Moving forward in reaching diversity

by New Church Starts

by Sam Rodriguez, Director of Hispanic/Latino & Multi-Ethnic New Church Starts, Path 1

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

I read this scripture out of the Upper Room Devotional earlier this month. As I’m reminded of it I have to ask how well are we doing following the Great Commission to all nations in our country, or better yet, our mission context? John Wesley tells us that the world is our parish, but does the makeup of our parishes really reflect the world?

Last week a USA Today front page article read, “1990-2010: How America Changed.” The racial demographics of the country, especially among Hispanic/Latinos and Asians have expanded far beyond expectations twenty years ago. Make no mistake that things are changing faster demographically than first reported. The more we become an increasingly diverse country the greater the opportunity we have to actively engage in Christ’s Great Commission right here at home.

On the same day that the USA Today article came out, The Lewis Center for Church Leadership put out yet another article regarding diversity in The United Methodist Church. This one was titled, “Trends Toward Diversity in Congregations.” Not long ago people expected churches to be attended primarily by members of one race. An impressive quote from the article stated that, “new people coming to church, and especially younger people, increasingly expect the church to model diversity.” Diversity within our churches is becoming an expectation instead of a struggle. The attitude of love we have for all people will make our Christian character real. We seem to be maturing both as a culture and a church that can work, pray, and love alike without looking alike.

The Lewis article also provided statistical evidence about The UMC which stated that, “The percentage of churches with all their members from one race dropped from 61.5 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2009.” Indeed, this is a wonderful trend that deserves our attention and perhaps some more celebration than it has gotten so far. What is it that these churches have done in order to increase the likelihood that if a racial/ethnic/diverse person walks into their worship services that he or she will return?

In the mist of many changes both in this country and our denomination, one thing is clear to me. We must not lose focus on the Great Commission, but rather we must seek to live it out. This is all the more important as we plant new churches. Old habits do die hard, but hopefully as more new churches are started by planters with a commitment to diversity we’ll see even more dramatic changes in church demographics as that 56 percent of churches see what they’re missing.

What do you think church plants can do to create diversity in their new congregations and how do we motivate new and established churches to be more welcoming of different racial/ethnic groups?

Sources:

Bible passage, NRSV

USA Today/ Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Lewis article: http://www.churchleadership.com/Updates/110810Update.asp