By / Feb 9

February 25, 2024 is Racial Reconciliation Sunday. We created a free downloadable bulletin insert for use in your church.

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What is racial unity?

There are many misunderstandings about what racial unity is and what it entails. We might think, for example, that unity means uniformity, or sameness. But that would be incorrect. Or, we might assume that unity requires minority groups to assimilate to or be wholly subsumed into the majority culture, surrendering their own God-given distinctives for the sake of unity. This, too, would be an error.

The unity that Christ has accomplished for us doesn’t require uniformity or assimilation; it is a constitutional reality that we can either embrace by the Spirit or ignore in our flesh.

Instead, racial unity is the reality by which members of every nation, tribe, people, and language, having been redeemed by Christ, adopted by the Father, and sealed by the Spirit, are bound together in Christ as “one new man” and welcomed into the family of God together as brothers and sisters.

Racial unity in the SBC

In the SBC, one step we’re taking is through the Unify Project, an initiative led by pastors Fred Luter and Ed Litton that “provides simple, practical, and effective resources that can be adopted by churches across the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.”

Our churches are yearning for unity, but often struggling to bring it to fruition among their congregations. Our communities are scarred and in turmoil. What are we to do? It is the Church to whom racial unity has been conferred, and by whom racial unity can be displayed and, through the Spirit, offered to a watching world.

So on this Racial Reconciliation Sunday in 2024, may we humble ourselves and pray that the unity of God’s heavenly Kingdom would be on display in our churches and be on offer for those who are so weary of our divided society and so weighed-down by its effects.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Oct 4

Racial diversity and racial unity are ongoing topics of discussion among Christians. But more than that, they ought to be realities that we prayerfully and fervently pursue within our churches and communities. This is especially true for urban churches in places like New York City, New York, where a large number of different people groups are concentrated in relatively small spaces. Ramny Perez, the lead pastor of Fordham Community Church, an urban church in New York City, talks below about the heart of racial unity and the blessing of a diverse and unified church.

Julie Masson: Some Christians be experiencing compassion or conversation fatigue as we talk about racial unity. Why do we keep talking about this issue?

Ramny Perez: First and foremost, we talk about racial unity because Christ has died and purchased a diverse Bride (Rev. 5:9). Secondly, we are to guard the unity of the Spirit in order to live a life worthy of the salvation we have received in Christ (Eph. 4). I believe that some have checked out of this conversation, in part, because of the callousness of heart that has set in. Others, particularly minorities, are just tired of trying to convince their fellow Christians that these are gospel issues. Personally, for our church, we want to build on what we see is biblically good and faithful and not concern ourselves with debating those who are uninterested in racial unity. 

Masson: Many of us think in terms of “black and white” when talking about racial unity. Should that be the case? 

Perez: It should not be the case. There is a unique and long history with the Black and white relationship in this country that cannot be ignored and needs to be discussed. Further, any leader desiring to shepherd a gospel-centered church in this country should have some familiarity with these issues and the surrounding conversations. But, it is not the only conversation that needs to be had. 

The country is more Latino than ever. The future of the American church lies not in black and white, but in the Latino church. Additionally, the conversation should be expanded because a lack of gospel-informed unity exists in a variety of backgrounds, not just Black and white.

Masson: What are some of the dynamics your urban church faces in New York City that make it harder or easier to pursue racial unity?

Perez: The Bronx is a borough made up of 1.5 million people, 91% of which are what most of the country would call minority groups. In addition, 30% are first-generation Americans and speak a different language at home. For our church, pursuing racial diversity and unity in the gospel is more than a black-and-white conversation. It includes many layers. Yet, there are shared experiences of living in an urban context that have given us a common-grace advantage. 

Masson: In your urban church plant, how have you seen a diverse neighborhood and church community shape gospel growth?

Perez: Our church, by God’s grace, has been able to reach and be composed of the diversity in our neighborhood. This has led us to focus on the proclamation of the gospel and the Word of God in a way that is not colorblind. 

Additionally, we have intentionally sought to cultivate a culture where being a part of our church means that you welcome and honor different cultures. We see this reflected in our music, the food we eat in fellowships, and the illustrations in our sermons.

Masson: How has your church changed demographics over the years?

Perez: We started our church with 11 people, the majority being Latino, some white, and others Asian. This correlated well with our neighborhood. Since the diversity in our church has grown, we now have Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Black, Nigerian, Sierra Leonean, Senegalese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Ecuadorian, Honduran, white, Bolivian, and more people groups reflected in our Sunday gathering. 

