Four Mistakes to Avoid in Creating a Multiethnic Culture
As I sit and write this, there are protests in the streets of Minneapolis…again. Caused by the murder of black man by a police officer…again. This may be a surprise to you, you may feel enraged or you may just be exhausted. Regardless of how you feel and where you stand, it is clear that we have a race problem in the United States and this conversation on multiethnic churches could not be more relevant. Where we dream of the church being a part of the solution rather fostering division, disadvantage and discrimination.
Last month I wrote about Three Reasons to Start a Multiethnic Church. How it is biblical, unavoidable, and fruitful – and although I hope you read that blog and feel convinced and motivated, I also don’t want you to be deceived…Because, although I am passionate about the church becoming more multiethnic, it is no easy endeavor and not for the light of heart. Starting a Multiethnic church takes true devotion, resilience and endurance. Here are four mistakes you should avoid when starting a multiethnic church:
Avoid doing before being
Many who have the desire to start a multiethnic church ask the question “How?”. But I would argue that that is the wrong question and focus to begin with. The first question should be “Who?”. Starting a multiethnic church should start with your formation as a follower of Jesus that is fully devoted to him and his vision for the church where every tongue, nation and tribe worship together. Do you live a multiethnic life that pursues diversity, reconciliation and oneness with people of all colors and cultures? If you are that person and you live that way, then what you do and how you do as a church will flow out of who you are.
Avoid speaking first
Rather than being the expert and leading the way, take the posture of listening first. Humility will be key in successfully leading others in starting a multiethnic church and building trust with the gathered community. Being a leader does not mean that you have all the answers, in fact it’s impossible! If you are leading a diverse community there will be diverse understandings and experiences that will differ from your own. Listen to these understanding and experiences and learn from them, let them inform how you lead. If you are a white leader, this humility means establishing mutual submission and shared power with your brothers and sisters of color. Giving their voice position and influence within the church.
Avoid prioritizing diversity over oneness
The gospel does not compel the church towards diversity, it compels us to oneness. Diversity is beautiful, but it is not enough. White supremacy gets in the way of oneness. This is the air we breathe and exist in in the US where whiteness and white culture is raised above all others and making it what is normalized. This has to be named, lamented, repented and reconciled for the church to experience true unity and oneness. As whiteness is “denormalized” in multiethnic churches we must then move away from individualism to community, recognizing that God rescues us individually to form us into the mosaic that is the body of Christ. A multiethnic church exists as one, feeling the experiences of one another, lamenting and rejoicing together.
Avoid using the same old metrics
For decades the gold standard of church metrics has been attendance and giving. But if the mission of the multiethnic church is to make disciples of all nations and for oneness of the body, we must radically change what we see as successful growth. If your multiethnic church is serious about seeking oneness, pursuing reconciliation through deconstructing white supremacy and lamenting the injustices that exist, you can anticipate to grow slow…yet deep. On this journey people will be offended, they will get angry, they will tire, they will leave. But those that commit to oneness and pursue it despite these things will grow deep in their discipleship to Jesus in the bond to the community of the body. These metrics, discipleship and unity, should replace the old and be recognized as good and faithful work of the Holy Spirit.
Starting a multiethnic church is no easy task or calling…but it is a worthy one. The good news is that the same power that rose Jesus from the grave exists within you and each of the Jesus followers that will join you. HE is able to do a good work through you.
After years of preparing, planning, and praying, Emily and her husband, Abiel, planted Ciudad de Gracia, a Spanish-speaking Stadia church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in January of 2017. Having first-hand experience of starting churches, Emily’s desire is to partner with church planters to help them be the very best for their community. Her other full-time job is being mom to the very best four kids: Gabriel, Lucas, Liliana and Marco.