Church Where We All Look the Same

One of the principles of church growth involves creating homogeneous groups. That is, that the most effective way of growing a church is to create a group, or a church for that matter, where people look, dress, earn, and act similarly to each other. The idea behind it is that people feel most comfortable and attracted to groups that are like them. So in doing this, we target a specific group of people, gear all our marketing efforts toward them, and hope to create a buzz in that specific group of people. The homogeneous unit that’s created becomes the core of the church.

And it works. Make no mistake, it works. Well.

But just because it works doesn’t mean it’s right.

In truth, I like being in churches where people look like me. It’s easier there because I know they’re thinking what I’m thinking. They’re feeling similar things to what I’m feeling. It’s comfortable there. Only one problem – that’s not what heaven is going to be like.

If places where people are different colors, have a different socioeconomic background, or are a different culture make me uncomfortable, then the afterlife has a surprise in store. God has always been cultivating a people of His own, and that people represents every tribe, tongue, and nation. And in heaven, those people will retain their cultural identity. We’ll hear every language being spoken under the sun before the throne of Jesus.

Now among other things, the church of today is supposed to be a glimpse into the future. It’s a foretaste, a preview of what eternity is going to be like. If that’s true, how can we intentionally or unintentionally try and cultivate a church experience where we all look the same? It’s effective, sure.

But what is pragmatic isn’t always what is right.

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  • taylor says:

    Sunday is the most segregated day of the week.

    I need to stop hoping that people different than me will come to my church, and go get them. Either that, are start going to their church.

    I’ll tell you what drives me bonkers, is the way white people go crazy for black preachers. It’s so annoying. Not because black preachers are bad, far from it. It seems to be a novelty, like white people think it’s cute, or fun.

    Here’s what I’m getting at:
    If you were to poll a bunch of white people that go to church regularly (preferably with gotees), and ask them “Do you like black preachers?”
    I’m certain you would get back an overwhelming response of “yes.”
    Then if you were to ask those same dudes, “Why do you like black preachers?” I bet you’d get alot of answers like. “Cause they’re so fun.” Or “Cause I love the way it seems like they’re in a conversation with the congregation.” Or, “I don’t know, it’s just so different from what I’m used to.”

    Maybe I’m over reacting here, probably so, but it seems so demeaning to like a certain style of preaching because stuff like that.

    If the above white dudes we polled went to church one day, and their normal white preacher suddenly started speaking like a black preacher, would they like it? I doubt it.

  • eric says:

    Imagine looking around a room – perhaps even a room within a home – and observing folks with great cultural, socio-economic, and political diversity. Then, instead of the natural huddles one might expect to emerge, picture all sitting around a common table sharing a common meal. Finally, upon recognizing the peace flowing through all and in all, imagine being able to say “If not for Jesus, we’d never be in this room together.”

    This is a big dream, but I think it’s where our heads need to be. Not only is it one glimpse of the coming reality of the new heaven and new earth, it’s my belief that God is moving us toward that reality in the here and now.

  • Lora says:

    While I appreciate the comments above, I don’t think it is condemnable that we want to be in homogeneous groups. Jesus loved all people, but the ones He spent most of His time with were eleven men who were physically just like Him. I love Eric’s idea of imagining all of us at a table sharing a meal. I don’t know many people who would feel uncomfortable one-on-one like that. It is when we find ourselves in the larger community that we tend to flock together in homogeneous groups. Perhaps that is why we imagine Jesus to be someone like ourselves when we imagine Him. I have to practice thinking of and accepting Him as an Arabic man because I doubt I would seek Him out if I saw Him in a white community. But, our spirits are what make us alike… the fact that we have faith in the same Lord… and I don’t think that we will “see” anything to differentiate in Heaven. We will all be of the same mind and heart which will be the only thing that matters in that realm. Here on the earth, the only thing that makes me sad is when we feel superior based on the group we flock with. When that happens, we are definitely sinful.

  • Christopher Lake says:

    Lora, you wrote:

    “It is when we find ourselves in the larger community that we tend to flock together in homogeneous groups. Perhaps that is why we imagine Jesus to be someone like ourselves when we imagine Him. I have to practice thinking of and accepting Him as an Arabic man because I doubt I would seek Him out if I saw Him in a white community.”

    Should we even imagine Jesus to be someone like ourselves? I don’t know your ethnicity, but Jesus, as a man, was of a certain ethnicity. He was not a white man. He was not a black man. Why should we imagine Jesus to be of an ethnicity other than His actual one (when He was incarnated as a human being)? Doesn’t this have overtones of making God to be like us?

    One other thought– you’re right that many people do tend to flock together in homogeneous groups. Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be different though? What unites us is not color, economic class, clothing, musical taste, etc. We are united in the Gospel. Should anything else unite us *more* than the Gospel? As a Christian man who is white, I am more “at home” with an Arabic or Asian or African-American Christian than I am with *any* white person who is not a Christian.

  • Lora says:

    I certainly agree with you. I am more at home with a Christian regardless of their ethnicity than a Caucasian who is not a Christian. My statements above were not racist and I did not expect them to be perceived as racist. If Jesus died for the sins of all people, and He did, and was resurrected to claim a victory over His sacrificial death, and He was, then I have no reason to think of Him as being anything but like me. Every person can and should see themselves in Jesus. He is in all of us. He said that if we abide in Him, we will understand God. That’s all I care about. My comments above were to simply point out the “humanness” of flocking together and in seeing the Lord as One of us. I also do not think it is troublesome to God when we attempt to “make Him be like us.” Isn’t God the One who sent Jesus to become a human being so that He COULD be like us? These questions do not bother God. His thinking is way above ours. But, I do hear what you are saying and repeat that my comments were not intended to say that Jesus should be the same ethnicity as me or I would not be His disciple. I am His disciple because He is the Son of God and my Savior. I am glad that He came to us in the body of a Jewish man because that was God’s will and my feeble attempts to understand the wisdom of God simply do not matter. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

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