Masson: How do you shepherd your church to build relationships with people of different backgrounds for the sake of the gospel?

Perez: As leaders, we have sought to model this. I have learned over the years that the ability of leadership to multiculturally connect is the biggest indicator of whether a church will do this healthily. 

We have also emphasized the expository preaching of God’s Word, which creates a meal we can all gather and build relationships around. In addition, we encourage a Christ-centered identity that remains welcoming and lovingly curious of other cultures. For example, we often have food from different cultures in our members’ meetings, we sing songs that are diverse every week, and we encourage people to believe the best of each other. 

Masson: What is one piece of encouragement you would give another urban church planter who is seeking to build bridges with people of different backgrounds?

Perez: Church planters should learn to develop cultural agility. The ability to meaningfully relate to and connect with other cultures, without dishonoring others, is vital. This cultural agility will come out in preaching, interpersonal conversations, and leadership decisions. I’m convinced this is the necessary main ingredient that is often missing. 

By / Sep 1

Monday marked the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Held on Aug. 28, 1963, the march stands as a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, influencing civil rights legislation and contributing to the end of racial segregation.

Here is what you should know about the Christian significance of the march, its impact on civil rights laws, and the ongoing quest for racial reconciliation.

Historical context: A moral imperative to overturn Jim Crow

The March on Washington occurred during a tumultuous period characterized by racial discrimination and social unrest. Although slavery had been abolished, systemic racism persisted, particularly in the form of Jim Crow laws. Named after an offensive and degrading stereotype of African Americans, Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States.

One of the primary tenets of Jim Crow laws was the doctrine of “separate but equal,” upheld by the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. This doctrine allowed for racial segregation so long as facilities were “equal,” though in reality, they were often inferior for African Americans. 

Jim Crow laws also mandated the segregation of public schools, public transportation, restrooms, restaurants, and even drinking fountains. They entrenched racial boundaries by establishing voting restrictions and prohibiting interracial marriages. These laws often enforced job discrimination, ensuring that lucrative and desirable jobs were reserved for white individuals.

Jim Crow laws were enacted primarily from the late 19th century to the early 20th century and remained in effect at the time of the march. This struggle for civil rights was therefore not merely a political or social endeavor but a moral imperative deeply rooted in the Christian doctrine that all human beings are created in the image of God.

The march: A manifestation of Christian activism

Organized by civil rights and labor leaders like A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the March on Washington brought together an estimated 250,000 individuals of all races. Many of the promoters and speakers at the events were Christian leaders, as were a great number of those who participated in the march.

Although the organizers disagreed about the purpose of the event, the group came together on a set of goals

  • passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; 
  • immediate elimination of school segregation; 
  • a program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed; 
  • a federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring; 
  • a $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide; 
  • withholding federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination; 
  • enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from states that disenfranchise citizens; 
  • a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas; 
  • and authority for the attorney general to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.

Event organizer Bayard Rustin recruited 4,000 off-duty police officers and firemen to serve as event marshals and coached them in the crowd control techniques he’d learned in India studying nonviolent political participation. The official law enforcement also included 5,000 police, National Guardsmen, and Army reservists. No marchers were arrested, though, and no incidents concerning marchers were reported.

At the close of the event, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, delivered his iconic speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King improvised the most recognizable, memorable part of the speech for which he is most famous, according to his speechwriter and attorney Clarence B. Jones. Although King had spoken about a dream two months earlier in Detroit, the “dream” was not in the text prepared by Jones. King initially followed the text Jones had written, but gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King nodded to her, placed the text of his speech aside, and veered off-script, delivering extemporaneously what is referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous orations in American history.

A cultural shift and the end of segregation

The March on Washington was instrumental in the passage of key civil rights legislation. 

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, echoed the biblical principles of justice and equality.
  •  Similarly, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to eliminate racial discrimination in voting, aligning with the Christian conviction of fair treatment for all people made in God’s image.

Beyond legislation, the march initiated a significant cultural shift. The event brought the issue of racial inequality into the American consciousness, challenging people to confront their prejudices and to strive toward the Christian ideals of love, mercy, and unity. While laws could mandate desegregation, it was this change in collective consciousness that truly began to dismantle systemic racism.

