To be a House of Prayer for ALL Ethnicities

“…My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all nations…” Mark 11:17a

     Dr. Martin Luther King, the great civil rights leader once commented… “Unfortunately, most of the major denominations still practice segregation in local churches, hospitals, schools, and other church institutions. It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when many are standing to sing: "In Christ There Is No East Nor West." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958
In some churches serving, praying, worshiping and living together as a multi-ethnic congregation is difficult because of the pride and prejudice which still exists in our land. Over the years I have discovered that within our local communities people have cultivated several ethnic stereotyping… Having lived in the Boston area since January 1982, I found that within our society grouping things, thoughts, and people into nice little boxes was necessary for certain people groups in these parts to handle the complexities of a changing somewhere the foolish racial stereotyping began to circulate and dictate …
  •  that whites think that they have divine rights,
  • that African-Americans are violent and power-driven,
  • that Native American Indians are lazy and unimportant,
  • that Latinos are lazy and irresponsible,
  • that the Polish are stupid and slow witted,
  • that the Irish are lazy alcoholics,
  • that the Jews are malicious, power-driven and dishonest,
  • that Muslims are all violent and hateful religious bigots,
  • that Italians are emotional and not trustworthy…etc, etc, etc
      Why and how did all this ethnic stereotyping begin? The problem lies in the fact that people everywhere tend to exaggerate the differences between ethnic and cultural groups in order to justify their own negative sense of insecurity. People first begin discriminating in feeling, then in thought process and finally in action. For example in Boston, the traits considered as a virtue within one community is often considered as being a vice when observed in members of another community. A white Anglo-Saxon would admire Abraham Lincoln for being thrifty, hardworking, eager to learn, ambitious and successful. In a Jew, such traits are often seen by other races as being stingy, power-driven, uncharitable, etc.

      As Christians, we have to deal with these kinds of un-Christian thought patterns…thought patterns such as “me and my kind” are superior to other races. We must allow the Word and Spirit of God to penetrate our hearts and release us from such ungodly “thought processes,” and only then can we truly become a source of ethnic unity and Christ-centered freedom for our communities. Healing can only come as we risk the pain of letting go of ungodly thought patterns which we have bound ourselves to mask our insecurities. Healing always follows obedience to the Lord’s Word and Spirit, and willingness to risk admitting our sins, and saying good-bye to bad habits and bad thought processes. When we truly let go, healing, forgiveness, love and reconciliation can occur (John 13)

      Reconciliation proceeds by inviting the past to pass, and being present with Christ and one-another in the here and now. At the Shepherd’s House (TSH), we invite the congregation to drop the past by dropping old demands, canceling old debts, old criticisms and prejudices. Changing to a new life in Christ in this new century is the natural order of things when the Lord moves ahead of us in this 21st century. Thus, the congregation is free to change, free to reconcile, and free to conform to the image of Christ…NOW!!! HOWEVER, we cannot complete a mission that is truly worth something in a single day or a single year. Therefore, we must take a long term view toward reconciliation.

To start, the values which shape our decisions and actions at TSH must be based on proper Christ-centered values which transcends ethnicity, culture and civilizations… so we must make some Christ-centered “core commitments” as a congregation to facilitate racial and ethnic reconciliation…such as


1. Since humanity is created in IMAGE of God (Genesis 1 & 2), TSH must refuse to make distinctions between one race or another, or make decisions on the basis of one race being superior to another
2. Since we are called to walk in truth (John 4:24), TSH must point out dishonesty and discard dishonest beliefs as we discover them in ourselves, and in our midst through the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
3. Based on the Creation Account (Genesis 1 & 2) and the work of Christ (Acts 1 & 2), there is no honest base – biblically, biologically or culturally – for prohibiting interracial marriages.
4. In obedience to John 3:16, TSH must question and challenge prejudices that separate people, and walls that create mistrust amongst people of all races


      When we walk anchored to such Christ-centered values we will come to a place the ancient Greeks called “Agape,” (LOVE) which holds together a cluster of meanings that sum up peacemaking and reconciliation. The key to this 'Agape' experience is in "RELATIONSHIPS" the Lord described in John 13:34-35: relationship with each other as members of a new family, and relationship with Jesus, the Enabler of the new relationship. The LOVE, TRUTH, JUSTICE and UNITY that permeates the new community are the TRUE witnesses to the world that Jesus is real, and a real evidence that the 'glory' that has entered this earth. Through God’s love, we realize that TRUE reconciliation through Christ to one another works out the mathematics of justice

      Christ is our true model for racial and ethnic harmony. The true biblical model for the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1-2), gathers all the meaning of reconciliation, peacemaking and love in one exemplary life. He is the greatest example to TSH, our local community and the world…The Lord Jesus was born in the most rigidly ethnic culture of all times. He was born in a very nationalistic time in Israel’s history when the Romans ruled Judea. He was born into a family of royal lineage. He was born in a time when the revolutionary flame was in every heart, burning with hatred for the Roman oppressors. He was born in a country practicing the apartheid of segregation between the Jews and Samaritans. The Lord Jesus was born in a world filled with prejudice, opinionated, bigoted, dogmatic zealots – Roman, Samaritan, and Jewish. Yet, the Lord Jesus did not show a trace of it. There is absolutely nothing in His life to indicate feelings of racial superiority, national prejudice, or personal discrimination. WHAT A GREAT EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW!!!

      As we look onto Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-4), TSH can stand with the Lord Jesus Christ… and in the standing with Christ we will stand with all humanity. We can discard prejudice whenever and wherever we find it. But we must first confront it and eliminate it from within ourselves; then and only then, can we confront it in the world around us….when we truly begin to do this, our house, the Shepherd’s House will become a house of prayer, healing and hope for all races (nations)……that is part of the Midrash of the Text Message in Mark 11:17a for us at TSH…Shalom!!!


  • Jack Hayford , Pastors of Promise. Regal Books, 1997.
  • J. Cedar, K. Hughes and B. Patterson. Mastering the Pastoral Role. Multnomah Press, 1991.
  • Thomas Oden. Pastoral Theology. HarperCollins Publishers, 1983.