Churches: Segregated Now, Segregated Forever

church

I noticed some interesting things about how people interacted with each other when I lived in South Carolina. In all kinds of social settings it was unremarkable to see blacks and whites together but come 11 AM on Sunday everyone went to their separate corners. It still is true that churches are can be some of the most segregated places in society. The funny thing is now I’m back in California and I’m a member of a predominantly black church.

I might be going out on a limb but it seems to me that most religions exist within a particular region, time, and people. What makes the gospel unique is that it is a universal message that is not bound by any culture, and yet we often fail to transcend our culture when it comes to our spiritual lives. Why are churches so segregated? Why so parochial?

As I was making my way through Jonah it dawned on me that this topic fits in with this story. The prophet resisted God’s calling to preach to the Ninevites because they were pagans. He knew (so he thought) that God was merciful and that if they repented then God would not destroy the city. He had the audacity to begrudge God of His compassion. Jonah’s people were God’s chosen (favored, in his opinion) people and, alone, deserving of His blessings. Peter had this same hang up and had to learn that God was no respecter of persons. As banal as that sounds to us that was quite the epiphany for the Jewish apostle.

The connection is that a parochial view of God leads us to think that we are the best and the greatest. We get puffed up as we confine ourselves to our insignificant corner of the world. Then we become indifferent or hostile to the outside world. This is when we must remember that God is the creator of all men and the respecter of none. His kingdom transcends every cultural and racial barrier.

Application time. How do we apply these lessons? Well, are you comfortable sharing the gospel with people from other cultural backgrounds? I’m not just talking about having enough confidence to be a witness but being able to converse with the person and show them the truth and relevance of the gospel. We’re not looking for people to just change the way they dress when they put their faith in Christ but we do expect to see a change in their heart.

It’s easy erase the distinction between gospel and culture but the Christian life properly lived comes in many forms. It’s easy to lump pagans and Christians together into the “foreigner” group but then we’d be judging by appearances. The real distinction is the fruit of their faith. We are looking for the qualities that the apostle described in 1 John to mark the true believer.

Your church may be homogenous and I don’t want to leave the impression that we need to set quotas as if this is a public university. Culture itself isn’t evil but we don’t want to be conformed to any given culture. Instead, we want the gospel to shape us and, in turn, influence our culture. We need to remember that the gospel is a universal message that transcends all boundaries. There is only one church with one Head, one faith, and one Holy Spirit who resides in all our hearts.

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

Rev. 7:9-10

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10 thoughts on “Churches: Segregated Now, Segregated Forever

  1. If God had pleaded with His people ( the American church) for three hundred years with a gospel plea for unity and they still would not love their neighbor as them self, how would God now end this rebellion?

    • I think that this is the type of problem that will always be with us as a challenge. We live in a sinful world and you can’t get rid of all the consequences of sin without eradicating sin itself. Sanctification is always an ongoing process.

  2. The church begins with a clergy laity divide. This produces a pulpit and pew split which brings one-way communication dominating the main events. There is no relationship of the gathered members, no participation from multiple hearts to display multicultural expression. One man on a platform cannot express true multicultural expression. So each culture has to have their own cultural guy on the platform to get their cultural expression represented. God asked for one another expression. Heb 10:24,25; Col 3:16; Eph 5:19 and more. “Preach the word” is presumed by all to be lecture the word by on hired man. It does not say that severe limitation. Only with body heart expression participation can we be truly multicultural. Expression and response from hearts relating in God driven mutuality will kill ethnocetricity. One man expression preserves it. Look what the Word says, not what traditions of men and your comfort zone (flesh) says.

    • I sympathize with your point, Tim. The New Testament does seem to indicate that the church members had an active part in the worship assembly. In a big church there are practical challenges to having everyone participate but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the people in the pews have to have a passive attitude. The pastor at my church invites the other ministers, and visiting guests, to preach quite often. It’s good for the ministers and can be a blessing to the congregation. Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do. I would say that the church should emphasize family-based worship as a central part of the believers’ spiritual lives to mitigate this problem.

      • I don’t think you do sympathize with my point. Your response shows you did not understand my point. The scriptures I gave were not story lines of what the church did back then. They are instructions for the church in every culture of all time. They are cross cultural and cross generational. Did you look them up? What God has asked for is based on what Christ has done for us and in us. The context will show you that.
        1. When you compromise what God has asked for you will not get the results God wants. A thousand saints line up of for one way communication and zero mutual heart connection and prepared expression will not give you the results God wants. Sure the saints feel good, maybe even a little bubbly and inspired. But God is looking for far more than that.
        2. When you compromise what God asked for you compromise what he has done for you. That makes what you say about what Christ has done a contradiction of what he has done by your actions. Your theology is what you say and do, not merely what you say. Both need to line up to claim you walk in the truth.

