Leaders tackle questions on race and the church
Those leaders are:
• Mike Root, minister of the Florissant, Mo., church.
• David Franklin, a member and former elder at the Ross Road church in Memphis, Tenn.
• Dessain Terry, minister of the Dale City church in Woodbridge, Va.
• B.D. Holt Sr., minister of the Corona, Calif., church.
Question 1: CNN recently reported that religious scholars say that only about 5 percent of the nation’s churches are interracial (meaning that at least 20 percent of its membership belongs to a racial group other than that church’s largest racial group). Why is this? Do most of us prefer segregated Sundays?
Mike Root: In my opinion, even with all the efforts to remove racial barriers and promote racial equality, people still prefer their own cultural traditions. In my 35 years of ministry, I’ve seen a few Christians who decided on what church to attend, or not attend, based on prejudice, but most have picked from preference. In churches I’ve preached at in the past, I’ve had black members who purposely left and went back to black congregations because we were too stilted and undemonstrative in our assemblies. One sister in Virginia, while not changing her membership, had to visit her former black congregation to, as she said, “Get her fix.” We teased and laughed with her a lot about her “need” and our “spiritless” traditions.
Even at Florissant, we have had black families leave and attend a black congregation because it fit what they wanted more than we did. I believe that the predominant reason for our segregated churches is now more a matter of comfort than color.
Dessain Terry: Racial surveys rarely take culture into consideration. It is culture that often determines our comfort zone. Dale City celebrates the cultural differences enjoying diverse foods at our potlucks, various expressions such as the lifting of hands in prayer, different forms of “Sunday Morning Dress,” etc. We are very comfortable learning the differences.
David Franklin: Most people want to be comfortable in their lives, including their spiritual lives, which of course may be contrary to the Christian service principals. However, those 20% (80:20 rule) or more who allow themselves to accept the challenge of life’s situations where they live, do ask what God would have them to do to make the world and the church a better place. If you live in Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee, that challenge is to bring the races together. Distrust and fear of a loss of power base contributes to segregation.
B.D. Holt Sr.: We live in a diverse society and our churches are made up of people characterized by different cultures and ethnicities. It is unfortunate, but members of most churches have not learned how to work and worship together when memberships are diverse.
We are in worshiping communities where people still want to worship in an atmosphere where others worship exactly as they do, and in some cases, worship with others who look the same as they do. What that has come to mean is that we have not, at this time, overcome the roadblocks we encounter that prevent different races and ethnic groups worshiping together.
It has been pointed out that the first century church is a model of a truly diversified church (Acts 2:5; Gal. 3:26-28; I Cor. 12:12-13). The members worshipped together and were on one accord spiritually in spite of the many different cultures that were represented (Acts 2:42-47).
The one thing, though, that is evident in the congregation at the Church of Christ in Corona, is that most of the people are willing to try to be tolerant of the differences of others, and work to blend those differences into a worship experience that affirms the cultures of the participants. I do not believe people consciously want to have segregated Sundays. The major reason for segregated fellowships is a desire for personal comfort. It has become increasingly obvious that it is easier for some people to experience a certain comfort level when the worship habits and faces of the worshipers are like their own.
Question 2: What is the history of racial diversity in your congregation? Was this diversity purposeful — or was it the result of demographic shifts in your community, etc.?
Mike Root: We are celebrating our 50th anniversary as a congregation this year, and I’ve been here for less than four years of it. My information is that Florissant has always been a racially diverse congregation. It has been intentional, but it is also the result of the demographic of our community. I have never been with a church that matches so closely the true make-up of its community as Florissant does.
David Franklin: We celebrate our 25th year this month (September). There was no plan to my knowledge to purposely diversify Ross Road. The pictures of the congregation that first year do include a few black brothers and sisters. As the church grew (we came to Ross in 1993), the membership was about 350 with a ratio of 70% white and 30% black. The attendance eventually was averaging about 450 on Sunday morning, before starting a long slow decline.
