The Church and the Race Problem

by Dave Clark

Most Caucasians have probably never worshiped with African-Americans. The failure to share the experience limits our understanding of one another, as is clear from a recent Barna Research study:

"African-Americans or Africans have always been very spiritual people," said Ralph Kelly, who himself pastors the Good News Holiness Church.

The survey also showed that faith is more central to the black experience than money, influence or possessions. Those findings did not hold true for whites.

"The reason why so many (blacks) are so spiritual now, I really believe, it is borne out of slavery," Kelly said.

"Historically, the church and God has always been the way out," added Roosevelt Broach, a church planter with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Broach agreed with Barna's profile of how blacks' attitudes and their faith stand in stark contrast to the profile of Caucasians.

"Historically, African-Americans had no government to turn to (to help them)," he said. "They had no business ventures to get involved in; they weren't allowed to be in business. So the church and the spiritual leaders-i.e., the pastors-were really the focal point."

Barna cites the failure of whites to understand the dynamics of the black worldview as a key reason why race relations remain strained. Barna said whites are trying to resolve conflict based on a white view of reality and in the context of white lifestyles and goals.

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