A Problem With Demographics

Our typical Lord’s Day morning demographic looks like a room full of sinners who recognize their need for Christ! At Providence, we don’t prioritize one ethnicity, age group, or a particular socio-economic level over another. We want all people to join us and feel welcome.

But knowing some demographic data is helpful. It’s important to know the religious makeup of the community your church is located in. Within the greater Roanoke area, 61% percent of people claim no religious affiliation, and that number is steadily growing. Not only do 61% of the greater Roanoke area claim no religious affiliation, but there are many who practice false religions (i.e. Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses) and are members of apostate mainline denominations. When you add those groups to those who claim no religious affiliation, closer to 63% of Roanokers are unbelievers. Nearly two out of three people living in Roanoke do not know the Lord.

It’s helpful for me to know that and share it with people when I’m inevitably asked, “Why are you planting a church?” But even knowing that information only gets you so far. Knowing your community’s demographics doesn’t share the gospel, preach a sermon, distribute the Lord’s Supper, or lift anyone up in prayer!

I tend to think that too many church planters (and frankly churches in general) overemphasize demographics and it’s easy to see why: they believe demographic data will help them better contextualize.

But the problem with demographics and contextualization is the subtle belief that the gospel message needs to be tailored depending on one’s ethnicity, age, or socio-economic status. Paul addressed this clearly in his letter to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The gospel levels the playing field and transcends one’s background and circumstances. The gospel of Jesus Christ that we preach in America is the same gospel that’s preached in China, Uganda, and Argentina. That’s the beauty of the gospel.

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Sean Morris | “Ordinary Means of Grace Church Planting Domestically: An Interview with Rev. Jake Hooker” | October 19th, 2023


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  • Sean Morris
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    Sean was educated at Grove City College, Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS), and the University of Glasgow (Scotland). He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, and serves as a minister at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, TN. He also serves as the Academic Dean of the Blue Ridge Institute for Theological Education. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Historical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sean lives in Oak Ridge with his wife, Sarah, along with their children and useless beagle.

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