Like millions of Americans I spent a significant amount of time last night watching the election returns. While I was interested in several state and local races my keen interest in the presidential race kept me glued to the television. From FOX News to MSNBC, I flipped back and forth gleaning as much information as possible on the race for votes in the Electoral College. As the returns came in and states were designated as “blue” or “red” one major implication from the election became crystal clear. The American electorate is much more ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse than at any other time in our history and President Obama’s ability to engage and embrace this diversity was the key to his winning a second term in office. As a result we can garner some major ministry implications for the evangelical church in America.
The changing face of the America population has been the focus of study for demographers for years. Dr. Jim Slack, the premiere demographer in my denominational tribe, has spent the past two plus decades conducting global demographic research. He has researched tirelessly to help evangelicals understand population growth trends, population shifts, people movements, church planting movements, etc. Recently, Slack published his latest research under the title, Realities, Trends and Implications Concerning the Future of the USA, Evangelicals and Southern Baptists. In his research he focused upon the changing face of America’s population and the implications for ministry as a result of these changes. The 2012 presidential election results are but the latest piece of information validating Slack’s observations.
Slack observed, “From 1970-2005 the highest era of population growth in the USA occurred. In that 35-year period 35,000,000 more ethnics came into the USA. This figure includes only legal immigrant ethnics coming into the USA to stay. In addition, immigration data also indicates that the first half of the last decade (2000-2005) has been the highest five-year period of immigration in American history and the latest waves of immigrants come mainly from non-Christian backgrounds such as Islam, Hindu, Buddhist and Animist (Traditional Religion) backgrounds.” Slack concluded, “Soon, no one ethnic group will make up more than fifty percent of the total US population. This means that for certain in only a few years, likely 10 years at the latest, Anglo-Americans will no longer be the largest and dominant ethnic people group in the USA.”
The rise in the ethnic population of the USA, again evidenced by the power shift in the American electorate, yields staggering implications for the predominantly Anglo-American evangelical church. Local congregations must begin examining the demographic information available for their community and become knowledgeable of the ethnic makeup of their surrounding population. We must take the initiative to learn the cultures, the religious belief systems and the worldviews of the ethnic peoples in our communities. We must develop holistic evangelism/discipleship strategies to effectively communicate the Gospel of Christ and strategies to help ethnic converts travel the road of spiritual growth toward mature discipleship. We must develop a simultaneous strategy for ethnic church planting in a multitude of languages (over 230 in my native state). The USA needs Hispanic churches and Burmese churches and Iranian churches and African churches and Russian churches and on and on and on. To be obedient to the Great Commission the evangelical church in America must aggressively engage the multiplicity of ethnic cultures in America with the Gospel in their heart-language. Reaching the “panta ta ethne” in America is the biblical mandate for the church in the USA!
But, not only must we engage in an aggressive strategy for ethnic disciple-making and the planting of ethnic churches we must also embrace ethnic leadership within our ranks. The evangelical church in America needs ethnic pastors, ethnic denominational leaders on both the local and state levels, ethnic professors and presidents in our colleges and seminaries, and ethnic presidents of our national boards and agencies. To effectively reach the American population with the Gospel the evangelical church must resemble the America population and to that end the evangelical church has a long way to go.