Cross-Cultural Ministry: Awkwardness and Celebration

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I have had a change of heart. I wonder if and how it will work.

Days ago, Ed Stetzer wrote a piece at Christianity Today, titled, "More Thoughts on Multicultural Church: 3 Things to Consider About Multiculturalism." It is a great article and worth your time.

Here are several quotations from the article.

"A multicultural church is a foretaste of the family of God we will experience in eternity. Doing multicultural ministry is a gift because it gives us a glimpse of forever."

"If you're going to engage in multicultural ministry you're going to hurt somebody's feelings or have your feelings hurt. Different cultures have different pressure points that are often unknown to those on the outside. Conflict is inevitable, but when it occurs we can apologize and move forward."

"A multicultural church is not simply about skin tone, but about the intentional, effective engagement of cultures. Racially diverse churches may be as culturally homogeneous as churches that lack racial diversity."

Interestingly enough I was recently talking to those in our church plant Bible study about the third quotation. We are ethnically diverse, but we are somewhat culturally homogenous. Our desire is to see people, whose culture differs, become a part of what we are doing in south Richmond, Virginia, but I am certain that as our cultural diversity increases, certain relationships will get a bit awkward. When you fill a room with people whose education preferences differ (e.g., homeschool, public or private school), ideas for how one should dress on Sunday differ, musical tastes/current living accommodations/group of friends/financial tax bracket/English dialect differs, cultures will clash.

Consider your church. In whatever denomination you reside and wherever you happen to be located, imagine if someone visited your church on Sunday with a gold full frontal, dreadlocks, and tattoos on his neck and arms. How would your church respond? I would hope he would be warmly received and invited into your homes. That is the ideal. Unfortunately, his appearance may cause some people to avoid him. For those who do talk to him, however, there will be a period of awkwardness because of his culture. His culture clearly differs from that of those who likely already attend your church. What do you do?

Knowing this, I previously believed that, amid such differences, we should search for our similarities. (I still believe this). What I did not highlight as much during my previous conversations with those in our church plant, however, was our differences. We need to celebrate them. In other words, instead of allowing our differences to divide us, thank God for the diversity he places in our churches and let's take the time to learn about it. It is possible, it seems, that when we gather around different cultures, our awkwardness, due to our differences, can be a fuse to ignite our celebration for having those who differ culturally in our midst.

What does this look like?

Practically, I have no idea. The vast majority of churches of which I have been a part are culturally homogenous. Theoretically, I have some ideas. I wonder if and how it will work.

Lord willing, as our church plant continues to grow, I will let you know if my theoretical ideas actually work. Something tells me that it will but not because I have great ideas but because the Lord has surrounded me with a group of people who desire diversity in all areas. They are willing to be stretched if people enter our midst who are unlike us culturally. They want it! They pray for it! They are active in seeking it! In theory, that is one thing that will help a church become culturally diverse. The people need to desire it, pray for it, and seek it. If it just the pastor who wants to see his church culturally reflect the community in which the church is placed, the church will have a much harder time cultivating that type of diversity.  Everyone needs to want it  from the pastor to the parishioners and they must actually do something about it.

That is one part of my theory. I wonder if and how all the details will work out. I hope to let you know.
Posted May 12, 2014 @ 7:19 AM by Leon Brown
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