In recent years there’s been much understandable and laudable Evangelical conversation about expanding Christianity’s reach to attract diverse demographics through creative branding, especially but not exclusively Millennials.
These exertions have led to rhetorical, liturgical and sometimes theological innovations whose goals are greater persuasive power with the unchurched and unevangelized. Sometimes the tweaking is primarily about packaging, like the preacher shedding his shirt and tie for skinny jeans and t-shirts. Sometimes and more problematically it is about the substance of the Gospel, particularly sexual ethics but also about the exclusivity of Christ, the full authority of Scripture, and emphases on Christian social justice.
This ongoing conversation disproportionately focuses on reaching a particular kind of fairly narrow demographic: typically very educated, overwhelmingly Caucasian, white-collar, socially liberal, urban-minded and upwardly mobile young people. Not in-coincidentally, this well-heeled and fashionable social subset is also a preoccupation for secular commercial advertising. It’s an important group, as its members wield or will wield influence over our culture for decades to come, influencing millions. But does this demographic merit preoccupation to the near exclusion of others in Evangelicalism’s public conversation?
There are other major, often unreached for the Gospel demographics that are maybe not as prestigious but no less spiritually important and in some cases far more numerous. A gun-owning middle aged white man in West Virginia or central Pennsylvania who’s a truck driver or living on disability is not a major part of the Evangelical conversation. A near retirement age housewife who works part-time at Wal-Mart in a small Midwestern city is typically not part of the conversation. A Millennial age high school drop-out, unwed mother is typically not part of the conversation. Working class or unemployed black people are typically not part of the conversation. Nor are Asian or African immigrant families who come from traditional cultures, especially if they’re not doctors or engineers and are instead driving cabs and/or working retail. Hispanic immigrants are often topics of Evangelical public conversation because of immigration politics. But evangelistically appealing to a 35 year old Guatemalan construction worker or restaurant cook is not typically central to the conversation.
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