Because of neighborhood changing demographics, we knew a transition would come some day. That transition began about 2004.
Dessain Terry: Demographic shifts and immigration. However, our area is jokingly called “The Occupied Territories of Northern Virginia” because so many people are from other places. People who live here have often lived in foreign countries and learned the joys of diversity as well as the feeling of being the stranger. That has contributed to the easier acceptance of different races and cultures.
B.D. Holt Sr.: The increasing and changing diversity of the Corona congregation has been primarily due to the changes of the area’s demographics.
The Corona Church of Christ was established in 1892. I wasn’t around then, but I assume the church was predominately, if not all, white. When I arrived in July of 2004 the racial makeup of the congregation was 90% white and 10% black and Hispanic. Currently, the church is 65% black; 28% white and 7% Hispanic and Asian. These changes occurred over a brief four-year span.
Question 3: What kind of challenges – or even growing pains – do integrated congregations such as yours face, and how have you dealt with these challenges?
Mike Root: The challenges for us are not huge, but they are challenges. It’s easy for a small group to become all one race, but that’s not anyone being exclusive as much as it’s simply closer relationships being attracted to one another. Almost everyone is very sensitive to try not to let that happen, but you can’t always stop it, and that’s okay too as long as it’s not based on some ungodly attitude – which I’ve never seen here.
Probably the bigger challenge is the same challenge every church has because of our elevating the assembly to the dominant activity of the church. Because of that, it has to meet every need and make every score-card-carrying member happy. People and churches that think that way are doomed to failure or at least constant battles. The assembly can’t be everything to everyone. We have to return it to a giving experience rather than a receiving experience and that will allow everyone to be blessed. The point is that you can’t pick songs or have a particular style that will meet everyone’s expectations and that is especially true when it involves the merging of two racial cultures. That is, unless they stay focused on glorifying God! So at Florissant, we stress “If what you’re doing this morning is not giving, then what you’re doing is not worship.” Everyone has a change to give others the song they need rather than expect to receive the song they might prefer. There is a wonderful spirit of tolerance and giving at Florissant that flows through everything we do. The focus is on loving one another not getting my checklist filled in.
David Franklin: Discussions in the late 1990’s included the perception that the neighborhood was deteriorating and that someday, only transient property renters would live within 3 miles, and that crime would continue to increase. In fact, there are many stable homeowners. Within a 3-mile radius, there are, lower, middle and upper middle economic class families, perhaps 70% to 80% black.
There never has been a mass exodus, but a good number of members left over a 3-year period (mostly white, some black). This was when the eldership determined that we needed a change of focus in the pulpit, a difficult decision which meant replacing our minister in 2006. Our challenge was to find the right man to fill our pulpit during and after our transition. Through the spirit and by patience and prayer, we believe we have hired that man now. Challenges include providing a worshipful atmosphere that is a blend of both white and black cultures.
About 1996, we set out on a capital campaign to eliminate debt. It included a commitment that Ross Road would never move from our present location. We did eliminate 100% of our debt (with the blessing of many members who no longer worship here). Because of that and God’s help, I believe we have survived our transition.
Dessain Terry: We deal with the challenge of the confusing U. S. Immigration policy, jobs, worship space, etc. We have members who work with each other on each of these areas and we are able to work them out. The secret is to see these things not as problems but challenges to be met and victories to be won. We have found that when we let scripture instruct us as to attitude, commitment, and love, God works things out.
B.D. Holt Sr.: People may determine that a church integrated at 65% Black, 28% white and 7% Hispanic is truly the epitome of the kind of church of which our Lord would certainly be proud, even though it was a far cry from the original 90% white/10% black when I originally came to the church. And while this may sound like a true picture of an integrated congregation, there are indeed challenges and growing pains interspersed among that very integration.
One of the greatest challenges we face is acknowledging and embracing the different cultures that are present and very, very obvious in our worship services.
