This is the fifth of a multi-part series on racial integration. For the previous post, click here.
The best of intentions cannot, by themselves, achieve the goal of racial integration in our churches. There remain significant obstacles, and while I believe that we can overcome these obstacles, the first step in overcoming them is understanding them.
Perhaps the most rampant hindrance to racial integration is that of cultural preference. Cultural preferences run deep. There still exists what I call “the great white myth,” this idea that because white people repented of our racism, all the African Americans in our community would come rushing back into our churches, thanking their lucky stars that we were so magnanimous. Very few of us would put it in these terms, but the idea of this myth underlies a lot of what we say and do.
Part of what makes this myth so absurd is the reality of cultural preferences. Some churches make whites comfortable; some make blacks comfortable; some make Latinos comfortable. We all come from distinct cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and it should not be a surprise to us that we are comfortable around people like us. Whether this preference is sinful or not, we need to recognize that it is real.
If we change our style to make our church more accessible for non-whites, as I believe we should, a lot of white people will get uncomfortable. That means that we will reach a lot less of them. Ultimately, we would love for people to overcome their personal preferences. Multi-ethnic churches can only thrive when people are, so to speak, “comfortable being uncomfortable.” But we cannot always expect people to be mature before we reach them.
Now, there are some, like the African-American Boston preacher Eugene Rivers III, who argue that cultural preference is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, they often fight against racial integration, not from a standpoint of racial supremacy, but because they claim it is bad for minorities. I have some sympathy for what Rivers is getting at, but based on the multi-cultural scene of Revelation 5, I think he goes too far. But there is something to be said for culturally distinct worship. It is, of course, easier to reach people when you have a more homogenous culture. The answer has to involve some kind of balance.
 Mark Deymaz, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, 110.