I love a great quote when I see one. Over the past few weeks I have been preparing to speak to pastors in North Carolina about reaching community. Multicultural ministry remains a buzz word, especially in homogenous churches claiming diversity. But here’s the truth. True diversity begins when twenty percent of your congregation is different from the other eighty percent. We shy away from the word tokenism, but in Spirit and in Truth, when there are only a few faces in the congregation who are different from the majority, the title of a diverse church has not been earned.
I often hear the same question. “Why are we not a diverse church?” There are many answers to this question, including this. Our desire for sameness is culturally deep. On days of worship, we attend the place where we are most comfortable culturally. Churches must be willing to disrupt the sameness and become intentional towards reaching across barriers of ethnicity as we reach into our own communities.
Christians devoted to the ministry of our churches, enjoy the culture of our worship which often is closely tied to the culture of our ethnicity. Changing our worship culture takes knowledge, skills, and the willingness. Here are three ways to get started.
If my church is looking to change its worship to include a different ethnic group, we must first understand who we are before we begin reaching across cultural boundaries. The first step is understanding our own worship culture. As we review our worship services from start to finish, we begin to notice specific aspects of our worship culture and identify why we do what we do. Understanding ourselves, we move from the inside of our church (our congregation) to the outside of our church (our community). This inside outside analysis is a great place to begin.
The second simple step is to identify who we are reaching outside the doors of our church. Is it an ethnic, generational, or gender outreach? Each of these identifiers come with a culture and the more we know, the more successful our outreach will be. Finally, make time to understand cultural norms. Ask questions, read books, hold special events….engaging in culturally diverse activities is educational and welcoming.
Here’s the last idea. If God is moving the heart of your church ministry to reach across cultural boundaries and reach all disciples for Christ, I recommend your church start with a small group. Begin by learning, discussing, and understanding the meaning of words and concepts including diversity, inclusion, privilege, and microagressions. Pray and begin the work, then speak the words of Rev. Forde. “Come, Come, Whoever You Are…the doors are open. May we affirm that truth with our acts of hospitality. And, in our midst, may there always be room for one more.”
Awaken Our Hearts, Lord!