As we reflect on the march, it’s essential to recommit to the Christian call for racial and ethnic reconciliation. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse highlights the biblical mandate for unity, transcending all racial and ethnic divisions, especially in the Church.

The March on Washington serves as a profound reminder of the Christian principles of justice, equality, and love for one’s neighbor—all grounded in the reality that we are all created in God’s image. The event was not just a milestone in American history; it was a manifestation of Christian activism that led to transformative civil rights legislation and cultural changes. However, the journey toward racial reconciliation is far from over, as evidenced by the devastating and sinful acts of racial hatred and violence we see too frequently. As followers of Christ, we are called to continue this vital work, striving to build a society where all are equal, all are loved, and all have the opportunity to hear the good news of Christ Jesus.

By / Jun 12

I serve in a city with a rich heritage. It is the birthplace of Mardi Gras, the home of Hank Aaron, and a place known for seafood and Southern hospitality. With our rich history also comes painful wounds from the past. There are scars from the Jim Crow era in the hearts and minds of many, and lingering challenges from redlining (a type of housing discrimination practice). 

Yet, my hope and prayer is that my city will also be remembered for its legacy of racial reconciliation, as churches in our city chart a course for a better tomorrow.

In a previous article, I unpacked the reasons why I am committed to a racially reconciling church. Here, I am going to give some of the theological pillars supporting that commitment. 

My understanding of race starts with how the Bible defines the image of God and how it describes different people groups. I also see God’s heart for racial reconciliation demonstrated in his radical call of Jonah, through Jesus’ confrontation of racial prejudice, and his reconciling death. Peter and Paul both grappled with racial reconciliation, as well. They addressed it in how they taught the Church and planted churches. All of these scriptures have been instrumental in convincing me of God’s priority of racial reconciliation. 

The image of God and race

I believe the image of God in the Bible is defined by internal features, not external ones, especially regarding how we look. Humans alone were created with the capacity to have relationship with God (Acts 17:26-28; Rom. 1:19-22). The creation account focuses more on the purpose of the human race, rather than a description of race (Gen. 1:26-31; 2:7, 15-28).

Since all human beings have common ancestry, the human genome has always included diversity. When different people groups appear in the Bible, they are almost always categorized based upon their place of origin, heritage, experience, or culture, rather than the pigmentation of their skin. According to civil rights hero John Perkins, race is a modern concept that often can be too broad to accurately describe a person’s ethnic heritage.  

For example, at my church we have people from five different countries in South America. Although their complexions might be similar, their culture and heritage are very different. Years ago, when we considered having a celebration for Hispanic families in our church, we considered Cinco de Mayo, but our families graciously informed us that they did not celebrate that holiday because it was only significant to families with Mexican heritage. 

The image of God is what unites all people as part of the human race. What distinguishes a people group is a diverse integration of factors and experiences. If the Church is to live as one unified people of God, then understanding these distinctives is paramount.

Ethnic animosity and God’s salvation

The story of Jonah and the Ninevites is a clear indication of God’s commitment to saving people groups that were far from him. The Assyrians and the Jews had long-standing animosity. Jonah was God’s reluctant prophet, caught between his sense of God’s call and his sense of nationalism. The situation was complex for Jonah because of the history of hatred and brutality between his nation and the Assyrians. For Jonah, racial reconciliation meant uncovering persistent and painful wounds. 

The story of these two nations is not unlike the story of our nation. If the Church is to face issues of racial reconciliation, then matters of nationalism and political ideology among people groups must be addressed. But also like the story of Jonah, the only hope for both people groups is a merciful God, ready to heal, save, forgive, and draw diverse people into his family. 

Jonah’s story is one of many in the Old Testament where God intentionally weaves different people groups into the tapestry of his covenant people.

The cross and reconciliation

Jesus continually fought back against the racial biases of his day. The Jews and the Samaritans were engaged in an enduring ethnic feud. Yet, he traveled to Samaria and interacted with those that his own people regarded as untouchable, preaching the Good News. God was not just saving people in Jerusalem; he was saving people in Samaria too. 

Jesus shared the love of God with a people group that he was supposed to hate. He confronted powerful Jewish leaders with the hypocrisy of their lack of love for the Samaritans. Jesus’ life and teaching centered on reconciling people with God and with one another (Luke 15; John 17; Matt. 5:43-48, etc.).  

