By Frank Michael McCormack
For the North American church, though, the biblical case for diversity in the church is matched with demographic demands. Statistics indicate that, over the next four decades, the complexion and cultural background of the United States will become much more diverse.
The Pew Research Center released a study titled "U.S. Population Projections: 2005–2050" in early 2008 that detailed the estimated demographic trends in America through the midpoint of the 21st century.
With regard to race, the next 40 years will see dramatic change. The Pew Center projected that white Americans, who now make up more than 60 percent of the population, will account for about 47 percent in 2050. The Hispanic population will see the greatest numerical and percentage increase, from 14 percent in 2005 (41 million) to 29 percent in 2050 (127 million). Black Americans will remain about 13 percent of the population, and the Asian community will increase from about 5 percent to 9 percent of the population.
But by far, the most remarkable demographic shift will occur among immigrants. The Pew Center estimated that, of the total population increase between 2005 and 2050, a full 82 percent of the growth will be from immigrants and their descendants. Between 2005 and 2050, about 120 million people will be added due to immigration -- 67 million immigrants, 47 million children born to immigrants and about 3 million grandchildren.
The United States in 40 years will, undoubtedly, undergo a dramatic demographic makeover.
But The Pew Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life has found that evangelical churches have a long way to go with regard to diversity. In the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, it found that about 81 percent of all members of evangelical Protestant churches identify themselves as "white." Seven percent consider themselves "Hispanic," followed by 6 percent who identify themselves as "black." Four percent identified themselves as "other," while 2 percent were "Asian."
And in Southern Baptist life, the statistics are even more concerning. According to an internal study titled "Evangelism and Church Planting in North America" published by the North American Mission Board, about 93 percent of members of Southern Baptist churches in 2008 considered themselves to be "Anglo American," or white.
The study drew three sobering conclusions.
"First, the growth of the population of North America is quickly outpacing the growth of Southern Baptists. Second, North America is much more diverse than the SBC. Third, Southern Baptists will have to cross many cultural and language barriers to evangelize and disciple the 255 million lost people of North America," the study said.
Emetuche summed it up this way: "The truth is this: North America as a whole is becoming much more diverse. We can't escape that. That will affect culture and everything else. We have to understand that."
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