Despite emerging from a painful history dogged by racism, a majority of churches planted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2018 had non-white leaders, the organization’s President J.D. Greear has revealed.
Greear shared the data Monday on the opening night of the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, where he explained that more than 60 percent of all Southern Baptist churches planted last year were planted with leaders of color. Some 20 percent of Southern Baptists, he noted are also people of color, according to a Baptist Press report.
Greear who leads The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham area has been a champion of intentional diversity in the organization which he argues will better “reflect God’s glory.”
"By God's grace, He is moving in His church, and He is showing us that ... to be a reflection of His glory, we need to reflect the diversity of our communities, but we also need to proclaim the diversity of the coming Kingdom, and that is what gives glory to Jesus," Greear told attendees. "You, brothers and sisters, you have believed that, and you have prayed for that, for a long, long time. I think in recent days we have seen a new movement of God's Spirit in continuing to move us toward that."
Greear explained that the wisdom coming from the unique experience of the black church is something needed by the entire church body and that is the intention behind the push for diverse churches.
"It is really a recognition that we need the wisdom that God has put into your community to go into the days ahead," Greear said. "God has written a very unique story in your churches, in your lives. That is a wisdom that He intends to use sovereignly as we continue to proclaim the Gospel to our nation. It is something you are doing not as a service to the Lord Jesus, not only to Him, but also as a service to your brothers and sisters of the Southern Baptist Convention."
The conference which has been running for nearly 30 years is designed to address specific issues facing today’s black and multiethnic churches. Conference organizer Mark Croston also noted that it is designed for parents of black children, church leaders who want to reach black communities around them, and leaders of churches desiring to become more multicultural.
Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, said God is using Greear in a "tremendous way."
“God has called Dr. Greear to raise up leaders and send them out. And yet as he sends leaders out all over the country and around the world, God continues to multiply The Summit Church,” he said.
Greear further urged unity and warned attendees to not be distracted by challenges likely to erupt in politics as the national election season intensifies.
"We know brothers and sisters what God's Word says about the church, that it's a group of people that come together not around skin color, or not around past cultural heritage, certainly not around political affiliation. We come together united in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
"Southern Baptist churches are not always or ever at their best during seasons like this one. I want you to pray with me that God would allow this to be a season where we really do keep the Gospel above all," Greear continued. "What I do know is this, salvation did not come riding in on the wings of Air Force One. That great Savior sitting on the throne of God one day is not going to be an elephant, and He's not going to be a donkey. He's going to be a lamb that was slain since the foundation of the world. Him we preach, Him we proclaim."