Four months after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963 he was invited to lecture on race at Western Michigan University. During some Q&A after his prepared remarks he said, “We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution…At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand…we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic.” A little more than 50 years later, there has been some change—but not enough. You don’t have to look far in our country to see that race relations are still as troublesome as ever. Bigotry, hatred and violence are prevalent here and abroad. In fact, based on a 2013 Lifeway Research Poll only 13% of pastors/ministers said their congregation was made up of more than one predominate ethnicity.
However, there is some good news! When we were visiting the Deep River Church of Christ in North Carolina—which by the way is considered a southern state—I was pleasantly surprised to see that the church there did not show any appearance of interracial discord. The Sunday worship assembly was racially mixed showing similar demographics to the 2010 census for their county (approximately 55% white, 35% black, and 10% other). In my experience churches—even Churches of Christ—still struggle with ethnic diversity. This is important for us to get right, because I do not believe there is any coincidence in the fact that Jesus’ last prayer in presence of His disciples was about unity. In John 17:20-24 part of His prayer includes these words, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.” Unity among believers was of the utmost importance—it will be our love and unity that will reveal the truth of Jesus to the world. Christians need to be the first people to demonstrate love and color-blindness in our world.