MLK, the Church, and Racial Reconciliation graphic

Martin Luther King Jr. is a titan of our Christian faith; truly an extraordinary man of God. I feel like my kingdom agenda is small when I consider his work, and at the same time, I’m inspired to try great things for the kingdom of Christ.

Before his address to the faculty and student body of Western Michigan University, Dr. King was introduced,

We are most fortunate to have as a speaker. . . a man who was cited in 1957 by the Gallop Poll as one of the most admired religious leaders in the world. He is the same man who was selected in 1957 by Time Magazine as one of the ten outstanding personalities of the year…

In addition to his regular duties as co‐pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, our speaker has authored several books. The three most recent are “Stride Toward Freedom” published by Harper and Brothers in 1958. This book received a Ainsfield‐Wolf award as the best book on race relations in 1958 “The Measure of Man” published the Christian Education Press in 1959 and most recently, back in this year, 1963, “Strength to Love” published by Harper and Row.

Our speaker is married. He is the father of four children. He was educated in the public schools of Atlanta, Georgia, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University from 1950 to 1953. In 1955, he received his Ph. D. degree in the field systematic theology from Boston University in the east…He holds honorary degrees from a dozen or more universities throughout this country.

Now that I’ve said all of this, may I say that his real importance as an individual is that while he has personally had to meet great adversity to gain his knowledge, he has done with his knowledge what all educated people should do, namely, he has put it to use for public advantage.

It gives me great pleasure at this time to introduce on the Western Michigan University campus, a distinguished theologian, a gentleman of thought, and a leader for nonviolent action, the Reverend Martin King, Junior. Reverend King.

The speech Dr. King delivered to the faculty and student body of Western Michigan University was exceptional. You’ll find the transcript here.

After he delivered his speech Dr. King fielded questions. He was asked, “Don’t you feel that integration can only be started and realized in the Christian church, not in schools or by other means? This would be a means of seeing just who are true Christians.”

Dr. King responded,

“We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. 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. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this.

Now, I’m sure that if the church had taken a stronger stand all along, we wouldn’t have many of the problems that we have. The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body.

Now, I’m not saying that society must sit down and wait on a spiritual and moribund church as we’ve so often seen. I think it should have started in the church, but since it didn’t start in the church, our society needed to move on. The church, itself, will stand under the judgment of God.

Now that the mistake of the past has been made, I think that the opportunity of the future is to really go out and to transform American society, and where else is there a better place than in the institution that should serve as the moral guardian of the community. The institution that should preach brotherhood and make it a reality within its own body.”

“Tragic,” Dr. King says. One year ago, Christianity Today posted an article in which they echoed the words of Dr. King, “Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group. And most worshipers think their church is fine the way it is. Two-thirds of American churchgoers (67 percent) say their church has done enough to become racially diverse. And less than half think their church should become more diverse.”

Segregation is a result of Satan, the sin of man and the curse. We will not be segregated in the Kingdom of Christ (Rev. 7:9). If the Kingdom of Christ is a guiding vision for community of the Church, then intentional integration is the agenda of the Church. If unity in Christ is a work of Jesus Christ, purchased with His broken body on the cross, then unity in Christ is not optional within the Church (Eph 2:14).

Cultural and social segregation seems to be the natural outworking of the human heart. Black and white rarely worship or live the Christian life together. Racial integration within the Church is either a stumbling block and hindrance or a means to the advancement of the gospel and the display of the glory of God. Is there even the slightest inclination that our cultural preferences are more important than the glory of God and the advance of the gospel?

In the Church we teach that those who desire to follow Jesus must be vigilant, diligent and intentional when it comes to resisting and rooting-out sinful, destructive behavior that does not give the Lord the glory and obedience that He is due.

Just like all evil and sinful activity, found in the human heart and showing itself in the way humankind shapes the world, segregation in the Church must be vigilantly, diligently and intentionally resisted and rooted-out in order to be obedient to the truth of the gospel, for the glory of God and His son Jesus Christ.

We, the Church, should be the ones the leading the way, leading the world, into racial reconciliation and integration.

If you are a follower of Christ, you should hate segregation. Segregation is something in which Satan delights and which Christ will one day completely destroy. Dr. King, a hero in the faith, worked diligently to advance a kingdom agenda on this earth. Let us be inspired by the example of this great man.

Consider taking a few moments and watching some videos about Martin Luther King Jr. I watched this one recently.

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