3 Things You Might Not Have Considered About Multiculturalism

A multicultural church is a foretaste of the family of God we will experience in eternity.

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.

The fact of the matter is, when you do something that causes people offense, you have to take responsibility for that offense. You could spend all day long parsing the percentages of people who were and were not offended. Or you could say we should have done better.

So it will be in any form of a multicultural ministry. People will get their feelings hurt and apologies should flow quickly (and forgiveness should flow quickly as well).

Racial Diversity and Cultural Diversity Are Different

If a local church truly wants to reflect the people of God, it must seek to invite and involve people outside of the predominant race or ethnicity that fills its pews. The people of God is a diverse people, and our local churches ought to reflect this reality. Racial diversity, though, is far different from cultural diversity.

For example, a church in Brooklyn may be made up of 100 white-skinned people. On the surface, such a church looks rather homogenous. It is not until you learn that those 100 people are made up of people from the United States, South Africa, Germany, Spain and a number of other countries that you realize diversity exists despite similar skin tones. The same example works with lots of different ethnicities and cultures.

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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.

A multicultural church is not one that simply engages a variety of people from different parts of Asia. A multicultural church is one that not only engages with a variety of Asian peoples, but also a variety of Asian cultures.

You Can’t Do Multicultural Ministry Alone

If multicultural ministry was easy, I wouldn’t have to write this blog post. Pastors, as we consider how we shepherd the people of God, we must not forget who it is that make up the people of God. As we pursue a local church that reflects the family of God, we must understand we cannot do it alone. Here are three ways to be in prayer about engaging in multicultural ministry:

1. Pray for patience.

Doing multicultural ministry may be frustrating at times. Ask the Lord to give you the patience to love others that live and work differently than you.

2. Pray for wisdom.

Understanding a variety of cultures can be confusing. Remembering which cultures have a strict view of time and a relaxed view of time, or other distinctives, can be tough. Ask God to give you the wisdom to juggle the diversity.

3. Pray for leaders.

If you’re going to have a multicultural church, your church leadership must be made up of a variety of cultures. Ask the Lord to provide a diversity of leaders to encourage multicultural ministry.

Chris Martin contributed to this post.

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Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.
  • Andrew Dean Sargent

    Multiculturalism is more than what is meant by adding the definitions of multi and cultural together… multiculturalism (whatever Ed Stetzer may mean by it) is a philosophy of cross-cultural interaction, which vies for dominance among other philosophies of cross-cultural interaction. It carries with it (particularly in today’s socio-political climate) a lot of hideous baggage, like but not limited to inaccurate cultural assessments of “minorities”, hostility to western cultures, a destructive equalizing of all cultures and cultural elements as equally valid (except white cultures), the notion that the way forward in cultural interaction is properly paved with a lowering of the bar for some while raising the bar for others, tinkering with outcomes through unequal processes of law, etc, etc, etc. There are healthier paradigms than “multi-culturalism”