Thursday, December 6, 2007

Should Christian Churches be multiracial?

Or does it matter?

Multiracial churches are defined as congregations in which no one racial group is 80% or more of the congregation. So, if you have one African-American family or one Hispanic family--most likely you do not qualify. The authors of the prophetic book United by Faith state that only 7.5% of over 300,000 "religious" congregation in the US are racially mixed. In "Christian" congregations, the percentage drops to 5.5%. Is this disturbing to you? Should we care?

We have all heard the statement, "Christian worship is the most segregated hour in the US!" Okay. But it is time for us to move beyond this statement.

A few observations:
-This is at the heart of the gospel. You cannot read the NT without acknowledging that the good news of Jesus came to break down existing walls between people--Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female. The baptismal waters compel us to enter into relationships with people that do not look like us, live like us, or dress like us.
-The "white" churches were decades behind the integration laws of the 60's. Forgive me for finger pointing, but the "white" congregations should have been pleading for forgiveness while living as people with a mission to embrace the essence of Gal.3:27-28.
-It is "nearly" impossible for homogeneous, "white" churches to transition out of the mold in order to become multiracial. It can happen, but there are MANY obstacles to climb over. Though we should be striving to unite as faith communities, I believe that multiracial churches are going to have to be birthed by church plants. Unification must be in their DNA from birth. This means while churches dream of planting black churches and Hispanic church, they also need to be dreaming of how to be intentional in planting multiracial churches.
-To get minorities into a church building is not the goal of being multiracial. You can get people of all different ethnicity's into the same building, yet still be just as segregated. The goal needs to be to form a new kind of community--one where people of different ethnicity's can sit on the same pew handing the bread and cup to one where different "groups" join with one another for Sunday where people can join one another during the week around tables. When this happens, know this, the Kingdom of God has come.
-"White" churches cannot strive to be multiracial while insisting on doing church the "white" way. To become multiracial is not just about people of different shades of skin, it is about embracing different cultures. It is about embracing different worship styles. It is about learning to pray differently. This calls for great humility!

Your thoughts?


Rick Ross said...

Insightful comments. It seems to me that a church ought to reflect the community in which it exists. Sometimes churches have reminded me of the way country clubs want their token "black" member, etc.

Josh Ross said...

I agree, churches should reflect their neighborhood, and I wanted to write on that exact topic, but I wanted to save that for another post.
Too many churches spend too many hours wrestling with "Who should be our target group?" I think the gospel calls us to stand on our front porch, look at our surrounding neighborhoods, and claim what we see as the harvest that is plentiful.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with what you said: great words. Luckily I live in a very diverse region of the country and was blessed with a racially diverse group of believers - although there is much more we can do. Our greatest obstacle is not a racially diverse community of faith but socio-economic diversity. Our greatest biases are against the poor. We will help and give, but to form meaningful relationships - that seems too risky.

Anonymous said...

I have often wondered what people who go to a "white" only church think heaven will be like. One reason I moved to Houston was to be in a city that was racially diverse. I have not regretted it but have found out so much about the world around me that I did not know. The church is the community and should include everyone. If we are not comfortable with each other here, how can we be comfortable with each other in heaven?

Anonymous said...

Love is always risky--witness Christ crucified. As people of God we are sent as Jesus was sent to take the risk, to show God's love to the unlovely, to learn and to express and to celebrate the manifold wisdom of God in all it's multi-colored, infinite variety. Yes! Christian churches should be multiracial. All "we" and "they" must be made ONE in Christ Jesus. kcp