I am a white male. For centuries most of America was viewed, imagined, and projected through eyes like mine. But that is changing and changing fast. Population demographics are in transition and America is looking different. Because of this the church must view race and culture differently if we are going to bring the gospel to the culture in relevant ways.
Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the U.S. is quickly changing into a plurality population.
The census projects that by 2043 “Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, Black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites.”
In just ten years, in 2024, the non-Hispanic white population will hit its peak at 199.6 million. After that the population of that demographic will begin to gradually decline.
Minorities currently make up 37% of the population, but by 2060 that category will reach 57%.
The fact is that the complexion of our world has been noticeably changing for some time and those changes will continue. So what does this mean for the church, particularly the white church?
It means we need to stop seeing churches as white, or black, or Asian, or Arab. We are going to need to see the church through the eyes of the gospel and not the eyes of race and culture. Jesus died for man. Not just our slice of the demographic.
He died for the sins of all men who descended from Adam. Why else would Christ say that we were to preach this gospel to “all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
And this is important. For a long time white church goers have been very warm to the idea of taking the gospel to people of different races and different nations. This has been a high value in the evangelical church. Reaching people from the other side of town or the other side of the pond has been our accepted mission. But that often is where the mission ended.
Most white church goers never imagined that those people reached with the gospel would actually go to church with them. Oh sure they figured some would, but not in large proportion. But this perspective must change in many places if we are going to relevantly reach our communities for Christ in the future.
It used to be that we would try to reach a community by reflecting the nature of that community in our church. That more often than not cut along racial and cultural lines. It made sense and was based on a principle called the homogeneous unit principle.
But now, in many places this is changing, for the community itself is becoming significantly more diverse. The principle is still somewhat sound, but now to reflect that principle the church itself must become more racially and culturally diverse.
The local church I lead has been in such a transition for years. About 20-25% of our congregational attendance consists of Hispanics, Burmese, and Karen peoples. We are beginning to reflect the future direction of our culture.
Of course, right now these minority cultures hold their own services in our church. We have five worship services in 4 different languages each Sunday. Language and cultural differences still divide us in many ways. But this will change in just a generation or two.
When the younger generations of these immigrants are educated in English and begin to assimilate into Western culture those ties to their cultural distinctives will weaken. When that happens we will need to become more integrated in our church experience.
In the mean time it will be important that we begin crossing those cultural barriers as a congregation as fast as we can. We need to view each other as brothers and sisters who are one in Christ. We need to love each other in word and deed, not just in principle.
In the future, God will reach diverse communities through churches where the members have embraced one another’s cultural diversity while at the same time finding unparalleled unity in the gospel.
There are amazing days ahead for the church. They won’t be easy, but they promise amazing opportunities for the relationally adventurous. We will have to stretch ourselves and step out of our comfort zones. But the opportunity to see our church and community through God’s eyes rather than the eyes of our provincial culture is so worth the risk.
Questions for Discussion: What is it about this future that excites you? What about it frightens you? Do you have ideas for how churches can embrace the diversity of cultures in their communities? Do you have ideas on how brothers and sisters in Christ from differing cultures can bridge relational gaps and find greater unity in their mutual love for Jesus? Enter the dialogue and You can leave a comment by clicking here.
 “Urban Now: North America’s Growing Urbanization Impacts Church Planting,” Joe Conway, On Mission Magazine, North American Mission Board, SBC, Volume 17, Number 2, p. 31.