It’s Black History Month, which has provided ample supplies of racially-reflective materials on blogs and social media. Everything’s out there, like this piece about African-American Millennials wondering about whether we should keep Black History Month alive. But what I’ve enjoyed reading more are the articles bemoaning the homogenous nature of the North American Church.
It’s not that we, as the Church in North America, don’t have racially diverse groups of people – it’s just that they won’t go to the same church together. 90% of the time.
I think that’s a problem. You see, my own church journey has been one that started in homogeniety – same race, same class, same backgrounds, same everything – even sometimes the same bloodlines – and has gotten progressively more diverse over time. My church now is multi-ethnic, multi-class, multi-racial, multi-political, multi-everything. There’s a distinct beauty in multi- that I wish more of my fellow Christians could experience. You learn to be less selfish. You learn more about what’s really Gospel and what’s not. You learn about yourself and what baggage you bring to the table of our Lord. You learn about your own fear of change, fear of the loss of preference and fear of the loss of what you’ve always known. You learn how to submit – almost as if you’ve never really submitted before.
Multi- is beautiful because it puts to death in us many of the non-essential trappings of religion.
Which then begs the question: why don’t more churches break out of the homogenous model? I think it’s because of the old adage: “birds of a feather flock together”. Certainly this is true of the Reformed tradition theologically – we haven’t always been ones to, er, share our sandbox very well. As someone in recovery from homogenous church, its shockingly easy to guess which people come from homogenous churches at pastors’ gatherings – they’re the ones who get way too twitterpated about minutia.
And I think that not-sharing-our-sandbox mentality of grouping ourselves with people who are like us unfortunately carries over into unhealthy areas like race.
So who leads us out of this vicious cycle? We do. We can’t be complicit with homogeneity in our churches any more. We can’t keep giving lip service to diversity in our churches if we’re not living it out. We need to put our money where our mouth is. We all know there are churches who reflect the diversity (race, class, etc.) and there are those that don’t. Sadly, there’s more of the latter. And it’s not hard to tell which ones are which. We can all tell pretty quickly which churches give lip service to their desire to be diverse and which ones actually take measures to become so.
So I have a challenge for you on this
third-to-last day of Black History Month, 2014:
1. If you’re a church attender, stop attending churches that have no real desire to reflect the diversity of the surrounding community.
2. If you’re a pastor/church staff, don’t take paychecks from churches that have no real desire to reflect the diversity of the surrounding community.
I think if we followed through on those two challenges, we’d bring that 90% number way, way down.