Let's get honest about race and the modern-day Church.
Rodney King. Reginald Denny. O.J. Simpson. Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman.
The sound of each name evokes powerful emotions and agonizing memories. And with the Martin/Zimmerman case stretching into it's fifth month without closure, as well as the death of Rodney King this past Father's Day, we are reminded again that the issue of race in America really hasn't gone anywhere.
Having a president who sings Al Green, plays pick-up basketball, and once wore an Afro doesn't change that any of that.
The truth is, we live in a nation with a festering sore that sits just under society's surface, and these names drag the ugly disease of racism and prejudice out in the open. Every few years, it seems we are right back where we started.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
In this barren wilderness of hatred, misunderstanding and pain, the stage has been set for the Church's prophetic voice to call out. To speak grace, peace, healing and forgiveness.
Sadly, the Church isn't ready.
Like Dr. King said in 1968, "We must face the sad fact that at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, when we stand to sing 'In Christ there is no East or West,' we stand in the most segregated hour of America."
In the 44 years that have elapsed since the pastor and civil rights leader made this statement, how much has really changed? Not much.
Kevin Dougherty, a leading sociologist at Baylor University, found that 15 percent of U.S. congregations today are multiracial, meaning that no single group represents over 80 percent of participants. This means, he said, that still more than 8 out of 10 U.S. congregations are largely homogeneous in terms of race and ethnicity. "In the most intimate levels of life (faith, friends, family), we remain a nation divided by race," he says.
As frustrating as these statistics are, this problem isn't conﬁned to American Christians or to our epoch of human history. Racism is recorded early and often in the Scriptures. In Acts 11, for example, after experiencing visions, miracles and Jesus' clear command to be a Church of all nations, a large segment of Christians remained staunch segregationists. In their desire to remain ethically exclusive, those preachers missed God and deﬁed their mandate.
Conversely, those that went to all people and shared the message of Jesus experienced the hand of God, and a "great number of people believed and turned to the Lord" (Acts 11: 21 NIV).
The second group received divine blessing and favor, while the first group received nothing. Though they went in the name of Jesus, the power of Jesus wasn't with them. What's worse, they didn't even notice.
Could the same be said of us in the present-day American Church? Have we become so accustomed to ethnic exclusivity and subtle prejudice in the name of Jesus that we don't even realize when it's happening?
An even better question is: How can we change it?
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Relevant Magazine