Reconciling Sunday Segregation

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

When people use that quote from Martin Luther King Jr., they usually leave off the first 4 words. “It is appalling that” falls off the wagon, and “The most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning” takes the lime light. It is stated as the fact that it is- backed by research and typically followed by conversations about how black folk and white folk need to dump their prejudices and preferences to come together as one.

It’s 2015, and I can agree; we need some unity in America to bridge this chasm of segregation. The dialogue in our nation around race, police brutality, #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, Dylan Roof, and #WhosBurningBlackChurches; It has the potential to totally wreck the Church. That alone should rend the hearts of believers everywhere. It is also why I ‘d challenge anyone who claims Christ to look at this quote a little differently.

Graphic from The Pew Research Center,

Graphic from The Pew Research Center,

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

The above graph from The Pew Research Center asks, “How Racially Diverse are U.S. Religious groups?”
There is one thing, however, that is not in the graph. Regardless of what denomination you are a part of, if you believe the word of God and have made a commitment to Jesus, you are a part of the body of Christ (See Romans, chapter 10).  We are the church. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t just appalled by our segregation as Americans, he was appalled by our segregation as Christian Americans. Right now, we could use some unity amidst the Body of Christ. In order for that to happen, we have to be willing to not only reconcile-but expand our worldviews.

Graph from Life Way Research

Graph from Life Way Research

According  LifeWay Research:

“[O]nly about a third (34 percent) of Americans have regularly attended a house of worship where they were a minority…. Among those who had attended a church as a minority, 1 in 5 said their ethnicity hindered their involvement. Of those who have not been a minority in church, nearly a quarter (22 percent) say being a minority in a congregation would make them feel uncomfortable.”

The numbers are in. It would seem that the majority of believers agree that we need more diversity in our church buildings. Yet how many believers recognize that as individuals we make up the Church and therefore have a very important role to play? In order for us to reap the benefits of being the beautiful diverse body we are, we have to be willing to seek out authenticity. Authenticity in relationships, community, and conversation across cultural boundaries. This includes both race, culture, and yes even worship style and denomination.  We must take the initial step to bridge the gap ourselves; being willing to not just hear, but to listen with the intent of trying to understand. Essentially, we need to step out of our comfort zones.

I recently heard a pastor say that we should not allow our cultural preferences to get in the way of our worship of the one who created it all. I know in the deepest part of my heart that he is right. Too often we allow culture and racial issues to be divisive in the body of Christ, instead of acknowledging that the good Lord made it all. I think it is time that we as believers step up to reconcile Sunday segregation. Let’s challenge ourselves to be the church in the midst of America’s racial divide.


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