I live in the heart of Los Angeles – Hollywood.
Our city is a melting pot of diversity. People of all colors, backgrounds and nationalities live here in Los Angeles. And yet, unfortunately, most churches do not reflect the racial diversity in our city.
In fact most churches in America lack racial diversity.
The Oasis Church has always had racial diversity. It is one of the unique things about our church. From the first day we started Oasis – there has been a diverse racial mix; black, brown and white – Latino, European, Russian, Philippino or African. It’s amazing. I’ve always felt it was something God was doing and we just tried to not mess it up.
In our latest survey – our church’s ethnic breakdown was:
African- American 30%
Hispanic / Latino 15%
Multi-Ethnic & 13%
I hope that one day when churches are asked how they achieve racial diversity it will be like asking a fish how it swims. “I’m not really sure …it just comes naturally.”
But for now that is just a dream. I believe in that dream. With God all things are possible.
What’s funny is, the fact that God has even used me in this way.
I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a racially segregated world. In 1957, I saw the integration of Central High School accompanied by the National Guard and covered by international news.
I was raised in a family with Southern roots and honestly – they were prejudice.
I had every reason and excuse to grow up with a racist attitude. Yet I didn’t.
None of us should blame our current attitude and perspective on our family upbringing or heritage. Whether it’s racism or genuine acceptance and value of all human beings – it’s a choice we all make in our own heart.
God is using a white boy from Arkansas to lead a multi-racial church in the heart of Hollywood – I love it.
The New Testament reveals that the work of Jesus Christ makes us all one. ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Galatians 3:28 NIV
Many people are attracted to a multi-racial congregation. It’s often one of the first things people notice about our church. But in my 26 years of pastoring, I’ve learned that some people don’t seem to have the capacity to ‘live’ in that environment; because they bring their own baggage, bias, hurts and prejudices with them… and eventually they leave or they reveal their racially motivated frustrations. It’s easy to have a multi-racial audience, go to any baseball game; it’s a different issue to have a multi-racial community.
Some are overly sensitive. Some are too insensitive. Others just don’t trust other races.
It’s the love of God that allows people to accept, honor and value one another even though we have different experiences, upbringing and views.
For some churches achieving racial diversity will be natural – for others it will have to be intentional, because they are overcoming years of distorted values, relationship ‘norms’, deep wounds or social stigmas.