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Why is the Church So Racially Divided?

I’m curious about something.  I’ve been curious a long time. This is not a new subject for me.  Over the years my wife and I have visited dozens of churches. We’ve visited in most mainline denominations with varied music and preaching styles. We’ve visited predominantly white churches and predominantly black churches.  I’m white (in case you didn’t know…and the more the seasons change the whiter I become), but some of my very best friends are black. I’ve even been privileged to speak in predominately black churches.  I’ve never really understood the whole racial division thing.  I love people.  I think our culture is, at least in some ways, getting more accepting of other cultures and colors of skin. I know my boys’ generation doesn’t even seem to think as much about this issue as my generation did or certainly my parent’s generation did. I won’t pretend racial prejudice has ended, because I know it hasn’t, especially in other parts of the world, but, things are better today than they once were in my lifetime.

But, that’s where my curiosity begins. I see improvement everywhere except in the church.  Why is that?  Our churches remain segregated for the most part. Recently at Catalyst Conference I spoke with a couple black friends of mine.  I expressed in honesty that many times I don’t know what to say or how to say it when talking about the issue of racial diversity…so I say nothing.  They shared they feel the same way.  (One of them even took our frank conversation to ask me why white people where long-sleeve shirts with shorts. He said he doesn’t get it. Ha! Love it!) Another friend Scott Williams is even writing a book about the subject, because he too sees this divide in the church.  His working title is Church Diversity – Confront The Elephant In The Pew.  As the title indicates, it’s something we just don’t talk about much.

So, let’s talk about it. Why do you believe the church is still so divided racially?  Is it music style, preaching styles, attitudes, culture…what?  What can be done about it?  What steps can a church take?

Discuss…comment…engage…it’s discussion time!

(It should be noted that some churches are making a difference. Our church is at least seeing some changes and I know our people are open to change in this area. Still there is much work to be done and we know it. We are at least having the discussions. Another friend of mine, Artie Davis, has a church that’s done this well in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  Scott’s book will engage a dozen or so churches who are doing a good job bridging the racial divide.  If you know of a church he should talk to, leave it in the comments and I’ll make sure he gets their name.)


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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.