I’m currently reading Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church by Mark DeYmaz. It’s one of several books I’ve read on the subject because it’s a big area of concern for me as a Pastor who is planting a church in a community that is diversifying much more quickly than the churches within it.
But I hope the multi-ethnic conversation among church leaders is short-lived. Why? Because we tend not to spend a lot of time talking about things we have figured out. You don’t hear church leaders saying things like, “We need people to be givers, so let’s encourage more churches to take offerings,” or “Ya know, we just need more fellowship time – let’s encourage churches to have potlucks.” We’re done with those conversations, at least for now.
My prayer is that planting and leading churches that are ethnically representative of the diversity in their surrounding communities will become so normal and commonplace that we don’t have to talk about a strategy for getting it done anymore. But in the meantime… we need to talk about getting it done. If your church leadership hasn’t had a conversation about this, it’s time.
It’s time to evaluate by asking the question, does our church family reflect the diversity of our surrounding community? It’s not that every church has to be highly diverse. If you’re in a town that is almost entirely a single ethnicity, skin color may not be as much of a concern, but economic diversity probably is. Does your church reflect the social and economic diversity of your community?
It’s time to decide that you’ll do something. One of the more common causes of neglect in this area is the attitude that we only need to accomodate the people we’re already reaching. This is the very mentality that caged the newly commissioned disciples to stay in Jerusalem until persecution forced them to go to other nations (ethnic groups).
It’s time to do something intentional. At Grace Hills, we’ve just started translating the spoken elements of our service into Spanish. The first Sunday we did it, there was no one to translate for, but we started it anyway. On the second Sunday? We welcomed our first Spanish-only visitor and her children and she heard the gospel in her heart language. Now we’re thinking through practical ways to show love to every culture represented in northwest Arkansas.
It’s time to sacrifice our cultural preferences. The church has a tendency to be “open to anyone” but offers this invitation with an unwritten clause: We’re open to anyone who wants to come and be like us. Perhaps it’s time we let go of our false idea that the world revolves around me and my experiences and embrace an openness to love and learn from people who come from a different background.
I hope the conversation is short. I hope we get it figured out sooner than later. But as long as the church on Sunday morning is the most segregated part of western society, we need to keep talking… and deciding… and doing… and sacrificing.
What is working for your church in reaching other ethnicities in your community? What strategies are you implementing? Or where do you struggle?