The cross was the ultimate act of reconciliation. Jesus not only paved the way for human race to be fully in relationship with God, but he also paved way for human beings to be restored in relationship with one another. As he prayed for forgiveness over his lynch mob, he led the way in reconciliation.  

I have been asked by pastors how I keep racial reconciliation from decentralizing the gospel. Can you separate the Great Commandment from the Great Commission? I do not think that you can separate the endless lengths that Jesus went through to reconcile the human race to God from the endless efforts that he calls the Church to pursue in reconciling people to himself. 

The cross of Jesus will forever stand as the metric for God’s desire to reconcile. Jesus’ Church is to be a reconciling embassy. 

Peter’s battle with racial reconciliation

After Jesus’ resurrection, God used Peter to preach the gospel in 17 different languages, leading to the immediate diversification of the early church (Acts 2:1-42). Yet, Peter still had his struggles with accepting God’s desire for a diverse family. God repeatedly made his heart for racial reconciliation clear to Peter. God confronted him with a vision, took him to Cornelius’ house to witness non-Jews receiving salvation, and used the Apostle Paul to rebuke him before he understood and embraced God’s desire for a multiethnic family (Acts 10:1-48; Gal. 2:11-14).   

Be encouraged: Much like Peter, anyone that is on a journey of racial reconciliation will have points of disbelief, hesitation, or disillusionment. Racial reconciliation is a continuum of relationship, not a destination. 

Paul’s theology of racial reconciliation

When Paul states that there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, he is not doing away with these distinctions. Rather, he is making a case for gospel unity superseding these distinctions. While these distinctions describe the family of God, they are not the basis of their identity. Instead, identity in God’s family is based upon adoption in Jesus (Gal. 3:26-29).  

Throughout his writings, Paul addresses distinctions within people groups that lead to tension within the Church. In many of the situations, the point of tension is methodology, not theology (Rom. 14:1-23; Col. 2:16-23). Because methodology is driven by cultural norms, people groups of different cultures often collide. Culture is a reflection of the diversity within those created in God’s image, but division based upon those cultural distinctives is a reflection of the fall. As followers of Jesus, our love for people should be based upon their dignity as those created in God’s image, not simply a response to their color, class, or culture.  

A theology of racial reconciliation means striving for unity in our diversity, valuing the distinctives that make each person unique, and refusing to give up our unity as one human race made in the image of God. And as Christians, we worship the God who made us one in Christ, and we call others to do the same. 

By / Mar 1

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 1, 2023The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is highlighting key organizational efforts this week to encourage racial unity across SBC churches. 

In a new video conversation between ERLC President Brent Leatherwood and former Missouri Baptist Convention President Jon Nelson, the two leaders discuss challenges Nelson has faced as a minority pastor and their commitment to pursue racial unity in the SBC. 

This video conversation followed on the heels of a recent ERLC webinar where former SBC presidents, Ed Litton and Fred Luter, joined Leatherwood to discuss how the SBC can improve its pursuit of racial reconciliation. They also discussed The Unify Project, a pastor-led initiative designed to equip and inspire pastors and churches to become leaders in racial reconciliation and bring hope and healing to their communities through the transformative power of the gospel. 

“This conversation with my friend, Jon Nelson, provides a timely and important opportunity for us to reflect and consider ways we can bolster our work pursuing a biblical mandate of reconciliation. Time and time again, our churches have said this is a priority for our convention. This resource reflects that heart and my hope is it will assist our pastors and wider Baptist family as we move forward with this vital, God-honoring work.”

As a part of the ERLC’s commitment to pursue racial unity, the organization will be partnering with The Unify Project at this year’s SBC annual meeting to host an event on Monday evening, June 12. More information will follow.

To view more assets from the ERLC on racial unity visit ERLC.com/racialunity

By / Feb 27

Racism is an inescapable fact embedded in America’s historical narrative. Long considered the “original sin” of the United States and the American colonies, racism and racial prejudice have plagued the hearts and minds of citizens and churchgoers for centuries, and inflicted lasting wounds on whole people groups. It was and is a sin of epidemic proportions, inscribed even in the earliest iterations of our Constitution.

But while racism may be America’s original sin, it’s not a sin that originated in America. The record of racism is a thread that runs the length and width of human history. From time immemorial, the seed of racism has pervaded human nature and the human experience. Far as the curse is found, so far can racism be found. 

