Tuesday, July 03, 2007

He said that?

As I've watched churches grown and change in Shreveport, I have been fascinated and sometimes saddened by the lack of ethnic diversity in the vast majority of congregations.

It's especially obvious in neighborhoods that were once predominately white and are now predominately black, which led to the story in today's Times. The white churches will eventually sell to black churches -- often of the same denomination. And the black church will grow. So here, you've got folks with no theological difference but they can't seem to make it work.

In my reporting, the Rev. James Jenkins, Regional strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention (that's the Southern Baptists) said one of the most radical things I've ever heard on the subject of race, culture and church.

"There's no such thing as a multicultural church."

Say what? What about Word of Life Center or the Jehovah's Witness congregations or the Catholic parishes that have folks that come from different cultures? He clarified saying you can have multiethnic churches, meaning people who don't look like each other attend the same congregation. But "in any church there is one culture."

The more I thought about it, it makes sense. Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics have a culture of their own that can -- at least for an hour on Sunday -- transcend racial divisions. Other churches tend to adopt the culture of the members. If those members come from different places, Jenkins said one group always wins.

Or maybe they can find a third way. From what I know of Word of Life, members are drawn by the pastor and charismatic worship. It's a basic message of Jesus.

So what do y'all think? Do you agree with Jenkins? How do we bring folks together to worship? Or does it even matter?


Tom said...

He makes a very good point. Catholic culture is a unifying force. There may be very distinct differences between Irish catholics and Nigerian catholics, but we are all one church under one Pope. We all have a common liturgy which forms the basis of a common culture.

Darrell said...

It all comes down to where you're comfortable. Seeking a higher plane of spirituality, or a different point of view, we might visit churches other than our own. Ultimately, most people will settle on a church home. That will be the place where they find themselves aligned theologically and behaviorally. This, of course, means one culture forms within that congregation.
In big churches with multiple services, each daypart may develop its own subculture, but they all are extensions of the philopsophy patterned by the church's ledership.