A church for all races

Published 9:17 pm Saturday, March 22, 2014

Today, if you worship at a church in Suffolk, you will likely join a congregation of people who look a lot like you.

All followers of Jesus Christ are brothers and sisters in the faith, and all of us are — or should be — striving to look more like Jesus and to attain unity in Him. But 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally put an end to the pernicious Jim Crow laws that sanctioned the separation of black and white people in nearly all social and political realms, Sunday remains the most segregated day of the week in Suffolk.

There are surely exceptions to the rule, but churches in Suffolk, even today, are generally either white or black.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week after having met with a pastor who has a desire to start a new church in Suffolk that intentionally breaks this mold. We are both white, and neither of us is part of a Suffolk congregation, but both of us have visited white and black churches throughout the city and have come to the same conclusion: Christians here have largely failed to develop a brotherhood that crosses racial lines.

This is a heartbreaking realization for me, as I have come to know many godly people who love Jesus in both the black and white communities since returning to Suffolk more than five years ago. And I cannot help but think what a powerful witness to the world the Bride of Christ was back in the early days when followers of Christ “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” (Acts 1:14 KJV)

Of course, even then, the church quickly began to split itself over the distinctions between Jewish converts and Gentile believers. Even the Apostle Peter was not immune and had to be chastised by Paul for setting himself apart from the Gentiles when a group of Jewish believers visited the church in Antioch. Peter knew better, but it took a public rebuke from another Jew, Paul, to set him straight again.

Today, the operable divisions are not between believers of the Jewish race and those of Gentile descent, but between Christians who are white and Christians who are black. But we all serve the same God, and we all would stand sinfully guilty before Him, but for the saving grace of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Will the worship services in Heaven be segregated by race so we can praise God, in turns, by color? I think most followers of Christ would consider such a proposition to be preposterous.

Perhaps Christians on this side of Heaven would serve Christ better by practicing today the one-accord type of faith that sees, as God told the prophet Samuel, “not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance,” (1 Samuel 16:7 NASB) but instead looks, as God does, at the heart.

What a great work that sort of church could do in Suffolk.