People tend to forget that their cultural worship expressions are not the only ones that are acceptable to the Lord. However, in order to embrace even one of the various cultures represented in our congregation, we must first educate ourselves on these different cultures.
Many of our members from the Hispanic community who were baptized into the Church of Christ more than likely have come from a Catholic background, either by association or by direct membership. That very background which gives them the curiosity to seek out true worship, is the very background that can hold them captive in certain traditions such as idol worship, the priestly confessionals, holidays and feast days they observe that have been inculcated into their family rituals much as our 4th of July parades have become institutions of American national heritage. Instead of becoming annoyed at the mentioning of any of these cultural observances, we as members of a diverse congregation must exhibit patience toward our Hispanic brothers and sisters so that they will not feel alienated as they travel the pathway to true worship.
The same is true for our Asian brothers and sisters. It is our duty and obligation to, not only get to know the traditions out of which they come, but to absolutely want to know what those traditions are. Again, many of them have backgrounds with traditions and practices that have been instituted into their family practices that will in some instances continue to be practiced and in others, have to be changed as they become more and more familiar with pure worship. The leadership at the Corona Church of Christ has maintained the stance that we have an obligation to display patience and understanding as we continue to worship with those of the Asian community.
It seems, though, that the greatest challenge is that of understanding the black brothers and sisters and the culture and traditions that have come into the congregation as a result of so many coming within so short a time. Many non-blacks have not taken the time to try to understand the traditions relating to worship of the black Christian because of the stigma of having the term “racist” attached to them if they are outside of the black community and appear to be too inquisitive about why we worship as we do. In fact, many fail to really grasp why some blacks tend to worship as they do and some have even attached their own labels of description of black worshipers, saying their actions are indicative of not having been educated, theatrics, or simply just plain ignorance and not having the intelligence to know what is dignified worship.
We could talk about the differences of blacks and whites in worship services, but those differences are all too evident. What needs to happen is to have dialog that talks about these differences without our white brothers feeling that if they don’t understand, then they will be seen as “racist”, or the black brother being made to feel as if he is “ignorant” because he feels a need to worship in an entirely different manner.
One major factor that has led to the strained relationship between blacks and whites in our country is the history of slavery. Many whites do not want to be reminded of that sad chapter in history because they think that it is over, that we should move on and that any further discussion of it will only cause anger, guilt and defensiveness to resurface. Many blacks don’t want to think about it because for some, it has been used to justify the lack of progress in black communities. However, in order for us to move on we must understand the impact of the past on our present circumstances.
How many of white, Asian and Hispanic brothers and sisters know that black slaves were forced to perform manual labor such as picking and chopping cotton, pulling plows in order to plow the fields when the master didn’t own a mule, digging drainage ditches, and building houses without help from machinery. When they would work from sunrise to sunset while suffering untold horrible and inhumane treatment and abuse (mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally) from their masters, all they had to look forward to was those few hours when they were allowed to attend Sunday worship service. And not all slaves were privileged to attend those services.
In those days, whites and blacks had two entirely different mentalities when attending worship service. Basically, the slaves came to worship to say, “Thank You, Jesus for helping survive another horrible week.” – a week plagued with murders of slaves by slave masters, beatings, rapes, hunger, degradation, being called lazy because they were sick and could not work. And the list goes on and on and on. And so, for the slave, it didn’t matter how long service was, how long the preacher preached or how loud and emotional the singing was. In fact, one of the reasons the blacks were so emotional was that the Lord had, in fact, allowed them to see another day, had spared their son or daughter, had not been sold to another master away from the rest of the family, or had not been raped by the master and if a rape had occurred, that the woman was allowed to live and not be tortured to death.
