Loving Past Segregation in America’s Churches

Loving Past Segregation in America’s Churches

It’s no secret that Sunday morning is often referred to as the most segregated day of the week, when Christians of all races come together to worship among their ethnic peers. However, do most Christians prefer to fellowship this way, even in the most segregated areas in America?

A few weeks ago, 24/7 Wall Street released a list of the most segregated cities in America. Detroit topped the list, which included locales such as Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis, DC, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Birmingham.

For many churchgoers, segregated congregations in these areas aren’t ideal, but are simply a matter of comfort.

Anisha Howlett, a sales professional who lives in Farmington HiIls (a predominantly white suburb of Detroit), attends The River-New Wine Glory Ministries, a Pentecostal church in Southfield, Michigan. “As of right now, my church is predominantly black; however, our vision is growing and we encourage and welcome people from all walks of life to join our church,” Howlett says.

“We desire having diversity in the church because it reflects the kingdom and culture of heaven. We’ve had speakers from all over the world visit us [from countries] such as India and Italy. We also have a group of Hispanics who began attending our church last year, and we have integrated a sound system for them to listen during services as their interpreter translates to them in Spanish.”

Howlett says that it’s human nature to feel more comfortable around your own race, but notes that it’s not Biblical to confine our religious activity to ethnic groups. She also explains that the Christian church must make an effort to reflect the true body of Christ. She enjoys connecting with people from other races and encourages the greater community to do the same.

“We should want to worship with other Christians who are a different race, Howlett says. “We are spirit beings with a natural body but not bound to our own skin color. To bring heaven on earth, we must begin to integrate races in the church. Worship besides your white friend. Worship besides your black friend. The church won’t be as effective to the world (salt & light) until churches become multi-cultural which resembles the kingdom of God.”

Linda Madison, a media relations strategist in the DMV area prefers multicultural churches that focus on Christian fellowship and true reflection of Christ’s outgoing and boundless love. Her love experiences living on the west and east coasts have allowed her to experience very different communities.

“I live in a predominately African-American community in Prince George’s County, Maryland, yet I work, in a very diverse office,” Madison says. “When I lived in Los Angeles some 20 years ago, I attended Church on the Way, pastored by Jack Hayford who is white and the church was multi-racial.”

Madison is not a fan of racially segregated churches, calling them “not okay.”

“The racial makeup of a church is important to me as long as we are all there for a common goal, which is to serve the Lord,” she says.

Madison believes race shouldn’t matter for Believers who are coming to serve God. “In Jesus’ eyes there were only two factions: Jews and Gentiles. Even so, His charge to us, His people, was to love each other as we love ourselves.”

Ultimately, many Christians follow the example of their leadership when welcoming believers of all races and ethnicities to worship together. However, with today’s influx of digital platforms, it’s easy to find Christians of various races listening to the same sermon on their phone or computers, but sharing a pew makes a more powerful statement of coming together as a Church.

“I think it begins with the Pastors to make sure they’re encouraging diversity in their church,” Howlett suggests. “They must be loving on all walks of life. They must preach against sin such as racism. Preach the unadulterated Word of God — the words of Jesus — and it’ll draw all men to your church.”

Here are a few verses to reflect on concerning unity within the Church:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17: 20-21

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” I Corinthians 1: 10

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:25-28

 “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” Psalms 86:9 KJV

How to avoid the mundane and dream with purpose

How to avoid the mundane and dream with purpose

The alarm goes off. Your eyelids crack open as your brain starts to register the piercing foreign and unwelcome sound chosen out of a list of stock options that came with the device. In that moment, you choose. You can attempt to acknowledge that another day has indeed started or you can prolong this inevitability with one of modern history’s greatest inventions: the snooze button.

Just like all other inevitabilities, it is time to face the fact that another day has come, and with it, your routine. A lot of times, you can pretty much predict or foresee what the day is going to look like. If you have a 9-to-5, you know that you need to get up to make sure you’re out the door in enough time to beat traffic and make it to work on time.

Then you work all day, come home, eat something, unwind, go to sleep, and do it all over again. Before you know it, you’re caught in this cycle and your life has become the one word childhood dreams and imaginations dread: mundane.

The Drum Major Instinct

As Christians, we believe fundamentally that we are all created for a God-given purpose. We believe that there is a reason we are on this earth, that our lives mean something. Scriptures like Jeremiah 29:11 and Ephesians 2:10 reinforce this belief. We serve a great (i.e. massive, full of grandeur) God and He made us so surely we are meant to be great, right?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to this feeling of being meant for something greater in his sermon “The Drum Major Instinct.” He states, “We will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance. That same desire for attention, that same desire to be first… It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.”

It is a natural inclination to want to be significant.

When we consider purpose, we must consider that which we were commanded. We’ve all heard them before: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Then, Jesus’ last instructions before He ascended to Heaven were, “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

This is our purpose.

Love God, love people, make disciples. In everything we do, we can point back to these three things. It’s vague and specific at the same time. How can we do these things when we are just normal people?

