Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Not tomorrow, not after breakfast -- NOW!

I have an article that appears in the Wylie News and the Murphy Monitor this week dealing with ethnic diversity in churches. I find it somewhat providential that my article leads off with a reference to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and appeared at newstands on 1/31, after his widow had passed away just the night before.

Of course the only reason I was able to submit an article was because my friend, Rev. Dr. Mark Forrest, pastor of Murphy Road Baptist Church, was having computer demons he could not exercise in time to submit his article. I happened to have time Friday afternoon to compile some thoughts.

The article is merely a road marker for me on this issue as my heart becomes more and more burdened to see churches that reflect the demograpic make up of their communities. I don't think this can or should wait. The reality of reconciliation to each due to reconciliation to God in Christ should be seen among the races-not tomorrow, not after breakfast--NOW!

This is an issue that will not go away anytime soon, especially for me, since I'm doing a presentation on this subject at the 6th International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities, and Nations in New Orleans this summer.

I hope to start some dialogue in our church, in particular, and within the body of Christ, in general, about why and how churches should be desegregated. Oddly enough, I will be dealing with those in the secular world at this conference who seem to be much more concerned about this topic that the body of Christ. To our shame, there may be much we need to learn from them about valuing diverse relationships before we can effectively teach them about the divine relationship.

The content of the article follows:

Leading the Way or Dragging Our Feet?

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once noted/lamented that Sunday morning was the most segregated time in America. Those words still ring true. But why? This summer I’m doing a presentation on this topic at a (secular) diversity conference. I intend to ask and answer why churches are dragging their feet in the area of desegregation.

Why are our churches are lagging far behind in the area of ethnic diversity (in comparison with education, employment, entertainment, sports, etc.)? Why have churches not progressed in this area when so many other institutions have made, at least official, strides?

I fear the reason is that diversity (particularly ethnic) needs to be valued, but it is not.

Scripture teaches us that the church is comprised of those the Lamb ransomed with His blood, a group consisting of every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9) Within the body of Christ, God has indeed redeemed His church from among each and every socio-economic status, language, people group, race, and ethnicity. Those who are born again to believe in Christ are redeemed and are all equally children of God and equal in Christ, for they are all heirs. (John 1:12-13; Galatians 3:26-29)

But, there are practices in churches that are counterproductive to diversity. These should cease, and there are practices which need to be implemented. We need to ask and answer how diversity efforts can/should be similar to those in other institutions and how/why they may be different.

If Christianity is to be true to its biblical roots, it should actually be leading the way. Churches should reflect racial harmony and congregations that ethnically represent their community.

Recently, I submitted to the leadership of our church part of my vision for racial harmony & diversity in our church: Contrary to the history of the American church and contrary to the contemporary mindset of many churches in our land, we will follow God's leading in demonstrating love across racial boundaries by striving for a congregation that better reflects the demographic make up of our community as a testimony to God's love for all people and as a testimony to the world of the transforming power of God's love to unite across racial boundaries so that, ultimately, God will be glorified.

What's your vision for desegregation of the church? What can you do to help lead the way?

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At 12 July, 2007 16:14, Blogger K. Elijah Layfield said...

Pastor, I was pointed to your page from the recent comments at Boundless (Why Do Whites Not Like Black Music?
by Ted Slater). I could really use your advice on planting a Reformed, multi-ethnic church. Please let me know if you have time.

At 06 June, 2010 19:05, Blogger Matt said...


If I were going to do a DMin, I think I might write a dissertation on Affirmative Action in churches. I think congregations look like whoever is up front (especially the preacher, but also other people considered to be "leaders" in the church).

Case in point, my church has a 55-year-old white preacher. Thus, most of the congregation was 45–65-year-old white people.

They hired me to team teach starting in November 2006. At the time I was 27 years old (now I am 31). I am also white. So, our congregation now has a lot of 45–65-year-old white people, and a lot of 25–35-year-old white people. I bet if I were African American, the younger crowd would be predominantly black.

I think churches should do demographic studies of their communities to see what the community "looks like." Then, they should be deliberate about hiring a staff that looks like the community. A church with 10 staff members in a community that is 40% white, 30% black, and 30% hispanic should have 4 white staff members, 3 black staff members, and 3 hispanic staff members. (Obviously churches won't be able to hit the numbers exactly.)

Race shouldn't be the only factor, though. Age, education level, gender, and interests should be factors, too.

I bet if churches were more intentional about diversifying their leadership, their congregations would become more diverse, too.


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