Why did Martin Luther King Jr. once say, “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning?” Because Christians have a hard time reaching out to people not like them. It’s tough enough to get us to share our faith. For most, that would be a major milestone, just to invite someone to church.
When we do take the leap of faith and share Christ with someone, it’s usually with someone we’re comfortable with. Someone that looks like us, acts like us, shares our values. If done enough, churches begin to look monogamous and exclusive, catering to only a certain niche of people. It’s a part of our human condition that conditions us to label people not like us and avoid them at all costs.
This problem, however, isn’t new to us. The first Christians struggled with it as well. When Christianity exploded onto the scene in the book of Acts chapter 2, it was centered in Jerusalem. By chapter 3, it was still in Jerusalem. Chapter 4, the same. Chapter 5, 6, 7, still hadn’t moved anywhere. The earliest Christians were enjoying their new found faith so much that they forgot to share the message with the rest of the world.
In the earliest days of Christianity, the church was monogamous, made up only of Jews, people who looked alike, acted the same, and shared common values. As they were about to find out, God’s story was much bigger than just one race. “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:1-4
It took persecution to kick the church out of the four walls of Jerusalem and begin to spread the word. What happened next amazed even them. Samaritans wanted in. Greeks wanted in. Gentiles wanted in. All the races that the Jews had been conditioned to hate suddenly wanted in on this new faith in Jesus Christ. Through this process, the early church found that God’s story is bigger than your prejudices.
What would it look like if our churches began to truly reflect the community around us? It’s more than just a black/white issue. People from all over the world have settled in America hoping for a better life. Are they being welcomed into our churches? Are we willing to overcome our prejudices to reach them? God’s story is bigger than our prejudices. Don’t shackle the gospel.
QUESTION: How have you seen churches overcome prejudices to reach people not like them for Christ?