Sunday, January 17, 2010

Remembering MLK Jr.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Can Megachurches Bridge the Racial Divide? by David Van Biema, Time Magazine

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared that "11 o'clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week ... And the Sunday school is still the most segregated school." That largely remains true today. Despite the growing desegregation of most key American institutions, churches are still a glaring exception. Surveys from 2007 show that fewer than 8% of American congregations have a significant racial mix.
But in some churches, the racial divide is beginning to erode, and it is fading fastest in one of American religion's most conservative precincts: Evangelical Christianity. According to Michael Emerson, a specialist on race and faith at Rice University, the proportion of American churches with 20% or more minority participation has languished at about 7.5% for the past nine years. But among Evangelical churches with attendance of 1,000 people or more, the slice has more than quadrupled, from 6% in 1998 to 25% in 2007.
In 2003, [Hybels] recalls, he threw down the gauntlet, telling his flock that the church's racial outreach was "part of who we are, and if it can't be part of who you are, you probably need to find a church that doesn't talk about this issue."
Some white congregants left. But total attendance kept climbing — and people of different races now clasped one another's hands during prayer. When Bibbs disclosed that he had booked speaking engagements elsewhere on Martin Luther King Jr. Day because Willow did not observe it at the time, Hybels inaugurated an annual 48-hour celebration, and Bibbs recalls breaking down as the entire Willow staff joined in on "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the "black national anthem." In 2008 an 18-minute multimedia presentation on the King holiday received a deafening 20,000-person standing ovation. "I've never been so proud of the church," Bibbs says. "It was like everybody had crossed over."

By February 2009, Willow had hit the 20%-minority threshold that signifies an integrated congregation. Today its membership is 80% Caucasian, 6% Hispanic, 4% Asian, 2% African American and 8% "other" ethnicities. Says Bibbs: "The church would never be the same again."
When I ask Hybels how important racial reconciliation is to Christianity, he says, "It's absolutely core to the Gospel. It speaks to whether all humans are made in the image of God and have the capability of being redeemed and used by God to perform his work. I'm going to persevere on this for the rest of my life."

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