“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America (and the UK) is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning” – Martin Luther King Jr

As I have mentioned in the ‘About Me’ section of this blog, when I first became a Christian, I went to the typical tongue talking, foot stomping, hat wearing, no jewelry, no trouser wearing (for females), black pentecostal church. This church was mainly made up of black people who were originally from the Caribbean and their offspring. Now let me say up front that up to a point I can understand why in the UK, black people who migrated to these shores had to set up their own churches because they were not accepted by many white people but attitudes have changed since then so I don’t think that excuse can be used anymore.

As I can only speak from my perspective as one who has come from the ‘black church’, I will speak about it from my angle but no doubt there will be equivalent stories coming from ‘white churches’ with different details.

In my early church years, I viewed Christianity through ‘black’ spectacles and lived in a black christian bubble. There was hardly a white person who walked through the church doors and if they did, they stood out like a sore thumb and you wouldn’t see them return on a consistent basis and why would they when the preachers preached messages which sometimes alienated them with ‘back home’ stories when they lived in Jamaica, Barbados etc. I have found that many churches/christians are comfortable with worshipping only within their own cultural setting and any difference styles are not truly accomodated. There is no REAL effort to cross the divide. The mentality of many churches has been “We have done it like this for ages and we will always do it like this”. The problem is that instead of making the gospel inclusive and accesible to everyone, we have made it exclusive and accessible to only a selected few in our little ‘gang’. For example, if I went to a Nigerian church in London, how can I truly invite all my white friends to church and expect them to feel comfortable?

I once saw the below quote in Twitter

Cultural preferences should not be the determining factor of where or how we worship

Sometimes you may have to compromise your style of music in order to receive sound doctrine. That is something that I chose to do and if I’m honest, it took some re-adjustment on my part but I have no regrets. A few years ago, our church did a series on Gracism which was very enlightening to me and caused me to do some self examination within my own life:

When people deal with colour, class or culture in a negative way, that’s racism. But the answer is not to ignore differences as if they don’t matter. Instead, we can focus on diversity in a positive way. That’s gracism. Pastor David Anderson responds to prejudice and injustice with the principle of gracism: radical inclusion for the marginalized and excluded. Building on the apostle Paul’s exhortations in 1 Corinthians 12 to honour the weaker member, Anderson presents a biblical model for showing special grace to others on the basis of colour, class or culture. He offers seven sayings of the gracist with practical examples for building bridges and including others. A Christian alternative to secular models of affirmative action or colourblindness, gracism is an opportunity to extend God’s grace to people of all backgrounds.

So why do I say it can be dangerous? Well it is possible that it can breed racism because when someone does something differently than what we are used to, we can look at them an an inferior way. I have experienced this when someone from my old church said to me in a sarcastic way “Do you go to THAT white church?” or when I got engaged and the first question that a fellow believer asked was “Is she white?”. Sometimes we dont like to admit it, but there is a trace of racism in most of us and the only way we can begin to break this down is to understand one another, acknowledge our differences and embrace them and we can only truly understand it when we are in one anothers company. The body of Christ is supposed to be an example and a true reflection of God’s glory to the world. Heaven will not be just made up of country singers or acoustic guitars or the hammond organ. We need not look any further than creation where God is very much into variety. Where difference does not mean superior or inferior but just that – different.

Listen to the song Black Church, White Church here. Curtis Allen who wrote this song explained his reason for doing so and you can see the video here. The lyrics are below:

Black Church White Church

Verse 1

Black church white church, they might really be a nice church, but we don’t think they the right church, so we don’t associate with the white church. Even though things might work, their music is different, they just too business. They don’t got emotion where is the shouting, their rhythms off beat we can do without them. Plus we just different cultures, and I don’t trust white folks they can be vultures. Always telling someone how to live, I think they racists they don’t play with our kids. Why we gotta be in the same church anyway I would choose our preaching anyday. We got good music we have church here, we sang so they can’t hang here. But we not racist we just think we should meet in different places. Yeah I work with them won’t go to church with them yeah friends with them that’s where it ends with them. I’m real I don’t pretend with them, it aint like I gotta be best friends with them. I’m just stating fact, and that’s where I’m so what’s wrong with that? THAT!

Verse 2

White Church black church, we can’t recommend that church But we would love to see them at church. With us here yeah that works. But we ain’t trying to go over there, those people different but we still care. From a distance we’ll be polite, but if they came here it would alright. Cuz we think they don’t preach the gospel, or they just not theological. Unorganized real needy, teaching’s topical emotion is their gospel. So we’ll stay segregated, even though we next door, and hope that they make it. We ain’t judging them we can still be loving them even though we ain’t close enough to be touching them. I just love our church. I bet they would benefit from our church. Ain’t that how the gospel works, so why won’t they come to our church. I feel called to reach that community, but not if I gotta leave my community. But the gospel doesn’t give you immunity. The gospel gives you Impunity.

