For Bishop Fred Caldwell, pastor of Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church, Jesus' parable of paying the vineyard workers (Matt. 20) was divine inspiration for integrating his black congregation in Shreveport, Louisiana. Last summer, he gained international attention by offering whites $5 to attend Sunday services and $10 for Wednesday nights. "Jesus talked about a net that … gathered every kind," he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Racism is living in these churches, and people think it's just going to go away. I'm using the $5 as fishing bait for whosoever will come." Most of the two dozen whites who began attending along with the 300 or so black congregants came for free. "I was glad to be invited," one of them said last August.
A year later, at least five whites have become members of the church, according to a representative at Greenwood Acres, and the number of non-blacks visiting on Sundays has grown considerably.
"Our churches are too segregated," Caldwell told reporters last year. "I just want the kingdom of God to look like it's supposed to."
And that heart cry continues. Though Caldwell's cash offer is no longer on the table, his unorthodox call for church unity across racial lines is a message all Christians need to ponder.1
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