        “It’s good for the ministers and can be a blessing to the congregation.” There is your clergy – laity split right there. All believers are the called, (clergy), we are all the ministers (servants). Why show a complete denial of who God has made us to be? If a big group of saints in one room facing a pulpit denies what God asked for, it should be very easy to give it up. Walk by faith, not by sight or comfort zone. You know, the “ministers” up front are going to posture that the big performance is exactly what God wants for you and me. It’s their job. I got my degree to stand behind a pulpit. I learned the truth and made the appropriate changes. We aren’t here to be men pleasers. What reward will they offer you for eternity?

        There is so much more that we can do that we do not yet know. We must walk by faith, stepping forward each time and he reveals more we can do. If we do not act on what we know and say more is no use, we deny the growth of faith. We walk by sight instead.

      • It’s important to remember that no church perfectly conforms to the image of Christ. No church is always in obedience to the word. I don’t take a “my way or the highway” approach to these things because it’s unGodly. I have a responsibility to speak up to admonish and exhort the brethren but I’m also not in charge. So, I think the difference you’re seeing is the difference in how we decide to move from where we are to where we should be.

      • Who said anything about being perfect? We are to pursue that, not say we’re okay where we are… the leaders don’t want to follow the word… so let’s just coast along.
        “my way or the highway” My way has nothing to do with it. It’s God’s way. He has a way and has revealed that to us in 20 different English versions. I have not heard that you even recognize the scripture I gave as God’s way, nor that you have admonished anyone on these steps. The title of your article is “Churches: Segregated Now, Segregated Forever”. This completely acquiesces to tradition with no admonition for steps forward for growth in faith. Everyone’s doing it, God must be okay with it? I have not heard specific steps from you that suggests we be somewhere ahead of where we are. Perhaps that is your move…follow the man in charge who says stay put. I am admonishing to move forward on specific steps. Hopefully this is not accessed as “hard nosed” or some other defense mechanism. The scripture you give at the end is great proving, there will not be ethnocentricity forever. Do you think God has rewards for those who pursue His agenda now? I am sure he does.

      • I think you’re displaying your fanaticism. No matter how right you think you are you are still conflating two separate issues. It’s one thing to decide what is the ideal and other to set a path towards it. The post explains what we can do to make a change. I don’t know why you were expecting steps but I don’t care. I’m not going to endlessly repeat myself because if you refuse to engage with my actual comments rather than attacking straw-men then this is a waste of time. If you think that I’m justifying the segregation then you are so utterly clueless regarding the message of the post. Hundreds of people have read it and no one but you has come to that conclusion.

  3. When I was a young Christian I used to spend a lot of time concerned about the lack of multiculturalism in American churches. Not so much anymore.

    I love to interact with Christians from other cultures, from a variety of economic situations, from ages and stages of life, etc. I’ve attended many different churches with different theological emphases. Vive le difference! There is no reason I can’t rub shoulders with many other Christians around the country and around the world without having to sit in the same building on Sunday mornings.

    The modern, U.S. Christian has a huge advantage over many historical and contemporary Christians. Most of us have the opportunity to travel, attend classes & conferences, do ministry in multi church settings while attending the church of our choice (not to mention access to massive amounts of media choices exposing us to as many views as we can ingest). Our thinking and methods of doing church are constantly stimulated and renewed.

    It’s true that leadership draws the type of people who gather together on a given Sunday. Let me give you an example. Asian cultures are known to emphasize top down authority. Westerners don’t often like that type of leadership. And leadership style is just one issue.

    Here are some additional factors that should enter into our thinking: With a population of 330 million, the U.S. is the third most populated country in history. This makes the U.S. the most multicultural individual country ever (empires behave differently) with its majority population freely (not coerced like Rome) identifying as Christian (73% – 80%). The two most populated countries, China and India, are more culturally homogeneous than the U.S. and have far fewer self identified Christians than we do – even if you ramped up the estimation of secret believers.

    Hope this perspective reduces some anxiety out there. I agree with Bereket that forced multicultural quotas are not required for Kingdom citizenship.

    It doesn’t much matter which local body I attend if I’m actively involved in God’s call on my life. If I don’t matter in the local body I’m attending and can’t find a place to serve, I can easily move to a congregation where that’s possible. My first loyalty is to the King of Kings and I’m primarily a citizen of heaven. Keeping that in mind, I continue to find many significant multicultural connections and open the doors to others who are not from my cultural background.

    • Thank you for sharing. I think you have the attitude that I’m trying to describe. If we can begin to resist parochialism as individuals then we’ll see changes as churches, denominations, etc.

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