Verse 3

Black church white church, news flash you are Christ’s church. So the color is red that you stand by, bloodshed nuff said hold your head high. Waves your hands by, to how life was, be high on Christ that’s the right buzz. Church segregation ain’t the right love, separation is really hating Christ’s love. We don’t go there, fill in the blank, and fill in the blank their music ain’t. Divided by cultural preferences is all us it is not what his message is. He called us to preach gospel sentences, so all must, complete what repentance is. Cuz we show the world that the Lord is real, or we show the world we got a fake appeal. Listen you were made in God’s image, before any man saw you as an image. So who you are is not who you are, and what defines you should behind you. Accept Christ, so what you thinking that in eternity it matters if you white or black? He made us, for better status, and our color’s red so let’s move ahead.

My Pastor Steve Tibbett did a session on his mistakes as a white pastor which was very open and transparent. To listen to it, click here. (Apologies to some of my black believers but there’s no shouting here LOL)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, black or white, English or Irish, Ghanian or Nigerian, Bajan or Jamaican, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus – Galatians 3:28 (italics added by me)

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Comments
  1. Sally Richardson says:

    Well said, Alan. I agree absolutely. I am white, and my husband is black, from Ghana. He has been to churches where he is the only black person, and I have been to churches where I am the only white person.

    I do not think this is right – churches should be all-inclusive, and should welcome everybody, which is alright in theory, but not always in practice.

    I am glad to say though that I think things have moved on since when I became a Christian in the late ’70’s, and to go to a “white” church when you were black, and a “black” church when you were white, was often regarded with suspicion. However, the church in the East Midlands where I came to know the Lord, although mainly white, comfortable and middle-class, joined forces with a local West Indian church after our respective ministers became friends, and sometimes had services together. These were a great blessing to us all, as we learnt about our respective cultures, backgrounds, styles of teaching and worship, etc. Our two ministers would take it in turns to preach. This was considered quite revolutionary in those days!

    Since then, praise God, I have been in churches which are racially-mixed. However, on speaking to friends of all nationalities on this issue, I am ashamed to say that some of those from minority ethnic backgrounds have said that they have not felt welcome, or have not been made to feel at home, if they have gone to largely white churches. On the other hand, I and other white friends have always been made very welcome indeed when we have been to “black” churches.

    I met my husband at a “black” church; in the early years of our marriage, we would attend Ghanaian churches where I was the only white person, but I never felt different, and I never felt left out. Obviously, I would like to have seen a more racially-mixed church, but I can understand why those from a certain ethnic background, including Christians, tend to gather together. That does not mean they are exclusive – in my experience, the very opposite is true.

    The church I go to now, in Finsbury Park, N. London, has folks of all differerent backgrounds and nationalities, and we all feel at home there, both with the church itself and with one another. There are British, West Indian, African, Indian, Chinese and more. I thank God for each and every one of these. As my mixed-race daughters used to sing,

    Jesus loves the little children,
    All the children of the world
    Whether yellow, black or white,
    They are precious in His sight
    Jesus loves the little children of the world.

    I look forward to reading others’ comments and reactions to your very good and thought-provoking article, Alan. This is an excellent post. Well-done!

    In Jesus,

    Sally (Richardson)

  2. ChurchSalt says:

    The “true church” is mixed and the visible church should be as mixed as the population around it, and it would be, if folks were out spreading Law and Gospel. The sad fact is so very few people ever make any effort at evangelism at all. I have been looking for a church for some time now, and one of the key things I look at is the mix. It points to the authenticity of the church and to the level of evangelism activity. How I would love to see true churches doing true evangelism (preaching Law and Gospel to the community) and meeting back at the church house in a diverse congregation. And don’t forget other divisions that break God’s heart… a “young” church, or an “older” church, a “hymns only” kind of church, etc. All avoided by the “other” folks. Sad, sad, sad…

  3. Hi Alan, I guess I just think that the truth has no color, race or gender. Jesus Christ preached should be the same in white churches and black churches. We all come from various homes and experiences. We are all different in that way. What makes us one is the truth of Christ and him crucified, one for all!

  4. katherine edmiston says:

    i have experienced a black pentacostal type church as you describe, in my community but could not join due to problems with doctrine. i enjoyed the fellowship and many whites in the area sincerely appreciate the fellowship but i believe they, like me, could not accept the false teaching that goes on, that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not God. its a long story. now i go to a non-denominational church in which i love the Pastor and the staff, but i am politically liberal and i chafe at the conservative “culture” that is represented there. the point is, we will not grow if we get to be too comfortable. we must expose ourselves to different people in order to build our maturity. if i were not convinced that it is God’s will for me to be in my church community, i’d certainly not be there. but i have grown a great deal from accepting people’s differences. p.s. do you have any insights as to the seeming prevalence of rejection of the Holy Trinity among some charismatic type congregations? thank you for your blog!

  5. David says:

    Alan Thanks for the great topic! This is a REAL issue and I appreciate your article.
    I have found a great church in Columbus Ohio that is widely mixed with people of every cultural background and class. I just started going to World Harvest the past few months. Pastor Rod Parley has been speaking often on how important it is that the church BE the CHURCH and not the black,white,hispanic or whatever church. It makes such a difference in how the Spirit can move when the differences are set aside and God is allowed in. Let us pray for the Church to be open for Gods full Spirit to flow and met every persons need.

  6. Churchboy says:

    This is exactly the problem in the KC Metro area.

  7. Preach!!!! I really needed to read this, I came across this on a google search but you are so right, separation and segregation really isn’t an expression of the love of Christ!

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