As deep and wide as the scourge of racism runs, it can feel ambitious even to ask the question, “What is racial unity?”. We’ve seen too many lives lost, read of too much injustice, and heard too many racial epithets to imagine, even for a moment, a world in which racial unity is a remote possibility. But, as Christians read in our sacred text, racial unity is not only possible, it has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the king of a now and future kingdom. 

The Bible’s vision of racial unity, past, present, and future

Many of us may balk at the assertion that racial unity was accomplished once and for all in Christ. Our experience of life in this broken world tells us otherwise. How can we suggest that racial unity is a reality that’s not only feasible but achieved? Racial unity, the Bible asserts, was accomplished in the past, is a certain reality in the present, and will continue forward everlastingly. 

Past: “But now in Christ Jesus,” the apostle Paul writes to his Gentile readers, “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Eph. 2:13–15, ESV, emphasis added).

Present: “For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ,” Paul again says. “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, CSB, emphasis added).

Future (and present): “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, Who is seated on the throne, And to the Lamb!” (Rev.7:9–10, CSB).

In Christ, racial unity has been achieved—it is a past, present, and future fact. By the power of his death and resurrection, his ascension and heavenly session, and his sending of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ has created for himself “one new man,” “a chosen race . . . a people for his own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). It is done. And while we can agree with the biblical witness that unity is accomplished in Christ, as we look around today, we should recognize that something is woefully amiss, both inside (sometimes) and outside the Church. The racial unity that has been purchased and applied to us in Christ, has yet to be fully, or even nearly, realized. 

So, if racial harmony is real and operative for those who are in Christ, why are we often so bad at it? What can we do to bring it to bear in our lives, our homes, our churches, and our communities? We can begin by defining what it isn’t and what it is.

What is racial unity?

There are many misunderstandings about what racial unity is and what it entails. We might think, for example, that unity means uniformity, or sameness. But that would be incorrect; the “one new man” Christ has created for himself is composed of a “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language,” as we’ve already highlighted. 

Or, we might assume that unity requires minority groups to assimilate to or be wholly subsumed into the majority culture, surrendering their own God-given distinctives for the sake of unity. This, too, would be an error—Gentiles didn’t have to assimilate into Jewish customs and culture to experience unity with Jewish Christians. The unity that Christ has accomplished for us doesn’t require uniformity or assimilation; it is a constitutional reality that we can either embrace by the Spirit or ignore in our flesh.

Instead, racial unity is the reality by which members of every nation, tribe, people, and language, having been redeemed by Christ, adopted by the Father, and sealed by the Spirit, are bound together in Christ as “one new man” and welcomed into the family of God together as brothers and sisters.

It is the recognition that we are one body made up of many parts and that our differences are good. We are not strangers or foreigners, but citizens and members of God’s household. And we are a temple made up of many stones. Racial unity is built on humility and gratitude and bears witness to the wisdom and glory of God. It is a gift. 

On earth as it is in heaven

In the heavens, at this very moment, a unified group of diverse men, women, and children are standing before the throne of God shouting praises to “God . . . and to the Lamb.” There is no bias there, no injustice, and no division. Instead, in union with Christ and one another, their hearts are flooded with gratitude and, you have to imagine, as they look around at the crowd of worshipers, filled with an overwhelming sense of awe. In Christ, God has put to death everything that divides us and has bound us together as a family. In heaven, this unity has been fully realized. 

On earth, we’ve got some work to do.

So, how can we make this heavenly scene more indicative of the communities we belong to now? In the SBC, one step we’re taking is through the Unify Project, an initiative led by pastors Fred Luter and Ed Litton that “provides simple, practical, and effective resources that can be adopted by churches across the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.” If you’re unsure where to begin, the Unify Project is a great place to start.

Our churches are yearning for unity, but often struggling to bring it to fruition among their congregations. Our communities are scarred and in turmoil. Our society, in some ways, is as divided as it’s ever been. What are we to do? Where are we to look for help? It is the Church—the people of God, the bride of Christ, the residence of the Spirit—to whom racial unity has been conferred, and by whom racial unity can be displayed and, through the Spirit, offered to a watching world.

So, may we humble ourselves and pray to the one true God, through the only begotten Son, by the power of his Spirit that the unity of God’s heavenly kingdom would be on display in our churches and be on offer for those who are so weary of our divided society and so weighed-down by its effects. May it be, on earth as it is in heaven. 

