Segregation and Church Growth

Posted on October 23, 2011


In a recent publication of Adventist World our Church president, Ted Wilson, wrote an article called, Big Cities – Bigger Vision. [READ ARTICLE]  

Highlights from the article:

  • “In 2007, for the first time, 50 percent of the world’s population was living in cities.  More than 400 cities now host at least 1 million inhabitants: at least 20 cities have populations greater than 10 million.”
  • “As Seventh-day Adventists we’ve often focused our work on rural and suburban areas while many of the great cities remain largely unentered.”
  • “The Spirit of Prophecy offers us a very balanced approach for ministering to large cities, clearly recognizing that many people, including many Seventh-day Adventists, may need or choose to live in the cities.  An ‘in-out’ approach by which those ministering in cities are encouraged to regularly recharge their spiritual and physical ‘batteries’ in rural environments is a realistic and restorative approach to the tough realities of urban ministry.”
  • “While we continue our efforts in rural and suburban areas, we ought to intensify our work for the hundreds of millions who live in the great metropolises of our planet.”

The article was well written and gives us an idea of the mission-focus and direction our church leaders have in place. 


Our American conferences and churches are not ready!

I too believe we need to develop some practical (and risky) plans to reach the lost in the cities.  Working the cities can be difficult at times… but if a unified church family system is in place, this work can be done very effectively.  unfortunately, we do not have “unified church family systems” in place when it comes to American cities.  Instead of having unity, we have segregation. 


Dear President Ted Wilson,

Your leadership is a breath of fresh air in the Adventist Church.  Keep up the good work! 

FYI – If you are going to use New York City as an example of how we can reach the lost in the cities around the world, then you will probably need to begin with the desegregation of our Adventist conferences (churches and schools).  It will take a miracle for a divided church family to effectively work together to finish the gospel work.

Ken Lytle


Working as a pastor in the Philadelphia metro area (5 million+), I quickly learned how divided our church family was.  The Pennsylvania Conference has a blend of white, hispanic, black, and more churches… its schools have a healthy ethnic blend of students.  Unfortunately the city work is hindered by segregation. 

Years ago we may have needed “black conferences” to make sure all our members were taken care of… those days are past.  If a secular government can desegregate its schools, buses, and bathrooms, God’s endtime Church should be able to desegregate its conferences, churches, and schools.  

For years the Philadelphia area (Pennsylvania Conference) pastors have tried to join forces with the Allegany East Conference pastors and churches, but divided we are and divided we have fallen.  The city of Philadelphia has about 1.5 million people living within the city limits.  Half of the population is white and the other half is black (this is the majority… not counting Asians, Hispanics, etc.).  The black conference churches are doing a pretty good job at reaching out to the black population, but have not been able to effectively minister to the white population.  There were three Pennsylvania Conference churches in the outskirts of Philadelphia that use to minister to the white population, but have now become mainly black or a strong mix of other ethnic groups. 

This division of conferences, churches, and schools has made it nearly impossible for city mission work to be truly effective.  If we are going to focus our effort and finances on the cities, we need to first repent of our segregation sin and work towards uniting our church families.  

  1. Prayerfully consolidate our conferences.  We need to make sure each conference has a white, black, hispanic, etc. representative in leadership offices (all depends on conference demographics).  For example: Hispanic president, white ministerial director, and a black treasurer… there needs to be a healthy blend of ethnic diversity.  I wish we didn’t have to take such measures, but believe we do if we are going to discover a healthy balance.  
  2. Desegregate our churches and schools.  The only churches that should be ethnically exclusive should be those that specialize in languages (Spanish, Romanian, French, Russian, etc. speaking churches).
  3. Work together to reach the lost in all of our cities.

If we cannot be a family here on earth, how do we expect to be a family in heaven?  I’m pretty sure there will not be a black street… white street… Asian street… Hispanic street… in heaven.  The time has come for us to set aside childish activities and be the Church God has called us to be.  

Do we need to focus more energy in reaching the lost in the cities?  Sure!  But let’s make sure we have a “somewhat” healthy church to welcome them into.  


Please take the time to contact our church leaders… asking them to desegregate God’s endtime Church.

General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring , MD 20904  USA
Phone: 301-680-6000
Fax: 301-680-6090

North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists 

12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464

Or write a quick message here [NAD Website]