Recently I was asked about practical ways churches can seek to incorporate multiculturalism. However before addressing this type of question we should ask ourselves how important is this and why? Also we should ask ourselves what are our goals be in doing so? Here are my responses to these questions. (It should be noted that I work at very culturally homogeneous church, but I grew up in a multi-cultural household.)
The primary reason for which we should move towards multi-culturalism is that it is God’s eschatological intention to have a people made up of all nations. Richard Mouw addresses this in When the Kings Come Marching In. In this book he points out one of the many images found in Isaiah, the image of “the milk of many nations.” This image represents God’s commitment to having a multi-cultural people for himself. Isaiah 60 points out that God wants to gather people from every culture under himself for his own glory. Mouw points out that the phrase “you shall suck the milk of the nation” implies that diversity of cultures and peoples is necessary for proper human flourishing. He then points out that in Revelation we see similar imagery, however this time the nations are gathered because of the blood of Christ. So the picture what we have in Revelation is a picture of every tribe, tongue, and nation gathered through the blood of the lamb.
Since biblically it is clear multi-culturalism is God’s eschatological intention, the next step is to show that it is God’s intention for the church in the present. The basis for the claim that it is God’s intention for the church now can be seen in the fact that the New Testament envisions the Church as the eschatological community. As the eschatalogical community, the Church should be living out the eschatalogical reality which Christ has purchased through his own blood for his people. If indeed the local church is a microcosm of the universal church (which is the eschatalogical community) then we can say that the local church should be a multi-cultural community. This last point, that the local church is a microcosm of the universal church is a bit controversial, nonetheless it is a part of my own ecclesiology.
This is a HUGE question… however there are several ways that churches can begin to incorporate multiculturalism. The most important way to do this will be to have a multi-cultural leadership team. It should be the church’s goal to represent the cultural demographics in the location in which the church finds itself. This means that a caucasian church which is in a Hispanic neighborhood should begin to have Hispanic leaders. In having a multi-cultural leadership, the church can avoid the problem of having “token” members of a culture as a part of the congregation. The multi-cultural leaders will best know how to address the needs of their culture as the congregation seeks to become more multi-cultural.
Published by cwoznicki
Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.
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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Multi-Culturalism in Churches”
I moved from an area that had several “mega-churches” and in all my time their I saw only one truly multi-cultural church. And their staff was basically a rainbow of people and in turn their church was that as well. The weekend I spent with a few of their staff at a retreat was the first time I saw exactly what a church should look like. It’s an image and a time I haven’t forgotten. I’m not saying any demonination needs an affirmative action type policy, but just like the “rooney rule” for football it wouldn’t hurt churches to consider purposely seeking out other ethnicities to hire. I like this idea.
My only other suggestion is that churches should intentionally partner with other churches in their area that are other races, even a few times a year. I think it would be beneficial for all involved to get a better picture of what heaven will be. Most people forget that through all of Christian history the church has never been mostly white.
Thanks for the comment, I agree with you that stepping out to partner with other churches in the area that belong to a different culture can be a huge step in moving towards a better picture of what heaven will be like. My own church has partnered up with churches from other cultural backgrounds in order to help serve the community. I have definetly seen the benefits of these cross-cultural interactions.
I would have to agree with you but it is weird that many hispanic church goers and blacks don’t want to go to the same churches. The really great churches draw them in as God has intended. It’s not the color that matters but our hearts in light of seeking Him out. Great post.