Reflections On Black History Month

Reflections On Black History Month
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best nearly 50 years ago when he said, “We must face the sad fact that at the eleven o’ clock hour on Sunday morning when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America.” The unfortunate reality is that 50 years later, not much has changed.
This past summer I was listening to an interview with Scott Williams author of the book Church Diversity. He told the story of how he was having his shoes shined at the barber shop one Saturday in preparation for Sunday church. The man shining his
shoes was a man named Slim. Slim was telling Scott all about his church and what God was doing there. Scott asked, “Is your church a white church or a black church?” Slim stopped shining, looked at the young man, and said, “That’s the stupidest question I have ever heard. It’s not a black church or a white church. It’s Jesus’ church!” In the interview, Scott Williams went on to say that the real litmus test of where your church stands on race is who you have in your pulpit. My heart dropped. I realized that I had never invited a man of color other than mine to occupy my pulpit. God began to burden my heart about it.  It had to change.
I set out to have a special meeting at the church I pastor that had a lineup of all African American Pastors. From Sunday Morning through Wednesday night my pulpit was occupied by men of God that did not look like me, who authoritatively preached the Word of God. They so blessed my heart. I soaked in the rich teaching of the Word of God from each man, and so did the people of my church.
After the meeting I had some time to reflect and on what God had taught my heart. Why are so many churches seemingly segregated? For the most part, I do not think it is intentional. Sure, you have your fringe churches that find their identity as a white only or black only church. But for the most part, churches are divided by race or ethnic background unintentionally. I for one have never thought of my church as segregated or raciest. I have gone out of my way to make sure that people of other races that enter my church are treated with warmth and acceptance.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized why churches segregate along racial lines. It really makes sense. People naturally gravitate to churches where the leadership looks like them. Most people want a pastor that looks like them because they naturally feel that someone that looks like them can better identify with them. That pastor or leader will better identify with their life experience. I don’t believe it is intentional, if just happens. It naturally evolves.
The problem is that the longer this natural church evolution takes place, the more we are isolated from other races. Our eyes become blinded to other races. We don’t have strong ties and relationships with other races. We only spend time with people who look like us, who dress like us, who talk like us. Therefore when we are in the vicinity of people who do not fit that mold, we are quick to write them off, to overlook them. We become blinded to these other races. I cannot begin to tell you how dangerous this is. You see, our blindness then becomes a great commission omission. We are blinded to a whole group of people that need to hear the gospel. And according to the commission of the Lord Jesus, it is not up to us to pick and to choose what nations or peoples or races get to hear the good news of the gospel. Go into all the world, means go into all the world (period).
What’s the solution? I don’t know much but what I did learn from the meeting that I had recently is that we must be intentional about engaging people of other races. We cannot afford to be passive and say, “Well if God sends an African American into our church, then we will reach out to them and make them welcome then.” By then the natural knee-jerk reaction of “Who is this and why is he here?” will be so evident that it will not accomplish anything. Be intentional. If you don’t have a special series of preacher coming in for a four day revival-like meeting, at least on occasion open your pulpit up to some one that does not look like you. It will go a long way in showing your acceptance of people of other races and hopefully it will open the eyes of the congregation to see fields of other races that are white unto harvest.
Needless to say, the most segregated day in America should not be Sunday. I believe that many thought that the days of racial strife ended a long time ago; like back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. But the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and New York city, laid open a scab that has not healed. We as the church must take note of this. In the hour of racial tensions that we find ourselves in, the church of Jesus Christ needs to be purposeful in leading to racial reconciliation and church diversity and not lagging behind in veiled segregation.
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