Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So if the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the local church? According to “Divided by Faith” by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, 92.5 percent of churches are racially segregated, failing to have 20 percent diversity in their attending membership.
More recently, Emerson’s research finds local churches are 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods in which they sit and 20 times more segregated than nearby public schools. The problem? Local church segregation is unintentionally undermining gospel witness. An increasingly diverse and cynical society is no longer finding credible a message of God’s love for all people as preached from segregated pulpits and pews.
Thankfully hope and change is on the horizon as evangelical churches are increasingly pursuing unity and diversity for the sake of the gospel. Indeed the multi-ethnic church movement returns to the principles and practices of New Testament churches such as existed at Antioch and Ephesus – churches in which diverse men and women walked, worked and worshipped God together as one so that the world would know God’s love, and believe. And the movement is making a difference. Emerson’s research also shows that evangelical churches of 1,000 or more attenders are five times more likely to have 20 percent minority diversity than they were 10 years ago.
This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.