We don’t need to grow in diversity—our church is fine just the way it is. At least that’s what the majority of churchgoers believe.
Segregation within the church will remain as long as we are content with the status quo—which we are. According to the findings of a study conducted by LifeWay Research, 67 percent of American churchgoers believe that their church has done enough to become racially diverse. That mentality would be acceptable if the church in America resembled the picture of the Last Days, where every tribe and tongue is gathered to praise in unity … but we’re far from this picture today. Sunday morning remains the most segregated hours in America.
Where does such a disconnect come from? Could it be that those surveyed attend churches that are indeed already racially diverse? Or perhaps the view is that if a church is doing service projects they are achieving racial reconciliation. I’m unsure what motivated the opinions from this particular study, but after spending a year speaking with various churches and people around the country, there are a few recurring themes I hear that could shine light on why our churches do indeed continue to be segregated.
1. Apathy and Busyness
This survey affirms to me one of the reasons I believe that our churches are not diverse—we are apathetic in regards to the topic of race. Apathy by definition is a lack of feeling, emotion, interest and concern. It’s a state of indifference, or even the suppression of emotions. We think that because the Jim Crow laws are now overturned we have somehow magically become a society that is unified, equal and desegregated. But just because we can now eat and drink and share pools by law doesn’t mean that we are actually doing it or celebrating the image of God in each other. Because worship is available to us freely doesn’t mean that we are choosing to join one another across racial lines. We are a society not willing to continue the fight like our ancestors because from a legal standpoint everything seems OK.
2. We are past race, and talking about it only rehashes the past.
I have heard time and time again that if we simply stop talking about race then all the struggles we see will disappear. I can understand why someone might think that bringing up the need for racial reconciliation can rebirth old wounds and therefore cripple the progress of racial reconciliation. The problem is, race continues to be talked about because there continue to be problems. And there continue to be problems because often conversations about race revolve around racism. And these conversations centered on racism happen because people are racist. So, until we see an end to racism, both personal and systemic, we will need to continue this conversation. The conversation about racial reconciliation must also take place because the gospel so clearly addresses it.