Tuesday Briefing: LifeWay poll measures relationship between church and race

Meredith Flynn —  January 20, 2015

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

doneenoughA report on a new LifeWay Research survey says what Martin Luther King, Jr., once said about Sunday morning in America is still true: “At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.”

Released just before the national holiday in honor of King, the survey found more than 80% of churches are made up of one predominant racial group, but 67% of churchgoers say their church is doing enough to become ethnically diverse. And 53% disagree that their congregation needs to become more diverse.

“Surprisingly, most churchgoers are content with the ethnic status quo in their churches,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, in the research report by Bob Smietana. “In a world where our culture is increasingly diverse, and many pastors are talking about diversity, it appears most people are happy where they are—and with whom they are.

“Yet, it’s hard for Christians to say they are united in Christ when they are congregating separately.”

In honor of MLK Day, ChurchLeaders.com gathered 25 of his “retweetable” quotes, starting with this one: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or darkness of destructive selfishness.”

In the newest “Question and Ethics” podcast, Ethics and Religious Liberty President Russell Moore interviews actor David Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King in a recently released movie. “…I think what you see in ‘Selma’ the film is not only was Dr. King a speaker of the word–we celebrate him as an orator–but he was a doer of it, and that’s the attribute I most admire in any Christian,” the actor says.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Jan. 16 it will soon hear arguments in an appeals court case concerning same-sex marriage. “Depending on the justices’ decision,” Baptist Press reports, “gay marriage could be legal throughout the country by the end of June or states could maintain their authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.”

Oral arguments about the appeals court decision, which concerns Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, are expected in March or April, BP reports, with a decision before the Court’s summer adjournment.

“I did not die. I did not go to heaven.” Christianity Today reports on that retraction by 16-year-old Alex Malarkey concerning his book “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.”

Malarkey made his admission in a statement titled “An Open Letter to LifeWay and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.” LifeWay Christian Resources–an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention–told The Christian Post they “are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our stores.”

The Post also notes that during their annual meeting last June, Southern Baptists adopted a resolution reaffirming “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”

Colton Burpo, whose account of heaven also became a bestselling book and later a feature film, said he stands by his story. The Christian Post reports Burpo took to his website to say, “”I know there has been a lot of talk about the truth of other Heaven stories in the past few days.

“I just wanted to take a second and let everyone know that I stand by my story found in my book Heaven is for Real.”

The Seattle Seahawks’ unbelievable comeback in the NFC championship game Jan. 18 brought quarterback Russell Wilson to tears in his post-game interview. Before and after the victory, Russell, who is vocal about his Christian faith, tweeted his thankfulness and praise to God. “My pursuit of exellence is to honor Jesus!” Wilson tweeted Saturday, with the hashtag #ItsAllAboutHim.

After the game, he posted a praise chorus by Lenny LeBlanc: “There is none like You! No one else can touch my heart like You do! I can search for all of eternity, but there is none like You!”

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

One response to Tuesday Briefing: LifeWay poll measures relationship between church and race


    This was an excellent article. Ed Stetzer makes a comparison between ethnic makeup of the world and the church. If the church is to grow, it must also represent the diversity of the world.
    The diversity will not occur until there is a shift in the way we think and do things. For example, one easy shift in how the church appears is to think about staffing. How many churches have a diverse staff? There are some churches that have stretched themselves and the result is a more user friendly atmosphere for ethnic diversity to occur. So the challenge remains to create change by being open to think differently. While books and articles are fine about the need for change, there are simple changes that can cause huge changes.
    The other notion is about church planting. We may try to reach people groups to create diversity, but if the goal is to create a diverse church, we may consider to try a new model. Immigrants are in a process of being acculturated. We may reach the newcomers, but second generation persons who are more in a place of becoming leaders will not feel that they can acquire the community connectivity in a church of one ethnicity. At some point they need to integrate. As we look at programs we should should look at ways to integrate those to come together as we identity with Christ and the church.
    It takes a special church body to open the door and accommodate newcomers who may present new challenges to include bilingual services and more one on one friendships to help them adjust to not just our church, but our country.
    Just being a friend is an important step, however you slice it, it means more relationships with people who are diverse. Those relationships will cause the church to grow and the gospel to reach more people without even having to go to the mission field. The mission field is at our front door.