Southern Presbyterianism, Millenials, and Diversity

First-Scots-Presbyterian-Church-Charleston-SC-7An acquaintance of mine recently posted a link to an article that sought to provide pastors with six reasons that millennials aren’t at their church. I often find these sorts of articles both depressing and informative; informative because they give me a peek into what others in the pastoral field are struggling with and what pressures they find themselves under, and depressing because it very often shows just how disconnected modern churches often are from Scripture and from their own history.

In this article it was reason four that I found myself meditating on:

4. You aren’t diverse.

Millennials are the most diverse generation in history and they want their church to reflect that.

More than 40 percent of adult Millennials are non-white, the highest share of any generation. About half the newborns born today are non-white.

If your church has no interest in reaching people outside of one ethnic or cultural group, your church has no interest in reaching Millennials.

I found this assertion so interesting that I thought it was worth interacting with a little bit.

The desire on the part of adult Millennials to see local churches reach multiple ethnic and cultural groups is admirable, but it seems to be divorced from both history and reality.

There is a hard reality to be faced here; for example, my own congregation finds itself located in a predominately black neighborhood, and for a decade, this church has attempted to reach this neighborhood. The results? Not a single person from the neighborhood has ever attended worship, no matter what we do.  In fact, in a congregation of roughly 180-200 persons, we have six black members, and not a single one is from the area immediately surrounding the church. The fact of the matter is, there aren’t any black people in the immediate area that have any desire to worship with us!

Part of the reason for this is the massive cultural divide where worship is concerned. Because we are strongly Presbyterian, we hold to the regulative principle of worship—namely that we may only perform those acts in worship for which there is biblical warrant. Given the strong numerical presence of exclusive psalmodists within the congregation, that means that we might sing one hymn on any given Sunday. All of the other music is metrical psalms.

But what about other ethnic groups? Asians or Hispanic individuals perhaps? Well, we have a solid number of folks that are of Hispanic extraction, but you wouldn’t be able to tell unless you asked them their last names.

Then there is the reality that there is an entirely separate presbytery for our Korean brethren—a reality that many of us would like to see abolished, but which continues at the request of the Korean brethren themselves. Should we force them (perhaps at gunpoint) to integrate their churches? To do away with Korean language services?

It’s worth noting, as well, that the situation with the Korean brethren has historic parallels with predominately black Presbyterian congregations. After the War Between the States, it wasn’t the white elders and churches that desired separation, it was the black church members who desired their own churches with black pastors, black elders, and predominately black membership. It was precisely this issues that caused significant debate in the Southern Presbyterian churches after 1866.

I also can’t help but wonder if this “diversity standard” applies to AME Zion congregations as well. For instance, are black millennials leaving predominately black churches because they aren’t diverse enough?

To my millennial friends, I would like to close by saying this:

So the church you visited isn’t diverse enough for you? Good! Now join that church and work to see it change.

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"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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