Jackie Robinson Day is a traditional event which occurs annually in Major League Baseball, commemorating and honoring the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. April 15 was Opening Day in 1947, Robinson’s first season in the Major Leagues. Initiated for the first time on April 15, 2004, Jackie Robinson Day honors Robinson’s memorable career, best known for becoming the first black major league baseball player of the modern era. His debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers ended approximately 80 years of baseball segregation, also known as the baseball color line, or color barrier.
If we are to be honest we must admit that churches have barriers as well. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., once said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” As a nation we’ve become much more integrated in schools, the military and businesses but in the places where we worship, segregation still seems to be the norm.
In an article by Dr. Kevin Daugherty entitled “Race, Diversity, and Membership Duration in Religious Congregations, the professor of sociology at Baylor University says that “nine out of ten congregations in the U.S. are segregated – meaning that a single racial group accounts for more than 80 percent of their
membership.” Calling a church segregated may make some people uncomfortable because it implies that its members are racist, but Daugherty concludes that parishioners choose churches where they feel comfortable and prefer to go to church with people who look like them.
The first Christian church was known for its diversity. Jews, Gentiles, and Greeks mingled alongside women and slaves. Biblical scholars have long maintained that the early church’s diversity was one of the reasons it became so popular. Roman society was characterized by rigid ethnic and class divisions.
The Christian Church of today continues to have racial, gender, socioeconomic, sexual preference and age divisions but the biggest barrier that every church faces are growth barriers. The reality is that most churches in North America are quite small. The Barna Group has surveyed that the average Protestant church size in America at 89 adults. 60% of Protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2% have over 1000 adults attending. Most churches seem to face growth barriers at five key points: when attendance reaches 50 ,100, 200, 500 and 800.
As a pastor looking to grow your church, make sure you’re always asking yourself the right question about growth. The wrong question pastors ask is, “How do I get my church to grow? The right question is, “What is keeping my church from growing?
It was when the color barrier was broken in baseball, the unhealthy disease of racism was removed from the organization allowing African-American, Hispanic and Asian players to help to grow baseball into the International sport it has become. Healthy organisms grow, so what are barriers that are inhibiting your church’s growth?
I would encourage you to seek out a coach to help you identify your churches barriers and help you implement a plan to remove them.