Lyle’s Story

Most people will never know Lyle Gash. He was a boy with Downs Syndrome in a rural town in the foothills of North Carolina.

When he was born, his mother and father were told he would not make it through the night. Then, when he did, they were told he wouldn’t make it through the week. Then, when he did, they were told he wouldn’t see a year. And so on, and so forth for his 24 years of life.

Lyle survived multiple open heart surgeries, kidney failure, and various other health complications. He finally went home to heaven at 24.

One might ask, “What was the point of his life? He struggled for 24 years then died. Where’s the purpose?”

Well, one year, Lyle’s mother had an idea. Watching her baby boy suffer in pain, she wanted to do something to make him feel at least a little better.

She noticed whenever he received “get well soon” cards his mood was significantly better. She wrote a simple Facebook appeal to all who would read it: “Let’s collect 10,000 cards for Lyle.”

It seemed like an insurmountable feat. However, once word got out, cards came zooming in from all over the world. Lyle even got a special card from President Barak Obama and his family. All of a sudden, the story of a boy with Downs Syndrome in small-town North Carolina was impacting the lives of thousands of people that he never would’ve dreamed of meeting.

Lyle’s story serves as a very important lesson: as long as there is breath in your body, you have purpose. It’s up to us to seek out that purpose in our everyday lives.

It’s up to us to never lose our wonder. Whether we realize it or not, in our seemingly mundane lives, we have the opportunity to dream, to encourage others, to delight in creation, and to take advantage of every second of every day.

We can search out beauty and joy. We can take pause and acknowledge the miracle of every breath we take in. We can help others. Life becomes so much more meaningful when it becomes about more than just you. Don’t let the mundane steal your purpose.

Author Shares Journey on Beating the Odds in ‘Moments of Surrender’

Author Shares Journey on Beating the Odds in ‘Moments of Surrender’

Moments of Surrender: Revealing the Missing Pieces is a realistic walk through the growing pains of surrendering your life to God. The book is written by Author, Life Empowerment Coach, and Speaker Charlene Bolden who uses her journey from being a child in the foster care system to being whole in Christ as an example for readers seeking peace.

With chapters such as “Fear Paralyzes Your Faith but Faith Paralyzes Your Fear” and  “Cross Your Red Sea,” readers will witness various aspects of the faith journey that are not usually discussed when giving your life to Christ. Historically, African Americans are forced to overcome statistics and stereotypes, especially as a foster child, and Charlene’s story is no different. Instead, the author chooses to look the foster care stigma in the face and deny its power over her.

“I wanted my book to serve as a resource and guide for people to unpack their own journey of surrender,” said Bolden.

Moments of Surrender tells the author’s story of her powerful act of defiance that led her to living a healthy life and answering a call to lead others to God by example. Charlene reveals parts of her journey in the featured segment below:

Check Out These 5 Podcasts For Black Christian Millennials

Check Out These 5 Podcasts For Black Christian Millennials

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, podcasts have become all the rage in recent years.

If you are a Christian there are a lot of dope podcasts out there. And, if you are a Christian millennial then you are really in luck, because there are podcasts out there just for you.

We’ve sifted through tons of podcasts and found the ones that are best suited for a Christian millennial audience. The Urban Faith team has included some of our favorite podcasts for your listening pleasure below:

Truth’s Table

Truth’s Table delivers exactly what it says: #truth. Not just any old truth, but the truth of Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson, and Ekemini Uwan. These three sisters tackle issues of culture, race, politics, and gender all through the lens of Christian faith. If you are a millennial of color and you want to have a faith perspective on the things that matter to our world, then this is the podcast to check out!

Catalyst Podcast

If you’re a millennial and you are a leader right now, or have aspirations of leadership, then the Catalyst Podcast is for you. This podcast interviews Christian and non-Christian leaders from diverse backgrounds about different aspects of their leadership and faith journey. Even if you are not an official leader, this podcast gives tons of insight into the way we all are called to lead in our everyday lives.

Branding for Believers

This weekly podcast is all about equipping entrepreneurs and thought leaders for success. Sometimes being a Christian and getting your hustle on is a hard road to navigate. Dr. Shante Bishop is basically the mentor you need to crack the code for believing bigger things in regards to your success. Put those earphones on and listen to her teach you how to get to the next level.

Jude 3 Project

If you are a Christian millennial and you don’t know how to answer your friends’ questions about the faith, then you need to tune in to the Jude 3 Project podcast. Lisa Fields’ podcast is named after the 3rd verse in the book of Jude, which encourages believers to contend for the faith. In each episode she interviews an expert on topics ranging from “Does the Bible condone slavery?” to “The Church and Sex”. You will definitely get your faith upgraded after listening to this podcast.

Pass the Mic

Jemar Tisby and Tyler Burns dish up some great conversation from a black Reformed theology perspective. They talk about everything from white supremacy to the use of the word “woke”. The great thing about this is that they do it from the unique perspective of two brothers who are in a theological movement that’s not typical for African Americans to be involved in. Listening to Pass the Mic will definitely get you soaked in theological and biblical truth and how to apply it to culture.

