“Where’s Walter?” I said. Back came the reply from Mark, ‘Haven’t seen him in a few days…we better go check on him!” Mark is a middle-aged black man that slept in our field until we realized his untapped leadership potential. Walter is a younger black man that lives in the neighborhood with his sister and hangs around our building a lot. Walter is also a walking encyclopedia of Scripture knowledge.
Mark and I jump into the 1993 300,000+ mile Jeep Cherokee that I drive and headed the few blocks over to Walter’s home. On the way I was commenting to Mark that I was having trouble preaching with all of the “feedback” from the audience. When we moved to “the hood” I had been used to preaching to middle-class suburban white folks. They rarely say anything during a sermon, move around or respond…they just take notes. However, preaching to a multi-cultural church in the middle of an impoverished neighborhood is another story entirely. The sermon has become rather participation-friendly. Folks talk back, they “amen”, some testify (which takes several minutes) and others try to co-preach by adding their thoughts on the topic. The one I had the most trouble getting used to is when folks holler, “say it again preacher” they really expect you to say what you just said…again. I am ADD…a gnat belching gets me distracted…imagine what this 3-ring-circus we call a sermon at Impact! Church does to me? Squirrel…
Mark said, “The problem is that you don’t use your ghetto voice.” “I don’t use my what,” I replied? “You ghetto voice,” Mark continued. “It’s the voice that comes from deep down and gets loud. It is from the gut and lets whoever you are talking to know that they need to be quiet, be afraid and listen to what you have to say without interrupting or saying a word. The ghetto voice will get their attention, Pastor.” I said back to Mark, “But I am white…how can I have a ghetto voice?” “It’s not about black or white,” Mark responded, “it’s about location…about being in the hood. If you are in the hood you can have it…and Pastor…you are in the hood.” Pondering his reply for a second I said, “Mark how will I know the ghetto voice when I hear it?” “You’ll know…trust me…you’ll know when you hear it!’ answered Mark.
Just then we arrived at Walter’s house. We stepped out of the Jeep, climbed onto the porch and knocked on the door. No response. We knocked again. No response. We knocked a third time…only a little louder. From inside the house – just beyond the door – we heard a voice that was deep, threatening and not quite from this planet holler, “Who the f**k is it and what the h**l do you want?” I replied in a shy, quiet voice, “It’s Pastor Chris from Impact! Church and I’ve come to check up on Walter.” All of a sudden the door opened, a small, sweet-looking woman was standing in the doorway and in a mild. meek voice she said, “Oh hello Pastor Chris, so good to see you. I will go get Walter.” It was at that moment that I realize that BOTH voices came from that same woman. Mark looked at me with fear on his face and said, “That first voice…that was the ghetto voice!”
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