According to a recent article published on www.publicschoolreview.com, in 2014, America’s public schools finally became majority-minority. This means that there is no majority group in them anymore. White students still make up the most significant percentage, but they only account for an estimated 47.3 percent of the school population in 2018, down from more than 63 percent 20 years ago. If we ever doubted that our children live in a radically multi-cultural, multi-racial world, the obvious answer is yes, and increasingly, so do we.
There are several responses to these types of reports. Some seem to try avoidance, imagining that reality is somehow not what it actually is. Many of our individual worlds are not radically multi-cultural, so we reason that these numbers must be skewed by other places like California and New York. To be fair, white students account for approximately 70 percent of the population in Burke County’s schools, but that percentage is growing every year. Our community is much more diverse than many of us may realize.
Others see these trends as problematic. I don’t deny that there are significant difficulties, tensions and perhaps even extra expenses that come with living in an ethnically diverse community. However, as a Christian, I believe the biblical response to these changes must be gospel-centered acceptance.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples that they, and by extension, we, are to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In Matthew 28, he says to go and “make disciples of all nations.” Many evangelical scholars have recently noted that we live in a world where these commands are easier to fulfill than ever before. We no longer have to go to the nations, because the nations are coming to us. I know a church planter in Syracuse, New York, who says there are more than 50 different languages spoken in his neighborhood. He is literally going “into all the world,” every time he takes a walk around his block.
The second biblical response to the increasingly diverse world in which we live is found in Revelation 7:9. “I looked and, behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages [were] standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” This is the biblical picture of the people of God — the church — standing before the throne of God after Jesus returns at the end of the age. This is the kingdom of heaven that Jesus taught about in the gospels, a kingdom of people from every race, every language, and every ethnicity. In this kingdom, the Apostle Paul wrote there would be no more Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. This is a kingdom in which our unity in Christ is much stronger than all those things that used to divide us.
If this is the multi-ethnic kingdom Jesus will build when he returns, this is the church his people must be building now. Either I am actively embracing Jesus’ kingdom vision of every race, language and ethnicity, or I am actively fighting against it.
At Bridge42 Church, we don’t merely accept people from other races into our fellowship, we desire them and pray for the opportunity to see our tiny expression of the body of Christ be conformed to Christ’s vision for his coming multi-ethnic kingdom.
This multi-cultural world is a gift. There is no reason to be nervous, no American glory days to recapture. This is the world we’ve been given, and it’s our opportunity to reflect the coming kingdom that God is building from every race, language and ethnicity.
The Rev. Jason Koon is pastor of Bridge42 Church in Morganton and can be reached at email@example.com.