Many majority culture believers say they want a multicultural church, but when you get down to it, they really don’t. They want a group of people of different races coming together to worship in their style. You might say they want a multicolored church, not a multicultural one.
“Do you want to know how you know you are in a multicultural church?” a friend of mine asks. “Frequently you feel uncomfortable.” If you’re not feeling uncomfortable, he says, chances are you are in a church still dominated by your own cultural preferences. I once had a white college student tell me that he wished our church were more multicultural. I told him to keep praying with me about that. A few weeks later he told me that he didn’t like how one of our worship leaders jumped around on stage and told everyone to raise their hands, and he wanted to know if I would tell that leader to back off a little. I suggested to him that maybe he didn’t really want a multicultural church after all, just a bunch of different-colored people worshiping in his preferred style.
Live Multicultural Lives, Not Multicultural Events
Gospel multiculturalism is not a weekend show; it is a way of life.
Before you bemoan the lack of diversity in your church, ask yourself: Are you pursuing intentional friendships with people of other races?
This interpersonal connection is more important than finding a worship style that white, black, and Hispanic people all like. God did not call us to put on a multicultural display on the weekend; he called us to live out a multicultural wonder the whole week. When we begin to live multicultural lives, our events will naturally take on a multicultural flavor.
Some of us should consider cross-cultural engagement in our own communities a “calling.” Multicultural engagement within your city, like international missions, is something that all believers are expected to participate in, but that God moves certain believers to pursue with focused intentionality. The apostle Paul was in that category. Some of us (under the leadership of the Spirit) need to make this cause our cause. After all, it makes no sense to send people 10,000 miles across the globe to reach people of other cultures when we won’t send people ten miles across our own city to reach people in different neighborhoods. Why would we cross the seas but not the tracks?
Even if you’re not specially “called” to focus on this, however, we are all commanded to intentionally form relationships with people outside of our comfort zones. In that way, Paul said, we model Christ (Phil. 2:1 – 5) and declare the multifaceted, richly beautiful wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10 – 11). Following Jesus means going “outside the camp,” even in your own city or school (Heb. 13:13).
When the church demonstrates the unity between races that our society yearns for, we will show that there is only one God who can
save, only one God who accomplishes that for which our hearts yearn.
Multiculturalism 2.0: Church Planting
You may sometimes have to choose (temporarily, at least) between a numbers surge you can achieve through homogenous ministry and building a multicultural community of faith.
I believe the long-term evangelistic effectiveness of a multicultural church will be greater than the temporary jolt of a numbers surge brought on a homogenous ministry. A group of 25,000 white people gathering to listen to great music and an entertaining speaker is not really a demonstration of the power of God. It happens in a Justin Bieber concert. By contrast, a group of people who come together around Christ when they have little else in common declares that God has the power to save.
In order to achieve multicultural unity, churches and individual believers are going to have to learn to live “sent” to the other cultures right in their own cities, cultures distant and unfamiliar to them right in their backyards. If churches continue to coast along, simply watching to see who shows up in church each week, in five years the Christian society will be no more multicultural than it is today.
The greatest displays of multicultural unity will probably happen in the churches we plant, churches that write this into their DNA from the beginning.
This is not to say we established churches should not be pursuing diversity, too, just that it will come more naturally to our “children.” The Summit Church is a large, majority-white church that has been pursuing cultural diversification, and by God’s grace, we are making progress. But we are excited to see what God does through churches we plant that establish this as one of their values from the beginning.
So, even in this, the future belongs to churches that send.
—J. D. Greear, Gaining by Losing. This book will help you unlock other ways to maximize the evangelism effectiveness of your church.
How to Use This Book
Gaining by Losing will challenge your scorecard for gauging success in ministry. You will see how success isn’t about seating capacity, but sending capacity – and then you will learn how to create a thriving, sustainable “sending culture” in your own church.