States, simply due the fact that they see Black products and businesses as unproductive, and mediocre compared to a White business that selling the same thing.

This post is all about perspective. Only those who truly know what it means to be a friend will read and process what I've experienced. These are unfiltered thoughts and feelings I have about the world in which God has placed me. I don't think that life is random. I believe in the sovereignty of God and how he predestines us for His purpose. I'm not a Hyper-Calvinist nor do I subscribe to Armenian theology. In saying that, God has for some reason allowed me to be in positions and amongst people where my race is not the dominant culture nor has access to the power in certain situations.

I came out of a traditional black baptist church in Compton called Holy Chapel. I was called, licensed, ordained and trained for pastoral ministry at my home church. I owe all to my pastor and the people there who girded me and guided me for all of these years. My wife and I left our home church in 2006 because I felt like an "odd ball." My oddness came from the fact that I felt God leading me to plant a church that was diverse in ethnicity and socio-economics. Essentially I wanted to preach and pastor among latino asian and white people. We left and our journey began.

We joined forces with a new church plant called Revolution Church of Lakewood which was supported and connected to The Reformed Church of America. I had no idea of what the RCA was. I had never heard of the denomination or its beliefs. All I wanted was an opportunity to be financially supported to do what I knew God was calling me towards. When I met the former pastor of that church I was convinced that's where God would have us. On the church's vision Sunday the pastor talked about a multi-site church. He had a vision of planting churches all over Los Angeles County as a satellite campus one of which was in the city of Carson. Carson was where we lived at the time and was the second most diverse city in the country. That was confirmation for my wife and I at that time. We decided to join this church and work with them as the potential church planting campus of Revolution Church of Carson.

We spent a year at the church learning and building our core group of adults. During that season we had interest meetings each week to vision cast and build our team. At my home church people were concerned because they couldn't understand why we would leave to go plant but then connect with a church like Revolution to do it. In reality the concern was why would we leave our community to go connect with a white pastor and predominantly white church and a white dutch denomination like the RCA.

It all came to the surface the night we had our official interest meeting to let people know our luanch date. We gathered in our living room and the former pastor of Revolution was present. I invited friends and family to attend so they could hear what we are planning to do. I still remember that night in my living room like it was yesterday. The tension was so thick in the room that night you could cut it with a knife. Here you have this white guy talking to a room of predominantly african americans from all ages and socio-economic statuses about my wife and I launching a church in Carson where he the pastor would be on a video screen doing teaching films while I would wrap up the service with a 10 minute follow up.

Now that I look back on that, it is most hilarious. As a side note to any church planter looking at different models please don't think that models in affluent or predominantly white communities translate to yours. It was at this point where my wife and I were ostracized from many of our family and church family. It wasn't because they hated us it was because of their concern that I was getting involved in something "weird" that was not of my upbringing and cultural experience. We continued on in spite of that. We were willing to lose friends, family, and support. It was a month before we were set to launch. We had wrestled with our core group about the style of our service and if we would do video teaching films. Right before our launch the pastor of Revolution Lakewood had a moral failure and the church imploded. The denominational leaders came to me at that time and said they were still willing to support us but if we wanted to bail out of this launch they understood.

The pastor of Revolution Lakewood was removed and we launched as Revolution Carson on the campus of Carson High School in September of 2008. We struggled to find our identity as a church because we carried the baggage of the Revolution name. Not just the baggage of the pastor who had the moral failure, but the baggage that we weren't identifying ourself as a "church" but as a movement. I remember having conversations with my pastor who said that God is coming back for his church and not a movement. After worshipping for about two years in Carson we decided to move our church to Los Angeles and rename our church to The Rock.

In that transition we found our own identity and began to experience growth and maturity in both numbers and ministry. My family began to see the fruit of our investment in this ministry and my home church began to embrace us again. During all of this time I've had the opportunity to be apart of some really important discussions and groups that has allowed me the opportunity to serve in leadership within the RCA denomination.

Currently I am a catalyst leader for Los Angeles on behalf of the California Classis which means I control the Los Angeles area in identifying an vetting and training potential candidates for church planting in Los Angeles for the denomination. I have also been elected as the executive leader for what is called the "Kingdom Enterprise Zone." This initiative is a collaboration between two denominations who want to start new churches in the Los Angeles area. I have been blessed and fortunate to lead in these different areas but they have definitely come with much stress and internal frustration with regards to ethnicity, race, and culture.

As an African American pastor who is called to lead cross-culturally does it really mean that I have to lay down who God created me to be? I know many african american pastors who lead multi-ethnic churches find themselves struggling with who they are. The ugly truth is that you can find yourself getting trapped into "white cultural captivity." In other words, you lose who you are as a preacher, teacher, and orator and begin "sharing" with people on Sunday versus preaching like you would amongst your own people. It's the idea that "white ice is colder."

I believe these perceptions lead to other negative stereotypes and perceptions that American society places on us. This post is not about providing answers but a way to begin a conversation on race, culture, and ethnicity in the church. I'm encouraging people of color who lead in predominantly majority culture contexts to be who God called you to be. You don't need to try and fit into what you think people expect you to be.

I know that there is a reason why God entrusts me with my experiences. I know that it's a reason why I find myself in a position of authority in a predominately white missions organization that focuses on cross-cultural church planting (thoughts on that I'll share later from my perspective in a future post). I'm called to invite others into my story to begin seeing things from a new perspective. Its a new perspective because we have been forced to see things only from the dominant culture's perspective. To those who may be reading this wondering what to do, journey with me from a place of humility and let me show you what you have been afraid to admit.

Peter Watts