[originally posted at One Great City – Chicago: Surprising Insights from 2006 Congress on Urban Ministry]
Rev. Soong-Chan Rah: The Emerging Church
Within a decade or so, the majority of Christians in the United States will be non-white. I can say that with confidence because all the sociological trends, all the ways the white church is declining and all the ways the immigrant church, the African American church, the Spanish-speaking church is growing by leaps and bounds. Within a decade, in every metropolitan corner of the United States, we are going to see more non-white Christians than white Christians.
Why is it that the leadership is still all white? Time magazine does an article on the top 25 evangelical leaders. Twenty-three of those spots are filled by white evangelicals. Why is it that the face of the "emerging church" is always white? I look at invitations I get to conferences on the emerging church, and it's the same old story. They'll have a leadership of 40 people, and one or two will be non-white. The message is that the next generation of leadership that is supposed to come out of this emerging church movement is a perpetually 29-year-old blond male with a goatee.
The emerging church is not that 29-year-old blond male with a goatee. The emerging church is the young black male in the urban setting. The emerging church is the young Latina female. The emerging church is the second-generation Haitian American. The emerging church is the child of Brazilian immigrants. That's the true emerging church. And when we talk about leadership, we have to see that the leadership of the next generation cannot be all white because that's what we've had to put up with for the last 50 years.
The white captivity of the church means that there is time when those of us coming from the boundaries, not in the existing power structure of the American evangelical church, need to take on greater positions of leadership. Even though we might feel we're not up to the task, even though our self-image tells us we're not good enough, not strong enough, or not white enough, it's time for us as young Asian Americans, Caribbean Americans, Native Americans and Latino Americans to start taking on the mantle of leadership.
(Rev. Soong-Chan Rah is Senior Pastor of Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a contributor to Growing Healthy Asian American Churches, and was recently appointed to the faculty of North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.)