Demographic Paradigm Shift And The Church

June 5, 2014 — 9 Comments

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.

Diverse in Culture, Unified in Christ

Diverse in Culture, Unified in Christ

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the U.S. is quickly changing into a plurality population.

Consider this…

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.”[1]

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.[2]

Minorities currently make up 37% of the population, but by 2060 that category will reach 57%.[3]

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.

[1] “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.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Greg Faulls


9 responses to Demographic Paradigm Shift And The Church

  1. Powerful comments and discussion indeed…here in Memphis for a season, I feel and see this evolution of cultures as our four adjacent neighbors are from 4 other countries and we were chatting and our kids playing with a family from yet another region of the world.

    An eye-opening experience for sure, I have come to really enjoy the interaction, open up my perspective a bit and look forward to learning more about their perspectives, their ideas and their families.

    I think to myself, “How would I want to be treated when invited into their home for dinner?” And then, as best as the Spirit can muster, I try to respond in kind, with that same behavior back to them.

    ‘They’ve got to know how much you care, before they’ll listen to why you do what you do = why we love and follow the Jesus who has changed our hearts eternally.

    In Christ…

  2. Love how you wrote this. The point that we must see each other as brothers and sisters, through the eyes of the Gospel is so key. That’s one reason I love our church! We can misidentify ourselves within minority cultures but to understand you are truly loved and accepted by God and his people frees us!

  3. Sharing a vision…

    I saw the earth and all the earths colors
    The colors represented all nations
    three words were spoken to me but I did not see by who or from where they came. “Eye of God”
    The earth became an iris and in the iris
    a pupil appeared. There are three things in this one place.
    one nation, a birth canal,
    a celebration. I was taken and placed inside the womb where a man in a white robe appeared and spoke these words.
    the earth will quake and tremble like that of a woman in birthing pains, nation will rise against nation, do not fear for I am coming”.
    I was shown the earth again , it was now an eye. The eye began focusing in and out.. in the state of dim light..the eye was contracted. Nations looked like mountains. In full light the eye contracted and the nations lay flat..
    water came from the pupil and does flow to the ends of the earth..
    this is all that came

  4. Reaching the unchurched requires changing their mental image of Christians according to this newly released book by Jeffery Warren Scott. Churches that that are successful in reaching the unchurched are likely to be encouraging, joyful, and compassionate.

  5. Once I knew my identity in Christ, I now believe that I’m FIRST a Christian (with no focus on skin color, heritage or culture) and SECOND comes my demographic (Hispanic). Is this correct to believe?

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