I’m going to show my cards a bit. I believe that the demographic of the church ought to be an accurate reflection of the local community it serves. That means that most churches, at least in an urban setting ought to be multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and cover multiple socioeconomic groups.
The reality of church demographics in America is that “birds of a feather, flock together.” Despite the reality of local demographics, churches for the most part are homogenous. Chris Rice and Spencer Perkins write in More than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel, “Ninety percent of African-American Christians worship in all-black churches. Ninety percent of white American Christians worship in all-white churches, …Years since the incredible victories of the civil rights movement, we continue to live in the trajectory of racial fragmentation. The biggest problem is that we don’t see that as a problem.”
It is a problem because part of the power of the gospel is shown in the Holy Spirit’s ability to unite diverse things. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about those who were near and those who were far away being brought into one body. If we as churches are not doing all we can to bring diversity into the church, then we are withholding one of the most powerful facets of the gospel from the world around us.
With that said, I want to offer three words I think the church needs to keep in mind as we strive for diverse unity in the midst of an increasingly fragmented America.
So much of our community and ministry programs are developed around a skewed view of Christian identity. Our tendency is to offer discipleship strategies around homogenous identifiers. We have married community groups, business men breakfast, youth groups, singles ministries, etc…. Although none of these things are done with evil intent, it is reflective of the way we define identity.
As Christians, we need a different starting point. My identity is no longer a male, white, married twenty-something with a college education and a kid. My identity is Christ. Once that becomes our starting point, the way we connect and congregate changes. Once that is our common ground, the diversity his gospel reaches will begin to be reflected in our community.
There is a spiritual manifestation of the church that has no bounds and has nothing to do with location. But there is also a very physical aspect of church. Churches dwell somewhere. They dwell in actual places in the physical world. Because of that, we as churches must take our location seriously. We need to know our community.
What is unique about it? What is its history? What are the specific needs? It is becoming increasingly common for people to commute to church. The problem with a commuter church is that the other six days there is no connection to the disciple making process of that local body. For us to reflect the diversity of the local community, we must know and be involved in the local community.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul goes through one of his many laundry lists of unrighteous things people do that don’t fit with a Christian’s life. It’s easy for us to focus on the laundry list and shun people who fall short. But that is not the point of the verse. In 11 Paul writes, “And such were some of you.” Paul is not listing these things just to make people feel bad, but to remind them that the righteousness they now have is not earned but given.
We were all rebels of God. All desperately depraved. Therefore we have no other option but to be humble in the way we approach each other.
What do you think?
What are some ways we can seek diversity? Do you think it’s important to seek diversity in the church?