What if the current institutional and systemic racialization in America suddenly fell in a day, because the church decided we would return to our native calling? The native calling I am referring to is a call to be a church for “all people” as Jesus mandated in Matthew 28.
What if the church was known as a radical unifying movement?
With the current racial tension in our nation surrounding injustice, institutional racism, segregation within the church, and division in our country, is it possible we are on the cusp of a move of God?
What if the church decided to be silent no more?
What if the tension between blacks and whites is not some new occasion?
In the Bible, tension, disunity and conflict are consistent themes. Israel struggled to be free from Egyptian slavery and oppression. Gentiles were regarded as the scum of the earth. Sadly, we have always been haunted by ethnic and economic divides in our world. The last two hundred years have brought the advent of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and ethnocentric ideologies that have infiltrated the church of God. From historical evangelists to presidents, this country has suffered inequality and injustice. Yet, the root cause of such ethnic indifference is largely due to the lack of vertical reconciliation between us and God. This results in our inability to love others who are different from us.
I believe the reason why our churches in America, by and large, are 92.7% mono-ethnically represented, is because we’ve reduced The Great Commission into being for some people. A pioneer in reconciliation and diversity, Mark Deymaz wrote a book entitled Ethnic Blends. In the book he quotes sociologist Michael O. Emmerson and Christian Smith:
“Statistical research confirmed that when compared with other social institutions, the church, far from representing diversity and unity of the kingdom of God, was actually the primary institution perpetuating systemic institutional racism in our society.”
Emmerson & Smith found evangelicals spend more than 70% of their social time with people from their own congregation. In other words, when people from evangelical churches invite others into their homes, out for dinner, or to enjoy a weekend away, most often they invite people who attend their local church.
It’s been said that the most segregated time in America is Sunday. Imagine the impact that segregation has had on America. Imagine how that segregation has continued to perpetuate the “separate but equal” culture that exists. Imagine how that reality has kept us, the church; from experiencing a world- impacting revival that opens the doors to Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and Asians.
Jesus told his disciples to go into the entire world and make disciples of all nations. The word nation is the Greek word ethnos, which is where we get our word ethnic. Essentially, Jesus was saying that he wanted every ethnic background to follow him and live out the kingdom message.
Unfortunately, seven years after the resurrection, the apostle Peter struggled with that multi-ethnic commission. In Acts 10 we find Peter on the top of his roof experiencing a vision from God. In his vision Peter sees unclean animals and abruptly chooses not to eat the unclean animals that God was instructing him to eat. He emphatically said, “no”. Yet, God responds by saying, “don’t call unclean what I have called clean”. Clueless to the vision, men show up for Peter in response to another experience a Gentile soldier is having in his own house. Later in the chapter we find Peter in the house of a Gentile sharing the gospel reluctantly. For the first time in seven years the gospel of reconciliation is extended to the Gentiles. Peter is stunned and shocked!
What can we, as the church, learn from Peter’s lack of engaging the opposite ethnic backgrounds due to his inability to overcome a homogenous and exclusive theology?
So, what steps can we take to bridge the gap?
Take a theological adventure into the scriptures to discover the richness of God’s mandate for diversity.
Spend time in John 17 as Jesus unpacks his heart for “all people.” Pursue with a passion what the Pauline epistles have to say about “his gospel.”
Frequent space that is diversely different from you.
Instead of eating where you normally eat, decide to eat in an uncomfortable place. Visit a church of diversity. If you’re bold, request to meet with a ministry leader from that church of diversity and have ten questions ready on being a multi-ethnic church.
Read some books to explore the topic.
How I got Over by Neal Siler
The Church Enslaved by Tony Campolo
Divided By Faith by Michael O. Emmerson
Every book written by Mark Deymaz. Mark is a man who has helped pioneer racial reconciliation, planted a multi-ethnic church, and leads a multi-ethnic network called Mosaix.
Take one of these first steps in becoming culturally competent in matters of reconciliation and diversity.