The whites, however, came with a mentality of “I’m coming to worship because it’s my Christian duty that I have to fulfill. I need to thank the Lord for the plentiful crops and the beautiful pair of horses I was able to get for such a good bargain”. The worship service in the white congregation lasted roughly 45 minutes to an hour and the preacher usually preached for about 15 to 20 minutes. There was no urgency to stay longer or to praise the Lord loudly for the blessing of life, itself.
Also during slavery days, slaves did not have the same access as whites to education; hence the majority of slaves could neither read nor write. The preacher, however, was usually a learned man and was, therefore, able to read and write. When he preached, the congregation would says things such as, “Preach it, Preacher” , “Come on, Preacher”, “Talk Sir”, “Amen (let it be true)” to let the preacher know they understood his “words from the Lord.” These utterances told the preacher that he was to continue to preach and teach, because this is the only time we can hear a “Word from the Lord”. It also allowed the preacher to know that those who spoke up not only understood what he said, but that they also agreed with what he had said. But the biggest kick in the teeth came as a result of the white slave owners declaring there was no need for slaves to be baptized, for it was their (the white slave owners) contention that “slaves had no souls at all” let alone a soul that needed to be saved through baptism. Imagine the joy when slaves learned the truth that had been kept from them for all those years. The truth that they indeed did have souls and that Christ died for them as well as the white slave masters….the very ones who had vehemently denied the existence of a black man’s soul.
Now let’s fast forward to the 21st century. How does a church become integrated? Unfortunately, “white flight” is alive and well, even the Church of Christ. Usually black people will place membership at a white congregation, but rarely ever do you see whites placing membership at predominately black congregations unless there’s an interracial marriage. Why is that? Blacks are used to living in a white world. Whites control society, the economy, the news media, the entertainment industry, etc. Very rarely will you see a black man leading a company composed of primarily white people.
But the up side to that is that Blacks have adjusted to a white world and therefore have no problem attending and adjusting to a white congregation. However, once more than one or two blacks start to enter into a “what use to be a predominately white congregation”, either two things will happen. (1) The church (usually meaning the white leaders, in the congregation) will openly address the challenges of blending the multiracial church, or (2) the historical “white flight” takes place.
When most whites (who are use to being in the majority) in the congregation feel the threat of possibly becoming the minority, a feeling of discomfort and uneasiness arises.
Worship service: Many whites and blacks have a very difficult time co-existing in worship service. For example, a white person may say “Why do they sing so loudly and why do they always have to ad lib to the song and sing extra verses?” A black man may say why does the white song leader always sing the standard three 3 or four verses and then sit down?; The white man asks, “Why do most blacks always have to say ‘Amen or Preach it preacher’ all the time? They are disturbing my worship to God, why can’t they just be quiet like the rest of us?” And often times you hear the black members saying “Why are the whites so quiet? Do they even love the Lord?” The price diversity makes us pay is that we will have to learn why each one worships the way each does and how to be tolerant of that way of worship instead of being critical. Once people understand the who, what, where, when and how of the worship experience of the other, the blending becomes much easier to activate.
Fellowship growing pains:
Everybody wants to feel welcome and a part of the church family. One of the lessons learned here at Corona is that when an integrated congregation such as ours fellowships (whether at home, bowling alley, park, birthday party retirement party…) it is imperative that all members (not just people you feel comfortable around) are invited to the table. We have learned that when one race of people in the congregation has an event and other races are not included, integration quickly turns into segregation and polarization.
Question 4: What opportunities and blessings have your congregation enjoyed as a result of its racial diversity?
Mike Root: Most of the things I mentions in the last question deal with some of the blessings. Personally, as a minister who has never enjoyed this much racial mixing in a church family, it is one of the most wonderful blessings I’ve ever experienced. The mixture of the more emotional with the traditional “Temple Reverence” my white brethren are use to having is awesome. I love the open responding to sermon points, I love the affection and openness that my black brethren bring to our church family, and most of all I love seeing the barrier-less love that white and black children of God show to each other every time we get to be together. I can see God smiling every time I look out across our auditorium during our greeting and see so much hugging, laughing, and caring for one another. That’s what church is supposed to be.
