June 22, 2010
The Theology of Multi-Ethnic Church (Cont.)
Diversity is an issue in the suburbs, not just the city.
How would describe some of the rewards of leading a multi-ethnic church to pastors who have spent their vocational lives within a homogeneous church?
For eighteen years prior to planting Mosaic I served homogeneous congregations. Like my friends and colleagues serving such churches today, I was blessed on numerous occasions to experience God working in and through me for his glory. Nevertheless, my wife and I have found an inimitable dimension of the Holy Spirit, a unique power and pleasure of God, that dwells in the midst of a diverse people seeking Christ as one. Through Mosaic we have ministered with and to so many people who are different from us, people who in one way or another have encouraged, challenged, or validated our calling beyond what we might have ever known had we stayed within the safe confines of the homogeneous church. In addition, visitors consistently tell us that they cannot stop crying during the service. In such moments they sense the Holy Spirit near, in ways they are not accustomed to.
Of course, we also face discouragement along the way. At times, we think, "Let's just go back to doing what is easy, what we know, in a church with people like us.” But at the end of the day we return to the roots of our calling, mindful that in pursuing the path of a peacemaker we are blessed to be called "the sons of God," (Matthew 5:9).
I think there can be a perception that ethnically and socio-economically diverse churches are needed in cities, but that America’s suburbs and rural areas are mostly exempt from much of what you write about. What has been your experience in this regard?
First, no matter how ethnically homogeneous a suburb or rural area may be, the future is likely to change these demographics. The latest projections indicate that by 2042, 50 percent of the people living in the United States will not be white. So it is wise for us to plant or develop churches today with tomorrow in mind.
Secondly, even in a rural setting someone owns the shop and someone sweeps it. In other words, ethnic and economic diversity represent two sides of the same coin. In what ways are suburban and rural churches deconstructing barriers of economic class by establishing a church for all people? Do the forms and functions of the church promote a spirit of inclusion, or are they more reflective of the majority culture? What steps are being taken by church leaders to avoid prejudicial favoritism whereby only the wealthy, only English speakers, or only the similarly educated are invited to positions of influence where decisions about the church are made? Where that is not happening, I wonder how church leaders reconcile their practices with the clear instructions in James 2:1-9.
Finally, any attempt to limit or relegate the development of multi-ethnic and economically diverse churches to urban areas is both uninformed and condescending. One's desire to maintain entitlement and privilege is not at all helpful to efforts to express the love of God for all people and therefore, to expand the kingdom of God on earth via the local church.
To wrap up, what baby steps would you recommend to those pastors and leaders interested in leading their churches towards a more diverse expression of the Kingdom of God?
To get caught up to speed from a Biblical, Christ-centered perspective, I would recommend that you read the following books, from two specific categories on the subject: