Hey church, this is real!
The racial tension of the past few weeks and the political drama of the next few weeks may inflame our emotions to the point that we miss some of the more obvious truths about the world around us. That it is in a perpetual state of change isn't news. That this change will touch our lives in such profound ways over the next years perhaps is. Those of us rooted in the church better pay attention. The changing face of our nation is going to be a challenge for us. With the Apostle Paul, I'm saying, "Look at what is before your eyes" (2 Corinthians 10:7). It's time to take note.
Two demographic shifts will reach deeper than the numbers.
1. People with no religious affiliation will soon outnumber evangelicals.
The last Pew Research information on the religious landscape in America
revealed some shocking truth. The Christian community remains the majority
of religious opinion in the nation. But, the Evangelical population, which would
be my personal identification, has declined to around 26% of the total. At the
same time, those with no religious affiliation---atheists, agnostics, and
nones---has increased to 22% of all Americans. If these trends continue, the
unaffiliated could outnumber the evangelicals in a couple of years.
The significance of this shift should be apparent. Much of the political mess regarding election 2016 involves what may be the poorest selection of candidates in history and, the waning influence of evangelicals in selecting them.
2. Most researchers indicate that whites will be a minority in America by 2045.
This is another significant shift. Even with all of our quilt and melting pot
analogies America has been a primarily white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant nation.
The decline of white births, increases in African American and Hispanic births,
and growing immigration of Hispanics and Asians will insure a majority
non-white population within the span of the next generation
How this change will affect race relations and the levels of tension we're
dealing with right now is certainly yet to be seen. We're going to view bias,
prejudice, bigotry, and racism from another angle in the years to come.
And, that, of course, is my concern. God's people must be on the leading edge of these societal changes. The thing is, Jesus prepared his followers to live in this kind of world. We must remember that Jesus, who came in the fullness of time (see Galatians 4:4), was born, lived, died, and was raised again as a minority in the first century world. The Roman government, Greek culture, and Jewish religion predominated life in Israel. He taught the twelve and the growing multitude of followers how to live as aliens in that world. The entire New Testament is God revelation of how his people could make disciples of that world while being a minority population within it.
Here's the deal. While we may lament some of the paradigm shifts that will define our nation in our lifetime and that of our progeny, we must also remember that he prepared his people, his church, for such a time as this. In that memory we must know that he didn't teach them political strategy, military deployment, or even government policy and formation. He taught them to reverence God, seek the things of heaven and the righteousness of God, and make disciples of all nations. His lessons were about loving God and man and influencing their world through bold submission to him as Lord. God's New Testament authors were given truth to guide the church and teach God's people how to be a part of that larger world.
These are hard lessons to learn when operating from a majority position. In my mind, the church must rise to his prayer of John 17 to maintain a discipleship base in this new world. In that high priestly prayer before his suffering and death, and resurrection, he prayed for us.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their
word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that
they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The
glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as
we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that
the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
John 17:20-23, ESV
Hey, church. This is real. We better pay attention. Now.