Louisville—Skin color isn’t the only factor church leaders need to consider when it comes to promoting diversity in Kentucky, the top elected leader of the state’s largest religious organization said March 9.
“If we want to look like the New Testament church, then we need to look not only at race and ethnicity but also at economic and social differences,” Kentucky Baptist Convention President Kevin Smith told students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Some have to do the heart work and ask: “Do we even desire that?'”
Smith, the first African-American to serve as KBC president, said churches need to examine the communities they serve to determine what groups they need to reach out to become more diverse.
“We should be asking: ‘In our particular area, are we reaching every kindred, tribe and tongue with the gospel of Jesus Christ?” he said. “Our 2,400 churches are in 2,400 different contexts. Diversity in Florence will look different than in Louisville.”
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Kentucky’s overall population is 88 percent white, 8 percent black, and 4 percent Hispanic and “other.” Only three Kentucky counties have populations that are more than 20 percent African-American.
“I still preach at churches in the KBC where I’m the first black preacher to have ever preached there,” Smith said. “We still have a long way to go, but the way I read the scriptures is we’ll be pressing toward the mark until Jesus comes again.”
Smith said Christian unity doesn’t necessarily mean every congregation will be multi-ethnic.
“There should be diversity in the body of Christ other than ethnic diversity,” he said. “Sometimes there are churches where everyone is white in that area, but there is a wide socio-economic spread. This church might just be an upper-class church and that one a middle-class church. Perhaps they need to pursue economic diversity.” (KBC)