By / Feb 10

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay talk about racial unity in the SBC. They also disucss a recap of the State of the Union address, the devastating earthquake in Turkey, and J.D. Greear’s article responding to comments Andy Stanley made about homosexuality. 

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By / Feb 10

At the annual convention in 2015, the SBC adopted a resolution on racial reconciliation that, in part, urged “churches to demonstrate their heart for racial reconciliation by seeking to increase racial and ethnic diversity in church staff roles, leadership positions, and church membership.”

Increasing racial diversity is not the end goal, of course, and will not automatically lead to reconciliation. Yet it can be a useful metric to determine whether reconciliation is being attempted within our churches and throughout the denomination. Ideally, individual SBC churches that are living out the gospel would be attractive to people of all races and ethnicities. If a lopsided racial imbalance is occuring, it might signal that there is a divide along other lines, such as cultural or political, that should not ​​separate the people of God. 

How is the SBC faring in its goal to be more racially diverse?

To find the answer we can look to the Great Commission Relations and Mobilization (​​GCRM) Ethnic Research Network, which tracks the state of ethnicity and race in the SBC. The network is a research initiative and a shared data collaboration of Southern Baptist Research Fellowship (SBRF) and SBC entities, such as the ERLC. Through statistical and analytical research, GCRM Ethnic Research Network “tells the story of SBC diversity as well as our collaborative and cooperative effort of sharing the Gospel in every city, town, neighborhood, and community in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Diversity by the numbers

Currently, the SBC Annual Church Profile documents that there are 50,696 congregations and 14,089,947 people in the SBC. The network tracks the state of ethnicity and race within those congregations.

As of 2020, there are 39,408 congregations that are predominantly White Anglo, 3,895 that are African American, 3,361 that are predominantly Hispanic, 1,501 predominantly other ethnicities, and 422 that are predominantly Native American. Since 2010, there has been a 33.2% increase among congregations of other ethnicities, a 20.7% increase among Asian American congregations, 10.2% increase among African American congregations. During that time there was a 3.3% decrease among White Anglo congregations and a 3.0% decrease among Native American congregations. 

  • The states with the most African American congregations are Texas (1,168), California (455), and Georgia (239). 
  • The states with the most Asian American congregations are California (445), Texas (313), North Carolina (125), and Georgia (119). 
  • The states with the most Hispanic congregations are Texas (1,353), California (376), and Florida (317). 
  • The states with the most Native American congregations are Oklahoma (185), North Carolina (78), and Arizona (26). 
  • The states with the most other ethnic congregations are Florida (465), Texas (250), California (105), and North Carolina (98). 
  • The states with the most White Anglo congregations are Texas (4,685), North Carolina (3,739), Alabama (3,090), and Georgia (3,019). 

Within those congregations, 12,642,060 individuals are White Anglo, 880,108 are African American, 223,351 are Hispanic, 173,773 are Asian American, 136,750 are other ethnicities, and 33,590 are Native American. Since 2010, there has been a 23.8% increase among other ethnicities, a 12.1% ​​increase among Asian Americans, and an 8.6% increase among Hispanics. During that time there was a 16.1% decrease among Native Americans, a 14.1% decrease among White Anglos, and a 2.1% decrease among African Americans. 

Encouraging signs of growth

Almost 1-in-4 (22.3%) Southern Baptist congregations are non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. In contrast, in 1990 only 8.4% of SBC congregations were non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. African American congregations saw the largest growth of 289.3% from 1990- 2018, while the Anglo group saw the smallest growth of 11.4%. From 1995-2000, the African American group grew by 482 congregations, and, from 2000-2005, this group grew by an additional 833 congregations.

As for church membership, from 1990-2019 ethnic minority groups increased by over one million (1,021,658). From 2000-2010, the most growth experienced among SBC membership

was among African American, Asian American, and Hispanics, with Asian American membership growing by 270.7%.

With 22.3% of our Southern Baptist congregations being non-Anglo and many worshiping in multiple languages across America, the Southern Baptist Convention may be the most multiethnic and multilingual denomination in the United States. While the SBC still has a long way to go in its pursuit of racial reconciliation, we are moving in the right direction toward ​​the first step of having a diverse convention of believers unified around a common goal to fulfill the Great Commission.

