According to research conducted by sociologists 92.5 percent of Catholic and Protestant churches can be classified as “monoracial.” This term describes a church in which 80 percent of the individuals who attend are of the same ethnicity or race. The remaining churches (7.5 percent) can be described as multiracial- churches where there is a non-majority, collective population of at least 20 percent. By this definition, just less than 5 percent of protestant churches, and 2.5 percent of mainline churches, can be described as multi-racial.
Wow! And Why?
One of the desires I have for Celebration is to be a multi-racial congregation. I want us to represent God’s grand vision in Revelation 7 where multitudes of people from all people groups gather before God. Sadly, the American church, and Celebration, can improve on this picture.
Mark Deymaz, has written a book entitled, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, and over the next few weeks I am going to go through this book on my blog. Hopefully, along the way we can gain some useful insights.
In the first chapter he asks the question, “If the kingdom of God is not segregated, why on earth is the church?”
The answer to that question is diverse, subtle, and complicated which includes social, historical, and economic factors, if not more. With all the reasons included however, surely it must break the heart of God to see is dream unrealized.
Mark spends the first three chapters laying out a biblical framework for having a diverse church. Here in the first he spends time with Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17. He notes that in John 17:1-5 Jesus prays for himself. Verse 3 state eternal life is to know the father and the one whom he sent, Jesus. The Greek term for “know” means more than an intellectual knowledge. It also means to have an experiential knowledge. So Jesus’ prayer is for people to have an experiential knowledge of God and himself. Jesus wants everyone to have this supernatural relationship.
In verse 16-19 Jesus then prays for his disciples. In this part of the prayer Jesus prays that just as God sent him into the world to proclaim the Good news so now Jesus sends his disciples, and this is exactly what they did. We are Christians today because of Jesus’ prayer and their faithfulness to the mission, the Great Commission given by Jesus.
Then in verses 20-26 Jesus prays for all of those that follow the disciples. Now this is where Mark does some cool insight into God’s word. He focuses on John 17:20, “I do not ask or pray on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word.” Jesus prayed for all people, including all people groups, to believe on him.
Then, most famously, Jesus prayed for unity. He prayed that they may “all” be one. All means all, including every different race, not just the local church. And when we are unified the result is “the world would know God’s love and believe. Yes, it is in the perfection of unity we will see the world saved.”
Jesus did not ask us to read books, bring evangelists or Christian concerts to our cities, or put fish emblems on our cars. Nor did he tell us to win the world through mega-churches built by and for a specific segment of our society. For that matter, h did not pray we would be seeker sensitive, postmodern, emergent, or purpose driven. Rather, he called us to be one, then, he said, the world would know God’s word and believe.
Marks analysis of Jesus prayer is insightful and spot on. My response will to simply pray this week that Jesus prayer will become my prayer for our church and our city.