I am hesitant to write this post namely because I cannot control how people will respond to it. I also want to admit there is a host of history I am aware of but am not trained in that precludes the issues we will address in this post. However, I am struggling with the ramifications of first century Christianity and how we have done Christianity or, in my particular context, how we have tried to “restore” New Testament Christianity. So for the scholars who read this please know there is a lot I am skipping and I ask your forgiveness for that but I am merely trying to scratch the surface in this discussion.
Question: Why do we have many black churches, white churches, hispanic churches (enter other ethnic group here) but few mixed churches?
The answer is obvious to many as the history in America, unfortunately, has paved the mindset of the church and that we are products of our segregated history. The church should have been the leader in integration years before it occurred (in some places it probably was) but unfortunately whites (predominately in the south) developed an anglocentric view of God’s people and believed anything else was not God’s provision. The Stone-Campbell movement was not unscathed by this as many white churches dodged integration (while still making their conscience stay clean) by starting black churches of Christ in the same city (partially funded, in some cases, by the white church) as the white church.
Fast forward decades and we still have black churches and white churches with few exceptions. Why? Perhaps there is some reconciliation issues that exist between the churches in the town. Perhaps that is just the way some people believe it should be. I talked with a gentleman some time ago about the need for our church to reach someone in the inner-city community and his response spoke volumes to me: “I wonder if this is something the ________ church should do.” In another conversation I had with a person about inviting people from the poor community into our worship I was blown away by their response: “Robbie, I am not sure we should invite ‘those people’ because they do not act right in bible class.” My jaw dropped.
Certainly this is not the way Paul would envision the church. A church that was racially integrated (Jew and Gentile issue in Acts 15) in a racially unstable climate? You had Jews, Romans, Samaritans, women (remember they had no rights), slaves and all sorts of different people learning to be a church together. Yet, we still have churches meeting the needs of each person or, should I say, each race.
But here is a question I have as well: Should integration be the goal of our churches? In other words, is it ok to have rich churches, poor churches, black churches, white churches, if they are at least addressing a certain type of people?
I struggled with this one. Really I did. I believe churches should be integrated so far as communication can be accomplished. There are language barriers in our community that would make Hispanics feel uncomfortable since English is not their primary language. But…it can still be done. I believe that the church should be a warm fellowship filled with different races, socioeconomic levels, nationalities and even people with different beliefs (how can discipleship happen if we all believe the same thing?).
I think there are dangers to integrating churches. One danger a church should avoid is the bigger white church looking like a dominating take over of the smaller black, Hispanic or other church. Perhaps new leadership should be installed represented from both churches and even shared pulpit and ministerial duties. Another danger from this is the immediate confrontation of racism within the body. A move like this would only bring the ugliness of some people in the light which is good though because at least you can see an issue that is in the light.
Again, there is a lot more behind this post that I am unqualified to address but I believe strongly that a church should be integrated based on Scriptures like…well…the whole story! Just think about this: What would it say to a community to see one church uniting rich, poor, black, white, green or purple (gothic too!) under the same name? Do you think it might change the community? Do you think it might unite a community?
What do you think?