I preached the morning sermon at his church, while he did the same at my church.
I was honored to spend the Sunday school hour talking about my background and how I came to know Christ. During the question-answer part of that hour, I was asked a question that I’ve since given a lot more thought.
The question was something like this: Why isn’t there more integration in the body of Christ? In other words, why don’t black people and white people worship together routinely? Why are there not more fully mixed congregations?
Let me explain the origin of the question. I was visiting a majority white church, and my white minister friend was preaching at my majority black church.
When you look across this county (and across this country), local church memberships, for the most part, are almost completely all-white or almost completely all-black. There are exceptions, even here in Calhoun County, but they’re just that — exceptions.
The question is why.
In the heat of the moment, my answer basically pointed to cultural differences between whites and blacks, particularly when it comes to music.
Let’s be honest. Blacks and whites generally have different worship styles, and those styles are largely exemplified in the music.
When choosing a place of worship, some of us Christians unfortunately consider the style of worship to be even more important than the doctrine.
While I believe the point about cultural differences is valid, I believe the real reason for segregated worship is much deeper.
I believe it’s because we don’t take to heart the depth of what Jesus calls fellowship and brotherhood.
He brought together 12 men of vastly different backgrounds, but, because of their shared faith, he said to them, “... all ye are brethren.” (Matthew 23:8) To follow Christ, these men left their families and their jobs and their former lives, and that singleness of mind made them one in the faith.
These men ate together. They laughed and cried together. They traveled together. They shared the gospel together. They prayed together. Daily.
Christian fellowship is meant to be more than a casual gathering for a couple hours on Sundays.
It should run deeper than economic differences, deeper than educational differences, and, yes, deeper than skin color differences.
God intended for this to be a radical concept — so radical that he said we are reborn into a new family. We should experience a greater closeness to Christian strangers than to non-Christian relatives.
I believe black and white Christians — all Christians — need a more sincere relationship that moves beyond a simple tolerance of each other and into the realm of genuine love and compassion for one another.
The Bible says if one Christian suffers, we all suffer; or if one is honored, we should all rejoice (1 Corinthians 12:26).
We’ll see more integrated congregations when we begin to eat together, laugh and cry together, pray together, share the gospel together, feed and clothe the poor together.
And not just on Sundays.
Anthony Cook is managing editor at The Star and pastor at Christian Fellowship Bible Church. Reach him at 256-235-3558 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony Cook, managing editor of the Anniston Star, has published a collection of his columns on faith, along with sermon notes and speeches.
He’ll be signing copies of ‘By the Book’ from noon-2 p.m. March 31 at Family Christian Stores at Quintard Mall.
‘By the Book’ (WestBow Press, 418 pages, $30.95) is available at LifeWay Christian store at Oxford Exchange, at Family Christian Stores at Quintard Mall, or online at booksamillion.com or at bookstore.westbowpress.com.