It is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Sunday morning at 9:00 am is the most segregated hour in the United States of America.”
Today you can still hear people throwing this around as proof that racism is in the DNA of the United States of America and that white privilege is true and will never go away. This sentiment does not capture the whole issue.
I will start by saying that racism and Christianity are not supposed to appear in the same sentence because you cannot be a Christian and racist at the same time.
There is only one human race, according to the God of the Bible. Therefore, it makes no sense to even think that there is an inferior race that needs to be looked down upon. Let this scripture settle this race issue once and for all. Paul, the apostle, was writing to the church in Galatia, and here is what he told them:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)
Paul was crystal clear here and has declared that we are “all one in Christ Jesus.” One means one and any other divisions, no matter how well-intended, are human-driven and not divinely motivated. It is sad that we have to remind Christians to do the right thing and lead the way.
Sunday morning is still highly segregated, and something should be done about it. I am not bringing this up to deepen the racial divide, but to say that this segregation persists because it is two-way traffic.
There is a tendency in all humans to gravitate towards people who look, speak, eat, sing, dance, dress like them, etc.
While there is nothing wrong with being around your own, it is important that in a society that is becoming more and more multi-ethnic, people learn to get out of their “comfort bubbles” and interact with other people. Paul wrote the admonition to remind the church in Galatia because they were having some difficulties getting along with each other. God does not expect us to go with the natural flow because we are now children of light and have the God-given capacity to love with divine love. We can no longer continue living as if we have not encountered God.
Contrary to popular feel-good preaching that is being delivered from most pulpits today, God did not send His son to come, suffer, and die on the cross so that we can have a comfortable life.
Jesus Christ did not die so that we can join a church and enjoy the type of music, dance, and food that makes us happy. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying good music and being comfortable, it is unacceptable to allow this desire for comfort, the familiar and predictable to distract us from God’s mission.
The mission of God is simply to reconcile mankind back to Himself. This should take precedence over everything else. It is not happening because the command of Jesus to carry our crosses and follow Him daily is being ignored by many people for obvious reasons. They like to be entertained, taken care of, pampered, and blessed. As long as their needs are being met, nothing else matters. This type of attitude is not of God and should change. It is time the people of God get their act together and lead the way for all the others to follow because we have not been called to be comfortable, but to be light and salt to a dying world.
Segregation on Sunday morning is not restricted to white and black or Asian and Hispanic. You have churches that are made predominantly for people from particular ethnic groups from Africa.
For example, some of the churches in the United States may be made up of predominantly people from the Ibo ethnic group or Yurroba. In such churches, the members sing in their ethnic language, pray, and dress accordingly. In other words, they are doing what they are comfortable doing because it is the way they are used to.
You have Korean churches, Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Ethiopian, etc. In fact, most ethnic groups from other parts of the world have their congregations because of the language barrier, cultural sensitivities, and many other personal preferences. Unfortunately, as well-intended as these preferences may be, they are not helping the issue of segregation in the country.
How can we all work in the corporate world, but when it comes to worshipping God, we start talking about catering to our individual needs?
We have reduced our churches into country clubs where membership has to fit certain criteria. The last time I checked, the command to go make disciples of every nation has not changed. We needed Paul’s attitude when he said:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I am not under the law), to win those under the law. To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), to win those not having the law. To the weak, I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)
I pray the day will come when we will put first things first. Prioritizing people’s souls above our cultural differences, taste for music, and the type of food we eat at our functions, or how the service is conducted is what the church should be doing. Instead, we are more concerned about making people comfortable and accommodating them.
If Jesus were only about maintaining the status quo and making people comfortable, He would not have called fishermen and told them that He was going to make them fishers of men. Do you think these fishermen had some apprehension and discomfort for this career change? Paul understood this, and that is why he zoomed in on the need to win souls. The modern church, however, is more concerned about fitting in and going with the flow. The leaders are always careful not to disturb the donor base because they may take their money and leave.
How on earth can immigrants that have moved to the United States of America permanently be encouraged to form their own churches to take care of their own people, instead of integrating?
Does the church in the US not see that these brothers and sisters in Christ are here to stay and have to be equipped to be a blessing to the country? It broke my heart when I went to visit a church one Sunday morning and services were being conducted in two separate rooms, one for the Africans by the Africans and the other for the Caucasians by the Caucasians. Whoever thinks this is the brightest and greatest idea to do ministry is sacrificing the future of the country and the purpose of the kingdom of God on the altar of convenience. This thinking has to be challenged and changed because it is not Biblical, and it is supporting and reinforcing the stereotypes that are already out there.
One of my pastor friends from Cameroon who has an African church in Dallas told me that he was told to start in his Jerusalem, implying that he has to reach out to the Cameroonian community in the Dallas area.
First of all, why are we talking about a Cameroonian Community in the United States of America when all these Cameroonians are American citizens or soon-to-become citizens? Some of these individuals are happy to be hyphenated Americans, for example, Nigerian-American, Cameroonian-American, Ethiopian-American, Indian-American, etc.
Why is just being an American not good enough?
Most of the immigrants left their countries of origin, but these countries did not leave them. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. How can America, which has been such a blessing to you, not be good enough for you to put her first? Most of these immigrants form organizations that cater only to their needs and are not even open to other American citizens or people from other ethnic groups to join. Most of these organizations bear the names of the particular ethnic groups to which these immigrants belonged. For example, there are hundreds of organizations that represent the different ethnic groups from Cameroon. These organizations ensure that these different ethnic groups maintain their cultures and other practices that they engaged in while they were in their countries of birth.