In the throes of helping to plan the 2nd National Multi-ethnic Church Conference in 2013, I read with interest the recent comments of two white evangelical leaders calling attention to the diverse nature of two different conferences of which they're aware or otherwise involved. One tweeted this description: "...an amazingly diverse line-up of speakers." The other wrote, "We MUST have the most diverse Pastor’s conference ANYWHERE."
This begs the question: What really do they mean by use of the term "diverse?" And perhaps a follow-up: How much diverse is diverse?
Maybe I'm wrong: but unless these men had in mind the varying denominations and/or networks and/or sponsors involved, attendees with or without facial hair, having green eyes or blue, etc., we can assume their use of the term diverse was meant to imply the racial/ethnic make-up (and/or the mix) of men and women speaking at the conferences to which they refer.
Since 2004, the Mosaix Global Network has been a leading voice for change in this regard; and we've modeled a commitment to empowering diverse leaders on our own regional and national conference platforms. Certainly, then, we are thrilled to recognize that evangelical leaders and conference planners are increasingly aware and embracing this commitment, as well. We look forward to the day when the empowering of diverse leaders does not have to be championed but rather is a quite natural reflection of who we are, i.e., the wonderfully diverse Body of Christ.
So how are evangelical conferences currently doing and/or progressing toward that day?
Reflecting the Nation
A quick fact check reveals the following statistics concerning Current Demographics of the United States:
- As of January 1, 2013, the United States had a total resident population of 315,544,000,
- There were 155.6 million females in the United States in 2009. The number of males was 151.4 million.
- The national median age was 36.8 years.
- The United States Census Bureau defines White people as those "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who reported “White” or wrote in entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish." Whites constitute the majority of the U.S. population, with a total of 223,553,265 or 72.4% of the population in the 2010 United States Census. (72.4% = 63.7% "White + Not Hispanic or Latino" + 8.7% "White + Hispanic or Latino"). Despite major changes due to illegal and legal immigration since the 1960s and the higher birth-rates of nonwhites, the overall current majority of American citizens are still White.
- Currently, population growth is fastest among minorities as a whole, and according to the Census Bureau's estimation for 2012, 50.4% of American children under the age of 1 belonged to minority groups.
- Hispanic and Latino Americans accounted for 69% of the national population growth of 2.9 million between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006. Immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants are expected to provide most of the U.S. population gains in the decades ahead.
In calling attention to such things, I do not at all mean to suggest that contrived quotas should govern speaker selection at evangelical conferences; nor do I in any way want to encourage "diversity policing" by well-meaning observers seeking to hold planners accountable.
Nevertheless I do wish to encourage evangelical conference planners to be even more intentional in the years ahead, and to join Mosaix in modeling and empowering (in)credibly diverse speakers on main stages and in breakout rooms throughout the United States. In so doing, I believe they will attract even more wonderfully diverse participants, grow their attendance, expand their influence, and remain relevant in the years ahead for the sake of the Gospel.
A word of caution: do not sacrifice competence or credibility simply to diversify your stage (or church for that matter). The good news is - with a plethora of highly competent and credible men and women of diverse ethnic/economic background leading out in effective ministry throughout the United States today - there is no need to do so!
At a Glance
A brief comparison of three unique evangelical conferences this spring (2013) provides general insight into where things may currently stand. By determining the number of speakers (as listed on the following conference websites), looking at white to non-white numbers, and the number of men compared to women involved, we get an idea of the progress that's been made and where still we should determine to go.
Note: Conferences are listed in calendar order. Statistics are cited as near as I can tell, and do not include worship leaders or artists. If I'm off or otherwise wrong, please let me know.
Feb 2013 :: Velocity Conference
44 listed speakers - 4 minority (9%); 4 women (9%)
Mar 2013 :: Verge Conference
34 listed speakers - 13 minority (38%); 2 women (6%)
Apr 2013 :: Exponential Conference
157 listed speakers - 18 minority (11.5%); 14 women (9%)
The fact is five years ago, even three years ago, such diversity may not have been so reflected in these or other evangelical conferences, generally speaking, throughout the United States. With this in mind, we should be encouraged as trends are moving in a positive direction.
What About Us?
Given unity/diversity is at the very heart and passion of our DNA, Mosaix' own progress in this regard should not be surprising:
Nov 2013 :: Mosaix Multi-ethnic Church Conference
52 listed speakers - 31 minority (60%); 8 women (16%)
Beyond the numbers, though, I'm even more excited about WHO are speakers are and WHAT they bring to the table in terms of competent, credible, leadership. Indeed they represent the very best of those advancing the Multi-ethnic Church Movement today!
What About You?
The fact is, like the multi-ethnic churches we seek to plant, grow or develop, "this kind comes out only through prayer and fasting." In other words, there's not another conference you can attend quite like the one we're hosting in Long Beach, CA, November 5-6, 2013. I have no doubt that if you come, you will experience the unique power and pleasure of God that dwells wherever diverse men and women will themselves to walk, work, and worship Him together as one.
I'm serious when I say, DO NOT MISS IT!
Register right now at a discount, today through February 28 ... ticket prices will not again be this low!