As the demographics of urban neighborhoods change, the churches that have historically served those communities often face a life-or-death dilemma: adapt to serve the new population, follow the folks who have moved away, or die.
That is the issue facing churches in south Los Angeles, as chronicled in an article in Christianity Today. The piece focuses on one church in particular, the 127-year-old Second Baptist Church, a historic structure that hosted Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1950’s and 1960’s but now struggles to survive as its surrounding community has transformed over the years from predominantly black to mostly Hispanic.
“It’s not the first time there has been a demographic shift in Los Angeles, but it has clearly devastated some houses of worship,” said Mark Whitlock, senior minister of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine, a Los Angeles suburb, and who was formerly responsible for community development at a black church in South Los Angeles for 15 years. “Churches are not serving the community they’re located in; [they] are emptying and becoming museums of past ministries. God never intended for us to divide—there is no Asian, black, white, or Latino heaven. We have to move away from ethnocentric places of worship.”