Three Ways to Lay Down Your Privilege
Here at the Summit, we have an audacious goal of planting 1,000 churches by 2050. (By God’s grace, we have already planted 298!) One of the most bittersweet realities of planting churches is sending out your best leaders. One of the greatest benefits is getting to learn from them along the way. So we decided to ask some of our Summit Network pastors to give back a little and share some of what God has taught them.
Every Monday throughout the summer, check in here for a dash of wit and wisdom from some of our Summit Network church planters. To find out more about how the Summit Network equips leaders to plant, grow, and multiply gospel-centered churches, visit thesummitnetwork.com. Next up: Allan McCullough!
–Chris Pappalardo, Editor
Growing up, conversation around the dinner table was always lively. My family talked over one another, there was constant banter, and we were very sarcastic. It was just the way we communicated with each other. My wife did not come from a family like this, and when we married, she struggled to see the fun in needing to interrupt people and talk louder than everyone to get a word in. When my family would get together for dinner, my wife was outnumbered five to one, so majority wins and the banter would begin.
The majority group at the table had no intention of creating a difficult environment for my wife, as we all adore her. However, my family culture is so innate that we assumed she was comfortable. We enjoyed the luxury of being like most of the people at the table and assumed everyone felt as if they belonged, while the minority sat silently, misunderstood, and unseen.
In this scenario, my family had the power to establish the social dynamic of the table, and the only way for my wife to enjoy an environment that is comfortable for her was to segregate herself with others who share her preferences.
People have always been concerned with power. In Mark 10, James and John want to know what position they would hold in the kingdom of God. In response, Jesus says, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant” (vv. 42–43 CSB).
In one statement, Jesus flips the world’s relationship with power upside down. Everyone who possesses power, in this world or God’s kingdom, possesses privilege. Those in the world use their privilege for their own benefit. Those of us in God’s family, however, have the privilege of laying down our power for the benefit of others.
Everyone who possesses power possesses privilege. We either use it for our own benefit or we lay it down for the benefit of others.
Whether conscious or not, my family used our power and privilege to our own benefit to create a social dynamic curated to our own preferences. And even in that small setting, doing so cut deep wounds. But, when we became aware of that privilege, we gained empathy for the minority, and it gave us the opportunity to love my wife like Jesus, to become a servant and lay down power, privilege, and preferences for others.
Wherever you find yourself a part of a majority group, you have the same choice.
Do you live, work, or worship in an environment where your race, gender, or even personality type is the majority? If so, you possess power and privilege. Don’t apologize—rejoice! You have a unique opportunity to love God and others well. Here are three ways our church is learning how to do this:
1. Look beyond yourself and your privilege.
Jesus shows us in Luke 13:10–17, where he healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath, how we should see those in the minority. When you take your focus off of your own experience and begin to observe what others experience, you’ll also see an opportunity to show love.
2. Listen to those in the minority.
Give those who feel isolated an opportunity to express how they truly feel. Be open to hearing how they might feel unwelcome in your community, validate their desire to segregate into a community of common preferences, and accept responsibility.
3. Lead in laying down your preferences and conveniences for the sake of others.
Don’t be afraid to take the lead in using your power and privilege to love those who are marginalized. The minority group needs majority people to lay down power to give them a voice. You go first.
The majority has the privilege and responsibility to lay down their power to welcome and serve the minority—in all contexts. This is the way of God’s kingdom. In my family, this looks like learning to be quick to listen and slow to speak, to restrain our impulse to banter so that my wife can be heard, seen, and loved. Yes, five people need to make adjustments to love the one. Laying down power and privilege always comes at a cost, as our Savior has shown.
My prayer for the church is that we would rejoice in the privilege of laying down power rather than wallowing in the bondage of protecting it.
Allan McCullough is the pastor of Grace Hill Church in Herndon, Va., which was planted in 2017. He and his wife Kim have two children, Leland and Christy. Learn more about Grace Hill Church at gracehillchurch.com.