January 25, 2014

​Racial Diversity in Churches Remains Illusive

BY BOB SMIETANA©2014 Baptist Press

Having a
racially diverse church remains more dream than reality for most Protestant
pastors. More than eight in 10 (85 percent) say every church should strive for
racial diversity, according to a survey from LifeWay Research.

But few have diverse flocks.

Most (86 percent) say their congregation is predominately one racial or ethnic

It's a reality that once led Martin Luther King Jr. to call Sunday mornings the
most segregated time of the week.

Today, diverse churches remain rare, says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay
Research, partly because of human nature.

"Everybody wants diversity," Stetzer said. "But many don't want
to be around people who are different."

The research study also found 91 percent say "churches should reflect the
racial diversity in their community," and 79 percent believe their
congregations look similar to the people in their neighborhood.

But Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic Church, a multiethnic church in central
Arkansas, is skeptical.

DeYmaz, who also helped found the Mosaix network of multiethnic churches, said
pastors aren't always aware of how diverse their communities have become.

"Pastors would do well to look into the diversity of nearby public schools
and gauge this against the diversity of their church to really understand their
context," he said. "They might, too, spend one hour sitting at the
front of the nearby Walmart or other local grocery to see if in fact their
church reflects the community."

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows America is becoming increasingly

About 17 percent of Americans identify as Hispanic. African Americans make up
13 percent of the population, followed by Asian Americans (5 percent), and 1
percent Native American or Native Alaskan. Another 2.4 percent identify with
more than one racial group.

Non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the population. That number drops to
about 49 percent for children under 5 years old, according to a recent report
from the Associated Press.

DeYmaz sees the widespread support for the idea of diversity in the LifeWay
Research poll as a good sign.

"We have gained tremendous ground over the past 10 years or so,"
DeYmaz said.

A decade ago, he said, the first meeting of the Mosaix network drew about 30
people. A similar meeting last November drew more than 1,000.

He said pastors are more aware of the need for diversity in churches. In the
past, DeYmaz and other leaders in multiethnic churches spent much of their time
trying to convince other pastors about the need for diversity. Now they spend
more time talking with pastors about strategies for creating diverse

"Increasingly, their question is not, 'Why should I?' but, 'How can
I?'" he said.

Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic congregation in
Indian Land, S.C., said if pastors want diverse congregations, they need to
change their sermons.

He worries pastors support diversity for pragmatic rather than theological

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