EXPOSURE “Becoming a Multi-Cultural Church”
It was 1984 and my parents decided that they would rent an RV and explore America with their kids. Tough to fathom with today’s prices of gasoline, huh? I was along for the ride and had very little control of where we went. Honestly, at that age, I was consumed with the fact that I could play Atari from state-to-state. Even bathroom breaks couldn’t stop or thwart our progress because we had a house on wheels! Life was great!
Where were we going? Well, I knew that we were going to Los Angeles. Disneyland, Universal Studious, Sea World and the city where Michael Jackson lived. SOLD! I was ready to go! I was told I may even see “The A-Team”, television show being recorded. Are you kidding me? Life couldn’t get any better, at least not for this 7-year-old.
All of these adventures and experiences came to pass, and I remember with vivid clarity those incredible moments. Yet, there are other memories that have stuck with me and contributed significantly to the person I am today.
I remember being overwhelmed as I peered through the glass of the helicopter trying to sit still and take in the Grand Canyon. From the air, the Grand Canyon is more than just a sight to see. It really is a life changing experience. Mount Rushmore is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of history today and in particular Abraham Lincoln.
My father was adamant about exposing all of us to so many different things at a young age. At the tender age of eight, I had already been to every state in this country with the exception of Alaska and Maine. During this amazing journey, I found myself being exposed to the Indian reservations of the Cherokee, the rolling rural hills of Tennessee to the desert lands of Nevada.
I credit my ability to connect with all people from all walks of life to recurring experiences like this that my father instilled in all of us. If we hadn’t tried it, we were going to! Especially if it was food.
In my estimation, two demographic trends that will see Revival in the twenty-first-century church is first, the urban community and secondly the diversifying of the local church. Leaders of the church must face both of these realities; continuing urbanization and rapid ethnic diversification. A September 18, 2000, Newsweek analysis states, “We are now living in an Age of Color in which the nuances of brown and yellow and red are as important… [as] the ancient divisions of black and white.” Multiculturalism in America is now a well-established fact.
Understanding this apparent truth, that was solidified by the monumentally gargantuan historic election of our current president (President Obama), the church must be actively engaged and in a tireless pursuit to expose our local church communities to diversity.
If pressed, I think many American churches would say they are open to all people and groups. Yet, the reality is that most congregations are doing nothing to intentionally expose themselves to those who are not like them. So, I am encouraging and humbly submitting that we all take my father’s advice. How will we know if we like it or don’t like it until we have tried it? Even if we didn’t like it 10 years ago it is funny how our pallets can change.
A multi-cultural church is one that recognizes, utilizes, and celebrates the racial, cultural, generational, gender, and other diversity represented in the congregation and community. I know this is bold instruction but I am asking that you read that statement one more time and give it serious thought. Our local universities, schools, local governments, small and large employers, and even families have mandates that compel diversity. The church has long since had a mandate from the word of God. God is no respecter of persons, neither is God’s church.
Even with 21st-century globalization, the church should be the world’s beacon of diversity. It is the only ecosystem where regardless of social, economic, racial, cultural, and generational diversities PEOPLE are received, loved and employed. It is in fertile environments such as the diverse church where the love of God can thrive and accelerate the church’s influence in our local communities.
In every organization, the leadership is the lid. Our church communities will reflect our leadership in our spiritual dispositions, diversities, and behavioral demeanors. That is why it is imperative that our church leadership must reflect diversity!
Our church worship services must demonstrate this diversity in language, music, art form (any form of creative self-expression that you allow in your local church), and interaction.
Today’s multi-cultural church demonstrates the following points below and I believe a mono-cultural church striving to become a multi-cultural church, must aggressively pursue the following:
- identifies itself publicly as multi-cultural
- possesses a shared vision of intentionally being multi-cultural
- reflects the community
- recognizes uniqueness and gifts of the different cultures in it
- includes those populations in:
- volunteer staff
- ministries and programs
This century and season of the church is a golden opportunity era for urban and ethnic harvesting. Which will strengthen our local church communities, expose our people and in turn, advance the kingdom of God!