By / Feb 9

In May of 2021, the eyes of the nation were on our city for a few days. Tulsa, Oklahoma, the city where I was born and in which I am currently a pastor, was remembering our most painful moment. The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre ranks among the deadliest incidents of racial violence in U.S. History—with estimates of up to 300 deaths in the African American community, more than 800 hospitalizations, and countless Black-owned businesses and homes burned to the ground in a matter of hours.*

It is no secret that tackling issues related to racism, both past and present, comes with the risk of conflict. As our church has engaged these issues biblically in the last several years, however, we have experienced notable spiritual growth by intentionally choosing people over politics and dialogue over division. This was particularly true during the commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, during which our church and our city took great strides toward biblical, gospel-centered racial reconciliation. 

Small steps toward racial unity

As one might imagine, the effects of that terrible night in 1921 and the aftermath are still felt in our city. To this day, the north and south parts of Tulsa have very little interaction. Our church is just about as far south as one can go and still be in Tulsa’s city limits, and we are far away from the historic Greenwood District where the events occurred in 1921. It was an honor, therefore, when the community service arm of centennial commission created a bridge to our church, invited us to join, and welcomed us into their work.

Through our church’s involvement in the commission, many saw racism and racial reconciliation in a new light. We became more convinced than ever that we, as the Church, are better equipped to take the lead in discussions related to love, forgiveness, and unity, precisely because such attributes are at the very heart of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. 

Our starting place in every single meeting and activity was never racial division. Our starting place was always that “we are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). 

When our identity as sons and daughters of the King of kings, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, supersedes any other identity, we can all take a posture of listening. After a period of over two years of listening and dialogue in our role with the commission, several of us developed new friendships that endure to this day. 

One of the most memorable moments of that season came with Ms. Mary, known as the “church mother” in one of Tulsa’s oldest and most faithful African American churches. Mary stopped one of our meetings and expressed her concern that some members in churches like ours whose families have been in Tulsa for generations might have had relatives who were involved in the events of that terrible night in 1921. Then, she said, “Just give me their names and addresses and I’ll go straight to their front door and give them a hug and make sure they know we are not interested in fighting over the past. We love you, and we care much more about the future for everyone in our community.”

Where does that level of grace and kindness come from if not through the transformational power of the gospel through the love of Christ?

Uniting to remember and pray 

In the end, about 70 churches around the city took time on the Sunday prior to the centennial anniversary to remember and to pray. I can think of no other time that Tulsa’s churches have come together with such shared commitment and plans.

Each church began the commemoration time by reading aloud Isaiah 43:18-19:

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Next, we sang Amazing Grace—a hymn we all agreed is heard regularly in churches with members of all different ethnicities, races, and languages all over the world. It was particularly moving to know that so many of our brothers and sisters around the city were singing the same words at around the same time—giving thanks to God in unity for our shared salvation through his amazing grace. 

Finally, each church voiced these prayers:

  • We prayed against the attitudes of racism that still exist in our world and in our culture today.
  • We prayed against the sin of racism that still lives in some of our churches today.
  • We prayed and repent of attitudes of racism, prejudice, or bias that God finds in our hearts.
  • We prayed that we would see all people as made in the image of God and worthy of respect and a voice.
  • We prayed for the healing which only the Spirit of God can bring.
  • We prayed that despite this horrific tragedy, God would use each of us to help move us all forward along the path of racial reconciliation and harmony for the next generation to see, experience, and pass along.

As a pastor, I look back on that season with joy and a deep sense of gratitude. No, not everyone agreed on every single thing. Most, however, were willing to put aside defensiveness in favor of listening, learning, neighborliness, and community in Christ’s name. After all, as we reminded ourselves then and continue to remind ourselves today—intentional blindness to our sin, including racism, is antithetical to truth. As the Apostle John reminds: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). 

Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, however, that forgiveness is possible. As the very next verse proclaims: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

*For more on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: Greenwood Rising Video.

By / Feb 8

I serve in Mobile, Alabama, a city that is scarred by its racial history. My city is where the last slave ship landed, and the last black man was lynched. Yet, I have a great hope that our past does not determine our future and that God is capable of raising up a diverse church in the heart of Dixie.

As I have studied Scripture and served these past seven years, I am convinced that a racially reconciling church pleases God and is a powerful proclamation of the gospel. I have seen God bring together people from different backgrounds and languages, and merge them into one family in Christ. I have even seen an 85-year-old white woman worship to Christian hip hop. Through it all, I have learned about the beauty of the image of God as it is reflected in those from various cultures.

Among the important lessons I’ve learned, here are four that make me deeply committed to a racially reconciling church.

