In a country that is more racially divided than ever, our churches reflect the divide on Sunday morning. In America, we miss the mark on integrating the faces and lives of many races and ethnicities into our Christian communities.
LifeWay conducted a survey of 994 churchgoers who attend religious services more frequently than just holidays. They also surveyed 1,000 Protestant senior pastors of active congregations and 1,000 Americans.
While 90 percent of pastors surveyed said they believe racial reconciliation is a biblical principle, 86 percent of them have one predominant racial group in their church. The issue of diversity in churches doesn't seem to concern the majority of pastors. Even the 43 percent that speak about racial reconciliation to their congregations do so less than once each year.
The pastors' lives aren't segregated, though. Eighty-four percent indicated that they'd spoken with a friend of a different race in the past week. Sixty-four percent have met with pastors from a different ethnic group in the past month.
Of the Americans surveyed, 34 percent said they have regularly attended a church where they were the minority. Twenty-two percent of those who had attended as a minority said their ethnicity kept them from fully participating in church life. Half of those surveyed believe church is still too segregated in general.
Although we say that we are "United in Christ," we exist in racially divided churches. Many of us are content with the current lack of diversity in our churches, and some of us are opposed to change.
Churchgoers worship in a fictional bubble of “I don’t see race.” This is why when speaking about their own church home, 67 percent said they think their church is doing enough to support ethnic diversity. Less than half believe their church family should actively work toward becoming a more diverse group. One-third (33 percent) said they feel strongly that their church family does not need to become more diverse. So, Christians may call for social justice and protest institutional glass ceilings and racial discrimination but not at church.
As a pastor of a predominately African American church, I yearn for more diversity; to belong to a church community that is reflective of Heaven. Caucasians have visited my church. Each time they reported that they were greeted with love, experienced authentic worship and heard sober preaching. Still, many did not return.
It can be difficult to acknowledge we have a problem with segregation in our modern churches. Ignoring it isn't an option, though. Our church family can help bridge the divide between ethnic groups in our community, but we must do so with intention.
Jesus gives us The Great Commission as a mandate to make disciples of ALL NATIONS, with no racial barriers. This point is often skimmed over even by the greatest of exegetes.
Matt. 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
It's uncomfortable to discuss race. We "don't do life" together, so why would we "do church" together? The truth is that our job as Christians is to follow the Biblical principles that lead us to build a racially healed community. Eighty-one percent of Americans say that our country has a long way to go on race relations. It's time to bring diversity inside the walls of our churches. We don't have the luxury of waiting for someone else to solve this problem and take on the task of carrying out Jesus's mandate to make disciples of all the nations. This Biblical principle requires us, as Christians, to reject racism even in the passive-aggressive form of voluntary segregation. The best place to do this is church.
This Easter, Pastor De'Andre Salter wants to show you the one thing you can do to take an active role in racial healing and bring unity through Christ. Visit EasterTogether.Life if you want to be a bridge builder and help desegregate Sunday mornings!
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