Don’t Diversify if…

In early July I gave a presentation at Lipscomb University’s Summer Celebration. I spoke on the topic: Practical Steps to Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Church. You can listen to the 50 minute presentation HERE. Since time didn’t permit me to cover all the points in my notes, I thought that I would use the presentation as a template for a series of articles addressing the individual points in greater detail. So here we are…

This blog is dedicated to promoting the need for multi-ethnic churches and providing encouragement and resources for existing multi-ethnic congregations. I’m all in regarding the virtues of diverse congregations. But I don’t believe that every church be ethnically diverse.

The primary reason a church shouldn’t feel pressure to become multi-ethnic, is if your surrounding community is mono-ethnic. These churches should remain willing to transform into diverse churches if circumstances change, but a church in a city community filled with people of color shouldn’t obsess about adding white members. Likewise a church in rural Minnesota shouldn’t feel inadequate because they have no African-American members.

At other times,  churches just aren’t ready to increase their ethnic diversity. If you’re a member in one of these churches, you need to a) be aware that pushing for increased diversity will be difficult; b) consider moving to another church.  Here are a few ways of telling if your church is ready to take the next steps:

  • If putting the sign “A House of Prayer for All Nations” on your church’s front lawn would create controversy, you might not be ready for increased diversity.
  • If you need to warn your friends of color before inviting them to you church, you might not be ready for increased diversity.
  • If your leaders don’t see a need for intentional diversification of your church, you’re not ready.
  • grayscale portrait photo of shocked womanIf your church members don’t like they way “they” sing, you probably aren’t ready for increased diversity.
  • If your church leaders haven’t noticed that the neighborhood demographics have changed, they might not be ready for increased diversity in the church.
  • If your church leaders have noticed that the neighborhood demographics have changed and they want to relocate the church….
  • If making the observation in Bible class, “You know Jesus wasn’t white, right?” would result in a knife fight, you might not be ready for increased diversity.
  • If people of color begin attending and original members of the church feel a need to increase security, they probably aren’t ready for increased diversity.
  • If most of your members don’t understand how Democratic voters can be Christians, they might not be ready to welcome people of color.
  • If people express a desire to welcome all ethnicities to their church but they don’t want anything to change, they may not be quite ready to diversify.
  • If church members believe that people living in the United States should either speak English or “go home”, the church may not be ready to diversify.

I’ve tried to keep this list lighthearted, but the underlying attitudes of fear and prejudice are anything but humourous. For some people the concept of segregation is so deeply embedded that they may never be ready for an ethnically diversified church. Sometimes, it’s necessary to start new churches for new people.