A racially reconciling church displays the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham 

As you walk through the unfolding of God’s plan revealed in the Bible, it is clear he intentionally weaves every tribe, tongue, and nation into the tapestry of his covenant people.

God handcrafted the first human being in his image, revealing that all humanity has a common ancestry. Then, God sought out a man named Abram, calling him to a covenant through which a Savior would bless all the peoples of the Earth. Through God’s work of creation and his covenant with Abraham, it is obvious that God’s redemptive work is a multiethnic movement.

God’s promises and power are ultimately displayed as Jesus fulfills God’s covenant to Abraham. Through his atoning death, he reconciled humanity with God—a humanity that was once his enemy, now made his friends. He turned an ethnically diverse, brutal, fearful, and oppressive humanity into a family. After his resurrection, he instructed his disciples to draw people from every corner of the world to follow him and join God’s people, solidifying a family as broad as the face of the Earth. God’s redemptive plan continues today through his Church. 

A racially reconciling church is essential for reaching the next generation

Over a half a century ago, Martin Luther King Jr. expressed his angst over the fact that church gatherings on Sunday were the most segregated hour of the week in America. There is a disconnect for people in our culture when they see diversity in every other sphere of their lives, yet many churches remain monoethnic.

By the year 2030, the majority of the working class will be nonwhite, and by the year 2060, 57% of the population will be nonwhite. In other words, the next generation will be multiethnic. If churches do not adjust their methodology for the changing mission field, they might miss reaching the next generation.  

Thankfully, over the past two decades, the percentage of diverse evangelical churches has grown to 20%, but there is still a long way to go. Among the next generation, there are many who are skeptical about the Church and are watching closely to see how she deals with matters of race and politics. My prayer is that many churches will adjust their methodologies to reach their changing communities with the timeless message of the gospel.

A racially reconciling church displays the power of the gospel 

In his high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for the unity of the Church (John 17). He prayed over his disciples, who had very different perspectives, and he prayed for future generations of disciples who would surely have differing perspectives. 

Issues of race and politics, in particular, are more polarizing than unifying for people today. Often, this is because people live in “echo chambers” and do not have relationships that are diverse in political, social, and cultural points of view. Because the early Church was a multiethnic and multi-class movement, the New Testament is marked by conflict between Jews, non-Jews, the poor, and the elite (e.g., Acts 2; Rom. 11; Gal. 2). Likewise, churches today that seek diversity will also find conflict when cultures and preferences collide, but because this is normative for the New Testament church, it should also be normative for the modern-day church.  

At the same time, the Church should be a center for reconciliation both with God and people. The power of the gospel is on display whenever the Church functions as God’s reconciling agency. 

Helping people reconcile with one another usually happens through developing deep empathy and understanding. Jesus’ ministry was marked by a deep empathy for the pain that others experienced (Matt. 8, 14; Luke 7; John 5, 8, 11). Paul tells the Romans, “Weep with those who weep, live in harmony with one another” (12:15-16). This passage does not say to judge whether they should be weeping, which is often how people respond today. The Church has a great opportunity to be people that seek to empathize and understand like Jesus, standing in stark contrast to a culture that has often lost its ability to empathize.

Western culture often focuses on the individual, but the Church can display the power of God to bring people groups that have been divided to a place of forgiveness and unity through the pathways of empathy and understanding. The world is deeply in need of the supernatural power displayed through diverse people glued together by the life-changing power of Jesus.

A racially reconciling church displays a preview of heaven 

Fast forward to the end of history in Revelation 7:9 where every tribe, tongue, and nation are gathered together, worshiping Jesus as one family while maintaining their distinctions of color, culture, and language. This is the end goal—God’s redemptive masterpiece presented as the mystery of Christ is “displayed in high definition when a mosaic of multicolored, multiclass, multigenerational people learns to love each other as God so loved them.” The population of heaven is comprised of a redeemed people from all classes, races, and people groups worshiping one risen King.

Building a racially reconciling church is more difficult than building a monolithic one. There are challenges with: 

  • developing a multicultural leadership team, 
  • developing a multigenre worship style, 
  • honoring cultural differences, 
  • cultural assimilation, 
  • ethnocentrism, 
  • and political allegiances. 

But all of these challenges pale in comparison to the opportunity to raise up a beautiful, diverse bride of Christ that previews what heaven will eternally portray!