As a side point, I’ve never felt the respect and appreciation as a minister as I do in this congregation, and I know a great reason for that is the black tradition of respecting the preacher.
David Franklin: 4. Opportunities and blessings we enjoy.
The opportunity is to demonstrate and model to a skeptical world, county and city that two races normally pitted against each other can overcome their prejudices and fears. If the races are to heal, that healing will be at the cross of Jesus.
In a Sunday morning class a few years ago on “The color of Christianity,” a white deacon and black deacon facilitated a wonderful period of exploring the dynamic of our coming together, and defined several phases:
1. Tolerance of integration
2. Growth and learning in integration
3. Embracing the concept
4. A way of life.
It is getting to #2, or #3 that many brothers and sisters cannot do, although many try (both black and white) and they are to be commended for that. For most of those who remain at Ross, they are in the various stages of 2, 3 and 4. For some of us who have been blessed with “4”, we cannot imagine serving God in an all white, or an all black church.
A few years ago, my wife and I vacationed in Ft. Lauderdale and opened the Yellow Pages for a church of Christ. Not knowing the area, we went to the closest and found ourselves the only two white faces in a sea of 1000 black brothers and sisters. It just did not make any difference to us and we enjoyed their service. I believe we were more comfortable than were they.
This is one of the greatest blessings we have received having been in a mixed congregations. At Ross, most of us truly do not see color when addressing, eating with, serving with and praying with our brothers and sisters. There is an argument that color needs to be seen, so as to bring honor to the struggles of each group. There is only one struggle that counts, and that is the struggle between good and evil, heaven and hell. All else should be left behind.
Dessain Terry: Wow! How much time do you have? Africans bring us a strong respect for scripture and a reverence for worship. Hispanics bring us a joy of salvation, singing, and a love of family and community. Our Orientals bring us a quiet serenity. Our sub-continent Asians bring us a sense of hard work. Our U. S. natives (many of whom are or have been military) bring us a positive can-do spirit.
B.D. Holt Sr.: Just as eating different foods during the course of a meal and even going further and making different dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, diversity can be a blessing when participating in many activities. Because of the complexity of people, their different cultures and traditions, and their personalities, it is indeed a blessing to be able to attend a congregation that has a diverse mixture. The benefits cannot be measured, because it is at these times that you not only get to know people better, but you learn why they do what they do and can be more accepting of them.
The Corona Church of Christ has done just that. In the Corona congregation you will find older Caucasians who have been at the church almost since its inception, younger teens and even younger children. You will find older Hispanics, younger Hispanics and even the little children who are still clinging to their mamas’ skirts. And you will find blacks who can be categorized as older, younger and infants. But the diversity goes even further because you will find some from the continent of Africa, Asia, some from the Caribbean Islands and even those from European countries; all of whom bring with them different cultures, traditions, and ways of thinking.
Because of all of the different types of people, whether they are in a specific cultural group or intermingled, just one single topic of conversation will bring many points of view, all coming from the perspective of the person and his or her culture. Children are reared differently and conversations with each other can readily tell the listener why some parents do some things and others, things that are totally different. But they are all working toward achieving the same outcome.
The Corona Church of Christ gets to see firsthand what the world situation is like from an up close and personal standpoint because there are people in our congregation who represent the world.
Question 5: What advice or wisdom would you share with congregations that remain racially segregated?
Mike Root: Advice? All I can say is you’re missing something special. As long as giving and loving remains easy and comfortable you’re not growing.
David Franklin: As with all visitors, black and white, truly welcome them into the service and invite them into your home. Visit them in their home (the way we always used to do). It is a powerful statement when white and black families break down their home “barriers” to another race, and it is the only way to do it.
When it comes time to pick new deacons or elders, race will not be an issue if a church has embraced the concept and living this way.
