Black Church vs White Church

Normally, I have a lot to say but honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with this topic.

First of all, let me start by stating that this title is a complete oxymoron for so many reasons. Primarily, If churches are in competition with each other, it defeats the purpose of being a church altogether.

Secondly, I can understand that churches operate all around the world and therefore the demographics of the church can be somewhat racially skewed. However, what I fail to comprehend is that in countries and regions where there is a strong multicultural community, we have created, justified and tolerated churches that are separated by race. No matter what angle I look at this, it makes absolutely no sense to me.

You guys know I’m from South East London originally. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrap. When I was younger, I went to a C of E church where my family and I were the only Black people. It reflected our geographic location too – at school, work etc., we were always the minority in these places and I thought nothing of it. But as I grew up, more Africans immigrated to our area and before I knew it, White faces became very few and far between. By my teenage years, I ended up at a church with a heaving Nigerian population because it was indicative of who lived in the area. I get that. It was representative.

Same with when I moved to Nottingham… I taught at a school in an area with a large mixed-race community; people there were used to mixing. And it didn’t stop at the church walls – the congregation was incredibly diverse and reflective of the community. This was my first taste of a multicultural church.

Image by Nathan Dumlao

And then I moved to Abu Dhabi. Here, my church is full of people from different parts of the world; I think every continent is represented. It’s here that I first acknowledged that my identity as a Christian had been founded with a much greater cultural influence than I had once thought. The way I pray, worship, communicate in church is very British – with an African twist – and different to my South African, Indian and Filipino counterparts out here (to name a few).

But as different as we are, we all find common ground in the gospel of Jesus.

So how come, when it comes to some aspects of church, we can be so divided? It’s very apparent to me that the Jim Crow laws of America have massively influenced – and I’ll go as far as to say dictated – the way the rest of us do church around the world.

Our music, in particular, is so segregated that even YouTube has separated them in their playlists.

If you type in ‘gospel music,’ you get the likes of William McDowell, Israel Houghton and Ron Kenoly. Type in ‘worship music’ and you get Hillsong, Bethel and Elevation Worship.

Image by Edwin Andrade

While we’re on the topic, can someone please explain to me why The Elevation Collective exists? Why do Black artists need to do ‘gospel covers’ of Christian music? Who’s idea was this? Please shed some light in the comments.

‘Separate but equal’ has no place in the church.

When did Christian music become so black and white? Literally. I know I’m not alone in noticing that ‘white churches’ sing ‘white music’ and ‘black churches’ sing ‘black music’ generally. I haven’t used capital letters at the beginning of these words because I don’t believe they deserve them, if you’re wondering…

If we are not singing each other’s music in church, we have to admit that it’s because we are allowing our cultural identities and human phenomenons to alter the way we practise our faith. We absolutely should not feel that we cannot sing songs in church that have been created by people who are from a different culture to us. After all, we are kingdom citizens first, human beings second and our ethnicities/heritage/race come after that.

‘Cultural Appropriation’ has absolutely no place in the church.

I know we’re living in a society where we’re all very aware of who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re headed. Many of us have become more politically correct; we try not to step on each others toes or cause offence. I’m not naive to the origins of the separations within the American church but we cannot allow the atrocities of humankind to prevent us from the beauty of unity within the church. 

Image by rawpixel

The church is a place where everyone should feel welcome. And personally, it’s amazing to see people who hail from completely opposite walks of life come together on the basis of loving Jesus. I think the best kinds of churches are those that make room for and embrace the cultural/political/financial etc. differences of their congregations. Unapologetically

Whatever our background, we are totally loved and totally accepted by God.

If God can do that for us, surely we can do, at the very least, the same with our music.

Image by Denise Jans

Tell me what you think in the comment section below, lovelies! Toodles x 

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3 thoughts on “Black Church vs White Church

  1. Great read – I think rather than it being racial: i.e. white and black, it’s more of denominations and what each race/culture has an affinity to. We have to take into account the socio-cultural context. Church wouldn’t be exempt from that simply because it’s ‘church’. For example with gospel music and the Elevation collective, I wouldn’t say that’s racial but more music genre. Gospel is a genre within Christian music in as much as neo-soul is a genre in R&B. And the remaking of old Christian music so it sounds more gospel is catering to an audience that prefers that sound. It just so happens because of history and culture, we have preferences that relate to race. The bigger discussion is the differences between the denominations / “movements”, the disparities between them and what that means when discussing faith

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    1. Hey 👋🏾
      I think you have a very interesting perspective but there are a few points where I disagree entirely. I completely understand that we all have cultural differences and preferences but I feel that church should be at least one place where external/worldly influences should not impact us so greatly. If the church congregation is diverse, then wouldn’t certain people groups feel underrepresented or even undervalued if their cultures were ignored? The separation between these genres in Christian music have been born out of cultural inequality so does that mean that one type of music is inferior to the other? With the Elevation Collective (EC) in particular, I see it as unnecessary because the music should be interpreted to fit the musical preferences of the church anyway. I know my Nigerian church back home would definitely ‘pentecostalise’ the songs but the fact that there are two versions now makes the ‘us and them’ distinction more apparent. EC shouldn’t feel like they needed to get a Black person collaborating with them to enable them to do a gospel track. They should just do a gospel track. I think if we put this argument down to ‘denominational’ or purely cultural preference, we do what the world does and ignore the glaringly obvious racial divides in the church and run the risk of avoiding a conversation that could resolve many of the issues surrounding this topic x

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