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The Most Segregated Hour in America

We must face the sad fact that at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, when we stand to sing…we stand in the most segregated hour in America.”  -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken in 1963

Almost 50 years ago this line was delivered, and have we gotten any better?  Are more churches open to multiethnic congregations than before?  I think more are open to the idea, I would imagine it would still shock us to how many churches would rather not even talk about this subject.  I think we would be devastated if we understood how much this would still be a problem for many.  I imagine more are open to the idea, but few are doing anything proactive about it.

Let’s face it – our worship on this earth does not look like the worship in heaven.

Worship in heaven will be characterized by every nation, people, tribe, and tongue worshiping together as one family (Rev. 7:9-10).  Most worship experiences in our world are filled with people who look just like us and live in neighborhoods like us.

When I raised this concern in a seminary class once, the guest professor told me that it was a waste of time.  People just naturally congregate with people of the same color, and there are too many differences to overcome.  I told him that my whiteness was one of, if not, the least important things about me.

Surely the fact that I am a husband, father, friend, or, for goodness sake’s, a Christ-follower is more important than my skin’s coloration.  Can’t those things unite people together over the unite provided by common skin-tone?  I also reminded that certain churches were finding success in it, while others were not.  Was there something concerning socio-economic barriers more than color barriers?  Was it just the churches he had been a part of were full of racist people?  He disagreed and said I was too idealistic, I got angry, and class got dismissed.

This has been on my heart this week because of progress we are making at North Side.  We are still a white majority church, but we are not as much as we have been.  Our baptism service Sunday night saw adults of different ethnicities joining together in the baptismal waters to unite with our congregation.  So, I’m pleased with progress, but I’m also not satisfied.  I long for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.  I long for race to be something that is not seen first, and I pray I see it in my lifetime.

A few months ago, our receptionist forwarded an email that was sent to her.  Her only comment was, “I thought you would be the person to handle this:”  Beneath was an email written by a black lady who said God always seemed to draw her to our church whenever she would drive by.  She said that she felt God was leading her to be a part of out congregation, but she knew it was primarily a white church and she wondered if she would be accepted here.

My reply?

“Thank you so much for your email.  You are my sister, accepted by Christ and by us.  I am on staff at North Side.  Attached is a picture of my family.  Look at it and tell me if you think you would be accepted.”

I have a dream.  That one day, red and yellow, black and white, which are all precious in his sight, will see their value not in the color of skin, but in the unity provided by the blood of Christ.