Beware when hiring new staff in a changing church. Search deeply the beliefs and possible prejudices and hidden agendas to “tip the balance”. The Spirit, and the spirit of patience and prayer should guide.
Dessain Terry: Realize that being scriptural is not the same as being cultural. In the New Testament, Greek congregations were different from Jewish congregations and they were all different from Roman congregations, yet they shared in the work, fellowship, and diversity. Read Romans. The Christians in Rome came from many cultures and Paul stresses their salvation was not in their cultural norms but in Christ. I do not believe that God will force us to associate in heaven with people who make us uncomfortable. Since all races and cultures will be there, where does that leave the “uncomfortable?”
B.D. Holt Sr.: James 2 tells us “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James is saying is that because of the Lord’s commandment to love our neighbor AS OURSELVES, we cannot afford not to invite others into our midst’s because that is what we would want others to do for us – even those who look and act like us.
Jesus says that we should “love one another as he as loved us.” How can we really demonstrate the love Jesus has for us if we do not make an effort to worship him with one another, regardless of race, culture or ethnicity.
Jesus also said that “if you do it unto the least of these, then you do it unto me.” What a revelation! When we deliberately segregate ourselves, we have not only done it to one of God’s children, we have actually done it unto Jesus, himself. Do we really want that legacy written by our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life? I certainly wouldn’t.
Question 6: Do you see racial diversity in churches as a biblical imperative or a matter of preference among members?
Mike Root: I do see racial diversity as a biblical imperative but mostly I see matching the community you live in as a common sense part of church growth, outreach, and being honest about why you exist. If a church exists to avoid racial diversity, they need to take the name of Jesus off their sign out front.
David Franklin: Absolutely! From the ancient Jerusalem church (with it’s Hellenistic widows being overlooked) and 2000 years since, every generation has had its challenges of racial or cultural acceptance. Jesus’ command to love one another (how people know we are His) is without condition. If we drive past a congregation just because it is another race, or a mix or culture, or anything we are not comfortable with, we may have to answer to our conscience and to God. That place might just be prepared for you by God.
We live in a consumer society, even when it comes to the congregation of our choice. Therefore, it may become a “matter of preference” for no other reason for being there.
Dessain Terry: Racial diversity is both an imperative to respect, love, and honor the differences. Preference is okay also. After all, there are times when men want to be with just men and women with just women, but preference must not be dominate principle. Oneness is the dominant principle (John 17).
B.D. Holt Sr.: Jesus said, “Whosoever will, let him come.” That is not a suggestion…that is a mandate. In Acts 10 when Peter had a roof top experience, the Lord told him to “rise, kill and eat”. Peter did not have years to obey God in bringing the word to the Gentiles. He immediately preached the word to Cornelius and his household and the first Gentile convert were added to the church of Christ.
Jesus said, “A house divided against itself shall fall (Mark 3:25).” Division is present when we look down upon others whose approaches to worship are different than ours or when we think that our way of doing things is superior. We need to be more willing to learn about, understand and accept the people whose ways may not be comfortable for us.
Question 7: Does the diversity of your leadership (ministers, elders, deacons, etc.) match that of your congregation? What strides or struggles have you had in this area?
Mike Root: I am very excited about our leadership. This Sunday we are adding twelve new shepherds to our existing shepherds and they are as racial diverse as our church family is. We will have nineteen shepherds who are committed to mentoring, guiding, and connecting with every member. We appoint leaders to spiritually lead not to have business meetings. If it’s about shepherding, you can’t have too many. If it’s about business meetings two is too many.
David Franklin: The elders, deacons and ministry leadership reflect our diversity. There have been few, if any, struggles related to race.
Dessain Terry: Yes. Our struggle in getting more elders, deacons, etc., lies not in race or culture but in Biblical qualities like most congregations.
