Growing up in Chester, S.C., we considered “people of different faiths” to be the Presbyterians and Methodists. Today, people of different faiths are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist. When I went to high school, everyone in my graduating class spoke English and little else. Today in North Carolina, more than 300 different languages are spoken in the homes of our school children. Consider the following three ways that our communities are changing.
- Population density
Our communities are growing faster than the local church. Many people ask, “How can this be? We have a church on every corner.” Most people don’t realize that the U.S. population is far greater than the seating capacity of our churches. According to Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird in their book Viral Churches, if all U.S. churches tripled their attendance this week, 94 million people would still have no place to sit on Sunday morning. We see the same trend in North Carolina. Our state’s population has grown by about 10 percent over the past 10 years, while the number of N.C. baptists has remained roughly the same.
- Population diversity
Our communities are changing faster than the local church. A changing population creates new barriers to the gospel. Consider the barriers of language, religion, race, wealth and poverty. Look at the rapid changes taking place in the sexual revolution and gender identity. These barriers are growing in size and increasing in number, nearly guaranteeing that more and more people will have less and less access to the gospel.
- Population distance from the gospel
Our communities are changing due not only to the size and number of the barriers, but also to their distance from the gospel. James Emery White deals with this in his book, The Rise of the Nones. He points out that many people today have difficulty accepting the ideas of God, truth, the Bible and the gospel. Years ago, believers could move quickly through, or skip over, most of these ideas when sharing the gospel because, even if people didn’t completely understand them, they valued them. That’s not true today. People live much further from the gospel.
Today in North Carolina, more than 300 different languages are spoken in the homes of our school children.
Our communities are changing. Population density, diversity and distance from the gospel create groups of people that are particularly hard to reach. Most are not going to come to us. That’s why Christ commissioned us to go to them. As much as ever, our changing communities need the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ.
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