As I sat back studying the scriptures the other day. I realized that I as many other Black and Reformed Christians have a serious dilemma. We love the Lord and we are Black (or African American). Do to lack of Reformed preachers who are also black, typically that means we have to sit under predominately white ministries. Okay I am joking, ALL WHITE ministries. My friend Tyris and I get into this conversation at least once a week. We are excited to see Reformed Churches that are led by black staff. The problem is this is about as rare as Black Fortune 500 CEO’s. Of the black churches that are started I would believe that less than 1% are Reformed and I believe I am being a bit generous here. As you can tell by the name of the site we are theologically bent towards the Reformed Theological perspective and we also enjoy the culture birthed by Blacks here in America. So what are we to do?
Tyris has chosen the option that many Reformed Blacks choose. That is, he goes to a predominately (around 98% if I am not mistaken) White house church. Though I have never met his pastor, I respect him and think it was the best decision that he could make “ceteris paribus”. I have chosen the path of least resistance as it stands for now. I belong to a predominately black church which is a Bible Church. We are sound theologically but some of the richness of the Reformed position are not preached as much as I would like. The thing is this. For most of us who happen to be college educated. We work with whites, we live in the suburb which tends to be predominately white, and our kids go to schools that are predominately white. Now none of this is bad in and of itself; however, sometimes I long for the fellowship of Christians that are from the Black Experience. The joys and struggles of the Black Experience in America has a rich history and sometimes you want to hear that from the pulpit, or some of our current struggles that we face here in America can be addressed from the pulpit, but are usually not in white churches. Pastor Anthony Carter does a great job in his book “On Being Black and Reformed” in addressing some of these issues and reconciling them with the Sovereignty of God. He takes the Black Experience and filters it through the Reformed Theological Perspective and it is beautifully penned.
So some things become more difficult for black Christians versus white Christians. The number one is finding a church home. You see for a white American introduced to Reformed Theology his church hunt will be like fishing in an aquarium. For blacks it like fishing in the desert. There are over 10 Reformed Churches within a 25 mile radius of my home in Aubrey, Texas. The problem is they are all white. As I search through their websites not a black face pops up. This brings much anxiety and usually what happens blacks usually rob themselves and stay in churches they are more comfortable fellowshipping in. This is especially critical for those of us who know fellowship and accountability to be an essential ingredient in becoming conformed to the image of Christ. The other issue is that even if we do go to some churches in which are anxiety levels are off the chart, the staff and congregation doesn’t know how to communicate with us, so we usually leave feeling unwanted. I understand that this is also tough for white churches that have black visitors. There is always and do mean always a level of discomfort as you deal with people from other cultural backgrounds. And if I may be so bold, sometimes the Gospel isn’t the answer.
I believe the burden lies with both parties; however, I believe it more lies with the host church. Preaching and teaching from the pulpit should include racial reconciliation and also it should help educate people on diversity. We all understand that there “is no Jew nor Greek” within the body of Christ; however, there is Jew and Greek as it relates to culture. We live in America which is dominated by Anglo Saxon culture. Typically if you pronounce your words correctly, and use correct sentence structure (which I rarely do) then you talk like a “white man”. If you prefer Dockers and Cole Haans over baggy jeans and Nikes you dress like a “white man” and the list goes on. The problem is that this is true to some standard. If we want to play the Corporate America game you best learn Anglo culture and if you want to roll with the theological minds of today you best do the same. I am rambling here.
I say all of that to say this. There is something that can be done by these churches to ease the transition. Let me throw this in for kicks. I don’t believe a church should be all black either. I don’t think a “Black Church” is a biblical church and I don’t think a “White Church” is a biblical church. God has sovereignly placed us here in America together, with other cultures and He has done us a great service. We all bring something great to the table and we should all partake of what each of us have to offer the Body of Christ. I believe a church dominated by one particular race or the other does the body of Christ here in America a disservice. So what can these churches do? For a lot of the Reformed churches I recommend that they raise up black leaders within their congregation and that they purposely seek them out for Eldership candidacy. The first thing I do when looking for a church is look at the diversity of the Leadership. A diverse leadership always gives me warm and fuzzes. The same for when I am looking for a job. The first thing I do is attempt to see where they stand on issues such as diversity and promotion rates for blacks. There are way too many churches without any black leadership and they are hurting their chances of wooing black congregants. This may not be important to this church but it is important to Christ.
In conclusion the dilemma will continue unless we do something about it. God did His part by tearing down the walls that divided us. There is no such thing as a race, we are all one in Christ, the problem is we retreat to what is comfortable. White churches cater to their white congregations and Blacks to their black congregations and at the end; we don’t reflect the New Jerusalem. John said he saw people “from every nation” in Revelation 7, but all I see is churches dominated by one nation or nationality. The local fellowships within a given nation should reflect the diversity of that nation. China is predominately Chinese so they have a valid reason. America is a melting pot and we have no excuse. I know a specific pastor (Pastor Eric “Gunny” Hartman of Providence Church in Garland) who is making strives to rectify this issue. We should do all we can to join in his struggle. This can be accomplished with a lot of prayer and a lot more dying to ourselves and our comfort. Paul beautifully coined this mindset in Philippians 2:1-4.