B.D. Holt Sr.: Pulpit Minister – Of Mixed Heritage (Black father and White mother)
Youth Minister – Black
2 Elders – White
6 Deacons – 3 Black and 3 White
Members who belong to a multicultural congregation that has leadership that does not represent the cultural and ethnic background of its members tend to have the same effects the colonists had with the government when they complained about “taxation without representation.”
People who are represented by leaders who have similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds can go to the members of the leadership team with confidence that even though the leader may not have encountered the same problem, because he is familiar with the background of the member, the advice, while being scriptural, can be rendered in a way that is acceptable to the member who has the problem.
Of course, the other side of that coin is that because a member of the leadership team does share ethnic and cultural ties with the member, offering advice, suggestions and comfort. It will come much easier to the leadership team member as he endeavors to assist the member through whatever the challenges he or she may face.
In July of 2004, the church hired it’s first interracial (usually referred to as a “black”) pulpit minister, namely me, Brandon D. Holt, Sr. At the time I was hired, I believe the only criteria in play was to find and to hire the most qualified person for the job.
I am bi-racial. My father is African American (black) and my mother is Caucasian (white).
When I arrived at Corona in 2004, the congregation was 90% white and 10% black and Hispanic.
The leaders of the Church had the foresight to see that many factors were at play that would determine that the city of Corona was radically changing racially and that the Corona Church of Christ was going to become a diverse congregation. That diversity would more than likely include the arrival of more blacks, Hispanics and even Asians to become members of the church.
The one thing they did not lose sight of, however, was that even though members of these groups were different in their cultures and ethnicities, they all were seeking the same thing….a chance to get to know the Lord Jesus and what He has done for our salvation.
Question 8: Any other comments?
Mike Root: Our government will never be able to legislate diversity, equality, or tolerance. There is only one place that has a chance of making it happen and that is in Jesus. Love is the only thing that can replace fears, overcome suspicions, cause sacrifice, and ignore cultures. If we can’t see that God gave us “church” to make that very thing happen, then we will continue to “do church” by worldly standards, meet to establish exclusivity, and look more like the Taliban than the Son of Man. That’ll preach!
David Franklin: Gerald Jackson (a black minister) accepted our pulpit in July. He may or may not have an opportunity to respond to this request, but I would like to take this time to quote him from his resume:
“I prefer this kind of a ministry (diverse culture) for three reasons:
1. I believe it is a reflection of how heaven is going to be.
2. The potential to reach a broader spectrum of people is greater than a congregation that is culturally limited.
3. The ability to share our different cultures while remaining united under the banner of Christ is a tremendous statement to the world.”
(Item #3 is a most powerful statement).
We don’t often talk about racial issues at Ross. However, in the auditorium bible class this week, something did come up while we were studying Acts 10 and 11. The ancient church had as much if not more of a challenge than do we. It was concluded that each generation of Christians is presented with their own set of challenges, racial or other. How we respond to the good deeds prepared for us by God is the test of our love for one another in Him!
It was also concluded that there is “no black heaven and white heaven” as one sister was taught as a child. But, the soul of man does have color… saved or unsaved.
Dessain Terry: I have been preaching for nearly 37 years in congregations from the Texas/Mexico border to New England. I have worked in seven foreign countries and visited in many more. I have enjoyed this Virginia congregation more than any other and I am having fun working with them and for them. To use a word constantly used here, I am “blessed!”
FeedbackWow, you all have really given me a lot to think about. As I see it, one of the underlying causes to the lack of diversity among the churches seems to be an overwhelming intolerance to different worship styles. One other reason I can see is the overall lack of local evangelism and community outreach that exists in some declining congregations. If my congregation did not match my community make up, the 1st thing I would ask is , �Are we even trying to reach our neighbors�.
So before you ask,
We don�t !!! so, I will ask the question.
You should also ask your Elders the question, �What are we doing to solve the diversity problem?�
In His Love
Arlington Heights Church of Christ
Corpus Christi, Tx,September, 23 2008