Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Ten Years From Now, How Secularism and Church Diversity Intersect

Ten Years From Now, How Secularism and Church Diversity Intersect

Christians will surely represent a smaller but more serious part of the population; this, I would argue, is not such a bad thing.

Like Christians living in more heavily contentious regions around the globe now, believers living in America 10 years down the road are going to have to consider the cost of following Jesus. The culture will only become farther removed from the tenets of our faith; because of this, pressures to conform, as Paul writes in Romans 12, “to the pattern of this world” will be at an all time high.

But my hope and prayer is that believers will stand firm amidst a whole host of temptations and choose to live distinctively Christian lives. Our neighbors, family members and friends should be able to tell, not just by what we say, but what we do that something about us is different because of our faith.

I can’t help but consider the relevance of Jesus’ words to the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Changing church demographics

The Public Religion Research Institute released a report in 2017 entitled America’s Changing Religious Identity based on findings from their 2016 American Values Atlas—for this, a sample of more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states was analyzed.

Some of the core findings: White Christians now account for fewer than half of the public. On a broader scale, the number of white evangelical Protestants in America is on the decline.

Data from Pew Research Center also corroborates these findings in their 2014 Religious Landscape Study. While 70 percent of white Americans would call themselves Christians, 79 percent of black Americans and 77 percent of Latinos would call themselves the same.

The face of Christianity isn’t just changing globally—it’s changing even within America. Demographics are clearly shifting and the church is beginning to look more and more ethnically diverse with each passing year.

What does this mean for us in the next decade? Primarily, it means that we must begin to reassess what it looks like to live and worship in unity as the body of Christ.

Christians living in America are going to have to deal with the root cause of some of their deepest sins and divisions. We’re going to have to confront the evils of racism, prejudice and other dividing walls preventing us from living as one body in Christ Jesus.

Going forward, are we (the church) going to revel in familiarity or celebrate diversity? Are we going to focus on what divides us, or instead on what unites us? Will we keep our doors closed, or instead choose to welcome people from a wide range of cultures into our places of worship?

I think these two issues actually intersect.

Two Connected Issues

A secular world needs to see a diverse church. In doing so, some of their presumptions are undermined—like that evangelicals are mono-ethnic, isolated, etc.

So, as we look 10 years ahead, the culture will become more secular. That will, indeed, make some people harder to reach. Yet, we are called to reach that culture.

When the words of Christ come from believers in a community, that is a picture of the Kingdom of God—where men and women from “every tongue, tribe and nation” are showing the love of Christ, that word will more likely be heard.

This article originally appeared here.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.