can Christmas bring people together?

Christmas celebrates the coming of Christ into the world. Jesus shows us what God is really like, and shows us what He wants for people. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

Jesus shows that being spiritual is being engaged in the real world. A real Christian faith is so much more than prayer, Bible reading, attending worship services. And, the Christmas story ought to bring peace and good will to all kinds of people.

Yet, only 7% of U.S. churches are racially diverse.[*]

Q: Why? What are the reasons for its being so low?

A: There are three things, and it depends on the group that we’re talking about, but there’s history, there’s culture, and then there’s social networks. [emphasis mine]

Social networks. The sociological factors that affect church life often go understated, often rationalized in theological constructs. Watch the entire interview from PBS Religion & Ethics:

interracial-churches

[*] Religion and Ethics interview with Michael Emerson, author of People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States; researchers regard a “mixed” congregation as one with at least 20 percent of its members providing racial or ethnic diversity

Aside: for fans of The Office and/or those who can laugh at their own religions, watch the God, Inc. series over at YouTube; note the difference between “really Christian” and “sort of Christian”]

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3 Responses

  1. D Plum says:

    Hey, man… you know this is a passionate topic for me! It pains me at times to see the same churches that we all applaud be so low in diversity… I was with one “megachurch” church planting pastor, and asked him (actually, I asked his Exec Pastor) why HE thought their church was so “white” – very few blacks, Asians, or Latinos – when the city they're in is (relatively speaking, for the South) pretty diverse. And the answer was the same as I've been given over and over: though they “really would like to see more diversity” in their church, they believe the best way for them to grow is to reach people like them.

    Huh?

    I love those guys tremendously, but I have NEVER understood – biblically speaking – that line of thought. So, DJ… how do we help our brothers see the importance of this… for our church, and for our world?

  2. djchuang says:

    D, hearing answers like that shows where some churches place priorities and values — that is, how fast a church can grow (aka, church growth), and since spiritual salvation is the main thing that matters, getting people “saved” or “to make a decision for Christ” supercedes all other considerations.

    So, the question can be asked: what does it take to change that church growth value into something else that more completely reflects the heart of God, e.g. for God so loved the WORLD?

    It's not merely reading the Bible. Our theology and the culture in which we live colors the way we read the Bible, and the way we discuss and work out its implications.

    So, if we only read the Scriptures only with people who look like us, and only read the gold-standard systematic theologies of a particular time and history, that colors one's convictions of how to do church. How can that be changed, eh?

    Another thought: a growing number of voices are saying that the how we measure success in a church cannot be attendance numbers. Developing a scorecard that better quantifies God's values and God's priorities is one thing that's desperately needed.

  3. Steve says:

    What an interesting report. A few thoughts and questions:

    (BTW, I am white, and it does matter to the discussion…)

    1. I was blown away by the comment that black churches are afraid of whites taking over. I had never thought of that, and it almost argues to me for continuing segregation: if the church is the only institution where African-Americans can experiment with and learn about organization, teamwork and leadership, I think that's a pretty valuable thing.

    2. Do we have a duty to value racial diversity over worship style when choosing a church? For that matter, where do we rank it among all of our criteria in choosing a church, and does that ranking reflect our society's influence on our interpretation of scripture?

    3. The comment from one pastor who said the real tipping point was when his congregational balance shifted to where everyone was a minority made a lot of sense to me, but it's not mathematically possible to see that in every church, unless a whole lot of white people stay home.

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