Last week our friend Brian went to the the emergency room at Hackensack Hospital after having some concerns regarding his vision and balance. While visiting with him there I was struck by not only the crowded emergency room at 11:30 at night but also the diversity of people who were waiting to be helped. There were people there of all different ages, young and old. There were what appeared to be serious injuries and illnesses and others that were not as severe. There were people of a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds including Caucasian, African American, Latino, Asian, Pacific Island, Mid-Eastern and Hispanic. And there were people of varying socio-economic backgrounds. Living in Northern New Jersey, seeing a mix of people in a public gathering is not an unusual sight. Whether it is at a mall or a supermarket, a restaurant or a movie theater, we are a melting pot of nationalities, religions and backgrounds. We are a soup mix of people sharing the same space, living in the same context.
Yet, by and large, the church of Jesus Christ remains the most segregated place in America.
Not everywhere and certainly not in many churches located in the heart of our cities. But it is still a reality in many churches. And its not that the church tries to intentionally segregate itself…But perhaps it doesn’t do enough to desegregate itself either. Sometimes it is due to language. So language becomes a barrier. Sometimes it is due to proximity. So location becomes a barrier. Sometimes it is due to social context. So friendships become a barrier. Sometimes it is due to unawareness. So ignorance becomes a barrier.
The local church would be more representative of the global church…the biblical church…the glorified church if those gathered on Sunday morning looked more like our malls, movie theaters and hospital emergency waiting rooms. In fact, I believe that one of the best analogies of a local church should be a hospital emergency waiting room. A triage center for people of different races, ethnicities, cultures, financial standing and even religious backgrounds. A place of healing for people who are hurting, injured, ill and needy. For different reasons. With different severities. People coming to the church to experience the healing hand of God.
If we accept Sunday morning segregation as the norm then things will remain the same. Some people are content with that but it is only a partial and incomplete picture of the Church of Jesus Christ. However, if we believe that our churches ought to look more like our hospital waiting rooms then we will begin to imagine new ways to be an integrative and interwoven tapestry of God’s family.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
(Revelation 7:9 – 10)
What do you think?
How does this make you feel?