Fences

Fences

We bear our beliefs like banners: Republican or Democrat. Pro-life or pro-choice. Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. Feminist, socialist, libertarian, traditionalist. We scream at each other and over each other and louder and louder and louder and-

Aren’t you tired?

Diversity in perhaps its most divisive form is diversity of thought. When we talk to people who think differently than us, our disagreements can spring up like fences that separate. So what do we do? We charge in with our convictions in attempts to be heard, to have our own way. To be right. And we don’t care what it costs us.

I am reminded of James, one of the most practical books in the Bible. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters,” it says, “You must all be quick to listen” and “slow to speak” (New Living Translation, 1:19).

Growing up, I watched my grandfather pastor a predominantly black, Baptist church. After I accepted Jesus into my life, my eyes were opened to reformed theology and I started to become very critical of the black church. It was too hope-oriented, I thought, and not challenging enough. Do you know what helped me understand? Sitting down with my grandfather and engaging in conversation. You see, there’s a specific part of the gospel that black people really comprehend and that’s this idea of future hope. For a long time, future hope is all to which we had to hold on during the hardships of our cultural circumstances and social struggles. As I listened to my grandfather, I began to see how the past shapes the present. I began to understand.

Everyone has a worldview. Everyone has a specific way of thinking that has been shaped by individual and cultural experiences, whether it is a racist upbringing in the rural south or a harsh interaction with inner city law enforcement. What our parents talked about at the dinner table, the news programs we turn on at night, how often we read – these things all influence, for better or for worse, how we interact with our world.

We are convinced that listening will pollute us. We are afraid that what someone else has to say will wear on us. But I believe that approaching a conversation with a posture of listening and a desire for learning creates room for understanding. And knowing where someone comes from can be helpful when addressing potentially prejudiced, or even dangerous, points of views.

When was the last time you engaged in conversation with someone who did not think like you?

When was the last time you took a backseat to being right?

Try it this week – approach someone who is politically, theologically, socially (or whatever it is) different than you. Practice being slow to speak and quick to listen. Be inquisitive and patient. Ask questions. Seek the why behind their convictions and watch what happens when understanding occurs. You never know – the fences might just come tumbling down.

Written by Adrian Crawford and Nina Rodriguez-Marty

About Adrian Crawford and Nina Rodriguez-Marty

Adrian Crawford spends his time working as a spiritual and social entrepreneur. The majority of his endeavors are based out of Tallahassee, Florida where he resides with his wife Wendy and their three children. Adrian moved to Tallahassee from Akron, Ohio when he received a scholarship to play basketball at The Florida State University, and aside from a career playing professional basketball in Spain, he has lived Florida's capitol city ever since.

At the onset of his lifestyle of entrepreneurship, Adrian served for seven years as an Associate Pastor for Every Nation Tallahassee and as the Executive Director of 925 Athletic Ministries. This is when he launched his first business, a basketball skills training academy known as GameSpeed Skills. Shortly after, a sister company was born as a non-profit called GameSpeed Nation. Working with others in the church and in his companies, Adrian became skilled and adept at launching those around him in their respective fields. This catalyst effect in the lives of people he was in relationship with continued to grow throughout this time, and Adrian's desire to add value to every place he inhabited became a recognizable reality.

Adrian felt called, and with the support of the leaders at Every Nation, he began a church plant in 2012. In 2013, from a group of 18 committed people Engage Church was born. Engage is a living example of revolutionary living and racial reconciliation. Through Engage's mission of Engaging God, people and culture, Adrian has expanded his heart for reaching people in the circles he influences to equipping others to add value to their respective cultures and spaces.

Those closest to him will say that he is constantly thinking of "what's next" in any free moment. Adrian's bio will inevitably expand and change as time goes, but his heart to add value to others will not; it is the very core of everything he does and it is the lifeblood that makes him a successful spiritual and social entrepreneur.