What about you? Do you have any podcasts you’d recommend? Share them below.

After two drown in Tanzania, Christians re-examine safety of river baptisms

After two drown in Tanzania, Christians re-examine safety of river baptisms

(RNS) — It’s a rite that dates to the time of Jesus, who was dunked in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. But Christians in East Africa are now taking stock of their faith’s central rite after one such ritual turned tragic in northern Tanzania.

Two Christian farmers, aged 30 and 47, died as their pastors attempted to baptize them in the fast-moving current of the Ungwasi River in Rombo District in the Kilimanjaro region.

The ritual was organized by Shalom Church, a charismatic group in the country.

“Following the incident, we have agreed on some measures that will ensure the safety of our followers during baptism in the rivers,” Samuel Kamigwa, a pastor at the Victory Christian Center, a Pentecostal church in Tanzania, said in telephone interview.

Kamigwa said churches were considering increasing the number of ministers at one baptism event. They would also baptize one person at a time, while others are kept at a safe distance, and will choose a time when the water is calm enough for the ritual.

“As churches, we have to be careful. Baptism is one of the core rites in our faith and it has to continue,” he said.

Drowning during baptism is not uncommon in Africa, and Tanzanian police detained a pastor in connection with the deaths of the two. Local news reports say Kilimanjaro Regional Police Commander Hamis Selemani has warned against using the rivers for such activities unless the safety is confirmed.

In Africa, river baptism is popular, particularly among Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Immersion is viewed as a way of cleansing one’s sins and being reborn into a new life. Affusion, where water is poured over the head, and aspersion, where water is sprinkled on the head, are more common in mainline churches.

The Rev. Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of the Mombasa Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Kenya, said pastors need to be prudent: “If they choose the river, they must take a careful review to avoid endangering lives.”

Last year, six children died in Zimbabwe’s eastern province of Mashonaland during an early morning baptism in a stream by a self-styled prophetess.

And in January 2015, two elderly Pentecostal church pastors drowned in Mutshedzi River in Limpopo Province of South Africa, where they had gone to baptize four junior church members.

(Fredrick Nzwili is a Nairobi-based correspondent)

Will your gift really make room for you?

Will your gift really make room for you?

I am firm believer that we serve a just God. His love for us extends far beyond what we could ever imagine, and as a result of His grace, we are blessed with gifts and the opportunity to reach our full potential regardless of who we are and where we come from.

Proverbs 18:16 tells us, “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.”

I am intrigued by words. According to the Webster dictionary, the word “room” means “an extent of space occupied by or sufficient or available for something.” If a gift is capable of making room for you, that means it has the capacity to provide or provoke exactly what is needed in order to reach our full potential in a variety of areas, including career, family, and finances.

I am very blessed to have people with radical faith in my life. They have stepped out on faith and utilized the gifts that God has given them and are now living very successful lives.

I know single parents that were blessed with gifts in the hair, makeup and fashion industries. They invested in that gift and are now able to support their lives and live out their dreams, because that gift has created financial success.

I know others with a gift of music. They have never gone to music school or received formal training but they will give graduates of The Juilliard School a run for their money when they sing a note or play an instrument because their musical gift is a gift from God.

I, too, have a testimony of what God will do if you utilize the gifts He has given you. Sixteen years ago, God told me that He gave me a gift to write, and He wanted me to write because that was His desire for my life. I took that revelation and never looked back. Then, one day God surprised me with an opportunity to write for Urban Faith and share my gift with the world. It is a great honor to do so and I am grateful and honor Him for this opportunity.

But, how do you know if what you possess is a gift that God has given you? And, furthermore, how do you activate your gift to make room for you? Very simple. It is not limited to the listed points below, but they are a great start:

Believe God

God will always show you ideas and gifts inside of you that are way bigger than you. They are often bigger than what you could have ever dreamed of or expected, and that is great because it means you will need Him to bring them to pass. All you have to do is trust and believe God and what He has for you.

Plan and execute

Planning involves writing the vision and execution involves the how-to. You cannot wake up and expect your gift to magically make room for you. You need a plan. Do your research and find out who has been successful in utilizing the same gifts you have. Then, exercise patience and pray when planning and executing, because your timing is not God’s timing. Seek Him first and He will lead you.

Be willing to learn and be taught

Having a great idea and executing it is great, but to manage success and stability when your gift makes provision for you, you have to have a mindset of learning. Be open to seeking counsel, asking those who are skilled and successful in the area your gifts lie, and listening to their advice. People have sabotaged success and major breakthroughs because they were not willing to listen. Successful people listen.

Be your greatest cheerleader

If you wait for others to believe in you more than you believe in yourself, you will be waiting for a long time. Insecurity is a road block to success. If you do not believe you have a gift, then you will go on with life and never take a real chance on yourself. If you struggle with fear, I challenge you to ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen if I really gave myself a chance?”

It’s time to look within, step out in faith, and let your gift make room for you. You only live once. What is there to lose?