ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Today's generation of students is more open to global awareness than any other generation before, according to a sought-after speaker and pastor.
Multiculturalism is not an unfamiliar subject among college students today nor is it an uncomfortable issue to address. Students at Urbana 2006 represent 144 countries but act as any other homogenous church would.
Ethnic diversity in the Christian context is not as easy for their parents' generation.
"I believe it was Martin Luther King, Jr., who said Sunday morning is the most [racially] segregated time in America. That was in the 60s," said the Rev. Terrence Nichols, pastor of New Hope Community Church in Vallejo, Calif. "Is that true still today? I believe we can say that it is in many places."
For many, it is difficult for them to live in a multicultural world, said Nichols, because it means giving up a lot of one's comforts.
"In all fairness, the black church still today in many areas is proud to be a black church," he added. "They know how to do that and they’re not willing in many cases to be a multicultural church."
And although Caucasian churches might aim for ethnic diversity, their dominant culture makes it difficult to create such an environment, Nichols indicated.
"So it’s a very difficult thing for a lot of Christians to grasp."
On the other hand, it's a different story for the Millennials.
"This generation of students really are global in their orientation," commented Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
The Internet, quick travel, and global network news makes the world smaller and enable the younger generation to connect globally, said Nichols.
While Nichols believes evangelical Christianity today has missed the mark when it comes to racial reconciliation, he said he applauds Urbana.
At Urbana, the triennial student missions conference co-sponsored by InterVarsity, participating students have come from all over the world to discover their divine calling. And for the last few days, they have openly addressed racial issues and sang worship songs in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese and African languages.
"People tell us Christian can't meet across denominational boundaries ... and racial divisions," Urbana emcee Greg Jao told students Saturday night. "This conference proves them wrong." The statement was met by cheers and applause from the more than 22,000 attendants.
"God is doing a new thing and we're seeing hunger coming forth from this new generation of postmodern young people," Nichols highlighted.
"The next generation of churches is going to look totally different."