Many church leaders and members do not know what takes place in their own communities. Many times when I have met with church leaders and shared the demographics and realities of the members of their community, they express total surprise at what is taking place. Their church is a bubble. Or to use another metaphor, the congregation is an island of sameness in a community of diversity.
“What’s wrong with our church?”
It was a sincere question. The elder wanted to know why there seems to be a steady erosion of attendance, discipleship, and evangelism at his church.
Then I showed him the demographics of the church’s community. Over 40 percent of the area was non-white and growing, but the church was above 95 percent white. My response was simple. “You are not connecting with your community. The ethnic and racial diversity of the community is not reflected in the church.”
This church is one of tens of thousands of congregations that are one color, one race, or one group. Why? Why is this reality still taking place today? Let’s look at six reasons.
- Racism still exists.Racism has not gone away. The events of this weekend in Virginia remind us of that tragic reality. Some pastors are still fired because they encourage racial and ethnic diversity in their churches. Other forms of racism are more subtle, but no less toxic.
- There is no intentionality.Churches that are evangelistic have leaders and members who are intentional about reaching people for Christ. Churches that better reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of our world are more intentional about praying, seeking, and acting upon their desire to reach people who may not look like them.
- The leadership of the church is not diverse.If the ministry staff and lay leadership do not reflect the diversity of the community, the church is sending a clear message. The diverse community cannot have a true voice in the church if it is not represented in the leadership of the church.