The Homogeneous Principal
Mr. Donald L. Norbie of Greeley, Colorado, serves the Lord in a Bible teaching, whepherding, and evangistic ministry.
Church growth is a popular study today. Statistics are compiled and theories propounded. A whole new literature is evolving devoted to “Church Growth.” The emphasis is primarily on numerical growth. This is the factor most easily counted and compared. Out of this come suggestions as to conditions which promote numerical growth. One of these is the homogeneous principle. A group will grow the most rapidly if it specializes in one race or culture. According to this theory blacks should have black churches. White professionals should have their church and blue-collar workers need a church suited to their culture. Hispanics need still another church.
It is surely true that people in a group need to speak the same language. In America foreigners for the first generation tend to congregate with others who speak the same language. It is also true that a neighborhood church may find itself in one ethnic area. Consequently, it may be largely homogeneous in culture.
But is it a spiritual principle that races or cultures should be segregated in churches? Is this the teaching of Scripture and the example of the early churches? Is this even most healthy?
Sin has alienated and estranged peoples, not only from God but from one another. Racism may result from pride or fear.
One may feel superior to another race or else inferior and afraid because of the strength of the other. These attitudes cause races and cultures to withdraw and to build walls around themselves. There may be fear of intermarriage and an adulteration of racial purity.
This alienation is not limited to the blacks and whites. The Irish and Polish know discrimination when they first came to America. Hispanics may know rejection and hostility both by blacks and whites. The fragmentation and alienation are too apparent on every hand. There are many whites in this country who have never had a black family in their homes for a meal and there are blacks and Hispanics who have never fraternized with whites.
What is the calling of the Church in this fragmented society?
Is it to perpetuate alienation and hostility by erecting religious walls on top of the secular walls of segregation? Is not the Church called to preach a message of reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:18-21)? And does this include reconciliation with fellow man?
‘We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (John 3:14).
Strong words, brother John. How tragic it is that in some areas churches have been known to perpetuate racial hatred and suspicion. If we are more concerned about being attractive to our culture than in standing for the reconciling truth of the Gospel, may God help us.
What are we afraid of? What our friends or the world may say if we fraternize with another race? ‘The fear of man brings a snare” (Prov. 29:25).
Are we afraid of intermarriage, of adulterating the purity of our “superior” race? Races tend to marry within themselves and this is natural. God did create different races over the years and He delights in variety. To respect and to love all does not mean to insist on intermarriage and physical homogenization. Each can be proud of his own ethnic roots and culture and of his brother’s as well. But intermarriage is no sin, although it may bring practical problems.
The Gospel proclaims the dignity and worth of every man. “God so loved the world” is the message the Church proclaims. Racial pride is embedded deeply in the human heart. Only the grace of God can root it out.
If any man or woman feels unwelcome in our company because of race or social status, we are sinning and should be on our faces before God in repentance. With all the fire of the prophets of old, James condemns pride and partiality. “But if you show partiality you are committing sin…” (Jas. 2:9, NASB). And he mentions it in the same breath with murder and adultery.
By God’s grace let us look every man in the eye and affirm his manhood, his worth. He too is made in the image of God.
When men and women receive Christ, may we welcome them into God’s family with fervent love and not only affirm but demonstrate that we are one in Christ. The reconciling work of the cross needs to be seen by the world in love Christians have for one another.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek. there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28)