This is challenging time for the church, but I submit this is not unusual. In its two thousand years of existence, whenever the church attempts to be faithful to the mission of God, there have been both difficulties and blessings. Each challenge provides the opportunity for a breakthrough.
In the next week, I want to share some positive words about the church in the 21st century--signs of hope.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said:
We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic.
While a Lifeway survey shows the desire for diversity in the church is still more of a hope than a reality, the research also shows more openness to racial diversity in congregations both from pastoral leadership and church members.
What are some positive steps that we can take to become more diverse racially and ethnically in our churches?
1. We can commit ourselves to understanding both our cultural background and that of those around us. We did not get to the situation that Dr. King addressed overnight. In his address to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Brian McLaren explained that the division between the races and the subjugation of people of color in our hemisphere began over 500 years ago. Just recognizing this is the first step to change.
2. We must see people of other races, nationalities, and cultures as allies in transforming society by pursuing the missio Dei (the mission of God). As believers, we have more commonalities than differences.
3. We must value the contributions that all people bring to the table. We should not be surprised when denominational groups with a strong racial identity are reluctant to work alongside Euro-American dominated churches. Too often those of us in the latter category have assumed a paternalistic approach and assumed that our way of doing things was the only way.
Practicing these steps begins the long journey toward cooperation and breaking down barriers.