Recently a ”good, Jesus -loving” gentleman came to me after one of my English Dominant Latino presentations and said to me “Hector, I don’t see color.” I answered “Wow your sunsets must be boring!” I was not trying to be offensive or trite, it’s just that God made us different colors and we should recognize and rejoice in that. How boring it would be if we all looked the same.

What do you call a church whose church demographic does not match the demographic of the community around them? The answers I have received have varied from “dying” to “normal,” and everything in between. But can this disparity be called racist? Of course our churches are not racist. But the question was “could it be seen as racist?” Have you ever seen an all-white church meeting in a culturally diverse neighborhood? How does that feel? What does that look like to you?

Yesterday I had lunch with a couple who does see color (I’m pretty sure they had heard my previous story) and they wanted to know what they could do. They want to reach Latinos and other minorities but don’t know what to do. There are things that a church body can do to reach minorities, but today we will focus on you- the individual.

So what we can you do? Here are 3 things you can do if you a member of the dominant culture-

Believe it- First believe that racism exists today. We don’t want to believe it, but it’s there. And sadly Sunday continues to be the most segregated day of the week! If the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, why is the church segregated? I am pretty sure that is not how a church should lead.

See with kingdom eyes- I visited a church a while back and they said “We just don’t have any Hispanics in our area.” I was coming back in 2 weeks and I asked them to “look” for Hispanics in that time. When I came back they confessed that they were shocked at how many Hispanics they had seen – in the same community that 2 weeks earlier they were pretty sure that none existed! Look with kingdom eyes and God will let you see us! We are not hiding, but sometimes we are just invisible. You find what you look for.

Intentionally make a friend with a person of a different skin color. I know what you are thinking – this is manipulative! We can’t do that. While it may sound weird, let me tell you the story of how I got to know my wife. I first saw her at a birthday party some friends threw for me. I didn’t know her, but she looked great! So in the next few weeks I went to work and figured out who her friends were, what she liked to do and a little bit about her family (I should have spent a lot more time learning about her family! But that is a different story.). Within a few weeks of meeting her I made a casual meeting happen and I took that opportunity to invite her to coffee. In January we celebrated 23 years of marriage. Why do I share that story? Because I did exactly what I am proposing- I intentionally went out of my way to meet and get to know my wife only because of how she looked. That is not weird, it’s being human. I am not suggesting that you go and marry the next Hispanic you meet, but you can intentionally try to make them your friend.

I am convinced that if you use this simple formula you may make lifelong friends. Some of my best friends are white people! I am not sure that they intentionally sought out to make me a friend. If they did I am grateful! Because in the years I’ve known them we have laughed together, cried together and celebrated together- and most importantly we have worshiped our great God together. They still say things that I don’t understand (like “our goose is cooked” or “get your ducks in a row”- I don’t understand the fascination with poultry) but we have come to know and love one another. Maybe your life would be enhanced if you had a good friend that did not look like you.

And if you are buying lunch, I’ll be your friend.

4 Responses

  1. My Hispanic next-door neighbor is fluent in English, but his wife isn’t. I know a verrry few Spanish words. How do I begin to establish a relationship? My contacts with Senor Neighbor (I don’t know his name, and shame on me) are friendly. We’ve exchanged vegetables from our gardens, loaned tools, etc. How do I build that into a significant relationship?

  2. One reason that many Christians of color do not choose to worship with white Christians with whom they may be theologically compatible, is they do not wish to be put through the tests regarding their political and social beliefs. The fact is, many Christians of color have no problem being theologically conservative and politically and socially liberal; and many white Christians just cannot get their minds wrapped around that. So they feel compelled to “convert” them, mostly by comments that are about as subtle as dropping an anvil on their foot. It will not be until white conservatives make a concerted effort to live with these political and social differences that their invitation to Christians of color will have an authentic, heart felt spirit.

  3. The first problem encountered by our brothers and sisters in Christ in the first century involved the ethnic divide between Hellenistic Jews and native Hebrew widows. (Acts 6)

    The problem was not glossed over with a bland coat of same-ism: All widows matter. The apostles placed the matter in the hands of the congregation to select men to wait on tables (get this) who were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. The menial job of waiting on tables? Being filled with the Holy Spirit? It’s a side note for the church and those who would stand before her as qualified for the task of serving.

    What might this say about the ethnic makeup of the fellowship of the saints in Christ? I believe the single loudest reality which will not escape being noticed by ethnic minorities when they visit the assembly is whether or not the one or two members of their own ethnicity in that congregation are involved and participate in leading, teaching and preaching of the body of believers.

    Let’s not assume and gloss over whatever that reality might be in the congregation by dismissing it as simply a matter that they just don’t want to be involved and participate.

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