The Segregated Church

The Christian Church is the most segregated institution in America.

I’m not sure that you got that. It’s far too easy to read over those words without letting them sink into your soul. So let me write it one more time for you to read.

The Christian Church is the most segregated institution in America.

Now I know that some of you are thinking to yourselves right now, “That’s not true at all. There are more segregated institutions. The KKK is obviously more segregated than the church.”

Okay, let me rephrase it for those of you having those thoughts.

The Christian Church is the most segregated institution in America that is not a racial hate group.

Does that make you feel any better about that statement? It shouldn’t. That statement shouldn’t settle well with any of us. Unfortunately the church has allowed segregation and racism to creep into our doors and we allow it by calling it preference. We say things like, “I prefer the style of this church or the preaching in that church.”

The Numbers Tell Us

Numbers alone paint a dim picture of the current state of the church. Research has shown that at least 87% of Christian Churches in America are either entirely White or entirely African American.  That is a division that goes way beyond preference, style, or comfort. That division tells a completely different story. A story of racial division.

Another story is told by our apathy. In 2015 Christian Today showed us that 67% of church goers believe that their church does enough to be diverse. Think about that for just a minute. Almost 7 out of 10 church goers thinks that their church is doing a good job in the diversity category, while more than 8 out 10 churches have no diversity at all. That’s more than just apathy. That’s more than just ignorance. That’s more than being delusional. It’s racism in disguise.

This breaks my heart. The church is the institution placed here by God to show His love to this world, but this evidence proves that we are only showing division, segregation, and racism. How can we preach the love and acceptance of God’s grace when we don’t even know what it looks like?

Jesus told His disciples that the world would know that they were His disciples by their love for each other. If we are followers of Christ our love for other followers of Christ, no matter what physical differences there are, should be so strong that everyone can see it clearly. Unfortunately that can’t be seen when you look at the church in America today.

This isn’t anything new. Almost from the beginning of the church, there has been racial division. In Acts 6 we see that some Christians were complaining because the food was being distributed based on ethnicity. It’s a strong enough issue in Galatia that Paul needs to address it by name. In Galatians 3:28 he reminds that church that regardless of what differences they may have, Christ is what unites them and Christ is the only thing that matters.

The Body of Christ

We can’t ignore our differences. In fact, it would be wrong to even try. We are all different. I’m white; some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are black, brown, tan, and other colors. We speak different languages. We have different tastes in music, art, and culture. Some are Republicans and some are Democrats. Most aren’t either because they don’t live in the United States of America. We are all different and that’s important.

Paul teaches us that we need to be different. God created the church to have differences. He compares us to body parts. Can a foot be a hand? Can a nose be an eye? No of course not! They are different. They are created to be different. Those differences can be acknowledged, recognized, and celebrated. But do not let those differences divide! We are all part of the same body and Christ is the head. Without Christ nothing else matters. You can be the best hand, foot, or nose that has ever existed, but without Christ you’re useless.

We are one in Christ Jesus. We are different, by the design of our Creator.

More importantly, our differences were never intended to be isolators. They were created to work in concert with one another. Let’s continue to use Paul’s analogy. A hand is useless when it needs to smell something. A large group of hands cannot use the sense of smell no matter how many hands are in the group and no matter how awesome those hands might be. They need a nose to accomplish their task.

So we need to be united with each other as the Body of Christ. We must serve, study, pray, and worship in concert with one another. We must be careful to find a way of doing this without drowning anyone out. It doesn’t mean that the noses all join in and try to act like hands. That would be pointless. We need to come together and actually act like the Body that Christ intended us to be.

How do we desegregate the church?

I suggest by being intentional about our discipleship, prayer, fellowship, and worship. In Acts 2 we see that the early Christians devoted themselves to these four things. They made these things a priority. If we start by making these a priority with brothers and sisters who appear to be different, we just might find that the walls of segregation within the church will start to crumble. We need to intentionally find time to worship with, pray with, fellowship with, and be disciple by believers who don’t look, think, or act like us.

I’m not suggesting that this will happen overnight, but I am suggesting that God can do anything overnight as long as we are willing participants in His divine story. We must be.

If the church ever wants to be an instrument of healing for the struggles of race, segregation, division, and injustice in this world, we must start by healing the struggles of race, segregation, division, and injustice within our own walls. Otherwise we will be useless to accomplish that which Christ has called us to.

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