Many church leaders want their congregations to be diverse. Desiring multiethnic ministry is easy. Making it a reality is harder.
Walter Strickland, K.J. Hill and Chris Green addressed this important topic in a luncheon with Made to Flourish on Thursday, April 20, 2017 in Durham, NC. They discussed why multiethnic ministry is important, outlined pitfalls to avoid and connected the discussion to issues of human flourishing.
Why Multiethnic Ministry?
First, the panel explained why Christians need to consider multiethnic ministry. Walter Strickland extensively laid out the biblical foundations for such ministry, rooting the discussion not in secular ideals of diversity but in biblical notions of Christ’s kingdom.
“Multiethnic ministry is biblical. It’s not a photo-op for Instagram, but a vivid picture of the gospel,” Strickland said.
Admittedly, talking about race can be difficult because the topic has been politicized. Many church leaders have tried to address the topic. But they stepped on a landmine, ignited controversy and abandoned the discussion altogether.
Strickland explained that the answer to this politicization is not avoiding discussions about race, but teaching about race from the scriptures. “Those of you who teach scriptures have the best opportunity to depoliticize race discussions,” Strickland said.
When we don’t teach on multiethnic ministry from the scriptures, Strickland claimed, we baptize secular methods and end up harming people.
Multiethnic ministry is biblical. It’s not a photo-op for Instagram, but a vivid picture of the gospel.
Avoiding Pitfalls in Multiethnic Ministry
If church leaders want to pursue multiethnic ministry, they must be wary of potential pitfalls. Chris Green outlined such errors, and he urged church leaders to give minorities a voice in decision-making, acknowledging minorities’ uniqueness without requiring them to conform to the majority culture, listen to their concerns and invite minorities into their homes. “If we want to see multiethnic churches on the weekend, we need to see multiethnic homes during the week,” Green said.
Pursuing multiethnic ministry also requires church leaders to evaluate their church structures. First, they should evaluate the physical structures — considering whether the facilities are welcoming to all people. Second, they should consider the organizational structures — considering whether minorities feel welcome in every element of a worship service or every event on the church calendar.
“To pursue multiethnic ministry, you don’t have to blow up your church,” Strickland said. He offered the illustration of his own home. Before he and his wife had children, the house showed no evidence of children. When they had children, the home did not “blow up”; it changed. Now, there is evidence all throughout his house that his daughter feels welcome there. Her fingerprints and toys are everywhere.
The same should be true in our churches. Minority groups should feel welcome in every room and structure of the church. “Everywhere in our churches, we must let people from other races and socio-economic strata know, ‘You’re welcome here,'” Strickland concluded.
— Nathaniel Williams (@Natdavewilliams) April 20, 2017
Multiethnic Ministry and Flourishing
The panelists also applied the discussion about multiethnic ministry to issues of human flourishing. Chris Green noted the importance of bringing faith into the workplace. He first saw multicultural ministry in action in a Bible study for workplace professionals. For example, Green, an African-American man, once led a Bible study and prayed for an older, white businessman. These types of interactions tend to be rare in the church, but they can happen often in the workplace.
In addition, the panelists discussed efforts to encourage economic flourishing in underprivileged areas. K.J. Hill cited the work of Robert Lupton, an Atlanta-based anti-poverty advocate who fights poverty not by giving handouts, but by rebuilding communities. “One thing that’s in abundance in under-resourced communities is potential,” Walter Strickland noted. Christians can serve those communities by helping people reach their potential.
About Made to Flourish
Made to Flourish is a community of pastors that provides training, resources, access to thought leaders, national events and city network gatherings to help pastors connect more meaningfully and deeply with their congregations on a topic that profoundly affects their lives — work. Learn more>>