Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Population Shifts and the Future of Churches of Christ in the U.S.

The Census Bureau now estimates that minorities will become the majority in the United States by the year 2042. That's different from earlier estimates which had previously identified the tipping point at 2050. The times, they are a changin'. And faster than we thought. Consider:
  • Over the next few decades, the Hispanic population of the U.S. will triple. By contrast, during that same period of time the non-Hispanic, single-race white population will barely increase at all. Could President Obama eventually be followed by a "President Hernandez"?
  • In just 15 short years, minorities will comprise half of the children in this country, perhaps the most important statistic in this list.
  • Currently, about 1.3 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year. That number will likely climb to about 2 million a year by 2040.
  • Over the next few decades, the Asian population in the U.S. will rise from 15.5 million to well over 40 million.
  • During that same period of time, the number of people who see themselves as multi-racial will climb from 5.2 million to over 16 million.

As these changes are taking place, what I see among the Churches of Christ is a widespread satisfaction with church life and our few church plantings which are almost-exclusively white, middle to upper-middle class, ignorant of the world on our back doorsteps and, consequently, destined for a waning influence in a future United States.

Here in Amarillo, for example, mission efforts conducted by Churches of Christ among Hispanics and Asians are almost non-existent. And interestingly enough, those efforts are not being conducted by the college-educated, multi-staff, well-to-do congregations. Those groups(where I most naturally fit in) seem very interested in overcoming what they see as their sectarian past. But they do not have an evangelistic motivation or rationale to replace the old one.

The congregations who have the strongest outreach to minority groups in Amarillo are the ones with older facilities, located in the poorer sections of the city, and who hold to what I would describe as a much more traditional outlook. Is it that way in your city too?

I do not intend to disparage what is currently being done. In fact, I applaud and want to do anything I can to encourage those efforts. What I also want to say is that, along these line, the Churches of Christ must pick up the pace. Immediately.

What do you think?


preacher smith said...

You nailed it, brother! Dead on.

Anonymous said...

Even the white middle to upper-middle class folks we have traditionally reached are becoming vastly different in their thinking than the leadership (elders) of most churches who are still operating from a modern mindset. So not only do we have to have a vision for racial diversity and change in that arena of culture but also even the cultural shift that is happening among the white race as well.

Frank Bellizzi said...

You're right, Matt. Even if the Churches of Christ keep to themselves, there will be plenty of problems to deal with.

But maybe if we did more looking out, we'd be able to count our blessings, put our problems in perspective, and know the joy of having worthwhile problems.

Arlene Kasselman said...

Frank, you would find it interesting to talk to Gailyn van Rheenen with Mission Alive in Dallas. He has a church planter, Sixto Riviera that is doing incredible things. I loved hearing from Sixto about culturally relevant vision and church planting that they are doing.

Odgie said...

I think that there is a tendency to confuse the issue. Churches that are preoccupied with the "how" never seem to get around to the "what." We waste so much time and energy arguing for changes in style that we forget the main objectives. No change in worship style or hermeneutics is going to substitute for the hard work of reaching the lost.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts and comments.

We had a hispanic plant in our building but church politics from outside the building took care of it.

Thanks for the reminder.


Anonymous said...

Central church of Christ is offering a program called "FriendSpeak" in which anyone with a non-English speaking background can come and practice conversational English one-on-one. If any of you know of someone who would like to join, have them call. Classes are typically on Wednesday nights and last about an hour. If other congregations would like to start a program as well, here's the website:

"The FriendSpeak strategy is effective because it offers people something they want but have difficulty finding -- a friend who will help them improve their conversational English. Unlike traditional English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes, language missions, or literacy programs, FriendSpeak is conducted in a one-to-one setting with the emphasis on relationships and meaningful conversation, not on teaching the text. The result is a series of heart-felt conversations about faith, love, and the source of abundant life."