Do the demographics of the church you attend reflect the demographics of your town?
Or let me ask it another way. Is your church as diverse as the store or gym you frequent? Is there evidence in your church that the gospel has as much drawing and uniting power as healthy living and consumerism? If I were to look at the level of diversity of racial and ethnic groups in your church compared to Target, the gym, or the local mall, would I see evidence that the presentation of the message of Jesus Christ is as compelling at you church as are other local, non-salvation related options? Does the evidence, the hard, cold facts indicate that local fitness and shopping options are actually more compelling for people of diverse backgrounds to come together than the gospel?
The answer to this question should matter to you big time. This is the town where you go to church isn’t it? These people make up your potential parish. You should desire that they are intentionally reached, and evidence that your church is dropping the ball in this area should disquiet you…shouldn’t it?
Maybe you don’t need to be disquieted. Maybe there is a case that it is all ok. Maybe there is an argument to be made that everything is acceptable as it is. There are many people who deep down believe that – who believe that things are pretty much ok, that they might need to focus on their discipleship or evangelistic efforts, they might need to think about their theology or their outreach programs, but who don’t feel that the issue of race and culture in the church is of existential importance.
I don’t believe for a second that all is ok. I can almost guarantee that non-churched people living near you don’t believe that it is ok. I don’t believe deep down that you do either.
Instructively, in your gut, I think that if you are reading these words, you at least have a hint that all is not as it should be – that we have lost the plot along the way. That lack of racial and cultural diversity in our churches is an existential issue, that it negatively effects our outreach, it makes mockery of our theology, it shows that we have traded evangelism for niche marketing, and that our discipleship is often skin deep.
I have the privilege of pastoring a multicultural church that is almost evenly divided into thirds of white, black, and Latino. But it is deeper than that. Those black people are diverse – African Americans, Nigerians, Sierra Leoneans, Ethiopians, Haitians, Jamaicans, etc. The same can be said about the Latinos – don’t paint them all with the same Hispanic brush. We have Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Dominicans, etc.
It is from this multicultural background of joy and struggle that I wrote this piece. I believe that it is far past time that churches saw multicultural ministry as a necessity – a must have. I don’t have it all figured out, neither does Spring Valley. But I can tell you that for over twenty years we have been on a journey that continues – a journey of being many backgrounds sharing one story – the story of Jesus, and what he is doing in our community through our church.
As we embarked on this journey, I can confidently tell you some basic truths that will form the road markers of our time together.
Multicultural ministry will honor God. Multicultural ministry will inspire a world that is fragmented and looking for answers. Multicultural ministry will stretch your leadership in directions that are exhilarating. But I warn you, multicultural ministry will also break your heart. It will break your heart because many who start on the journey with you will not stay on the journey with you. Because it will reveal racial and economic prejudice masquerading as insecurity. Because some young families will use their children as an excuse to leave – retreating into uni-cultural church ghettos that allow middle-school aged kids to feel comfortable instead of challenged.
While this is not pleasant, there are worse things than being heartbroken. Being heart-dull, heart-callused, and heart-myopic are all worse.
Our culture needs heartbroken, leadership stretching, world inspiring, God honoring women and men to raise a standard and set the pace. Should you be one?