Semper Informanda: Prolegomenon
Thoughts on Multi-Ethnic Churches
Jesus prayed in his high priestly prayer that his people would be one just as he and the Father are one (John 17:22). In the melting pot of this country, after years of struggle for brotherhood in the midst of intrinsic and systemic racism, there may be no better witness of this oneness than a multi-ethnic church. As we look forward to the day in which all nations will gather around the throne of our King (Revelation 7:9; 15:4), we now are called to gather to worship, bearing witness that the good news of our God has broken down the segregated walls of Jericho. I would suggest that the heavens rejoice when those who by other means should not co-exist call each other “brother.” Karen Waddles rightly suggests that it is human for us to gather with those who are “our kind” and suspicious of those that are not1, yet those suspicions can be overcome through being truly human, seeing others as image bearers of God as we worship the one whose image we bear.
But before we go headlong into diversity, let us ponder what a truly worshipping, multi-ethnic church must think through. Pastor Tim Keller suggests that we ought to think through these issues since it is minorities who have “the most to lose”2 in the multi-ethnic church. There are three areas that I would suggest for brief contemplation: (1) leadership diversity, (2) ethnic normativity, and (3) racial solidarity. First, in order for a church to be multi-ethnic to its core, it should contain multi-ethnic leadership. This would proclaim to the body that mature Christianity takes on different suits. If multi-ethnic leadership is not established there is a danger for ethnic or cultural normativity to be mistaken for Christian normativity. This mistaken normativity can easily lead to ethnic/cultural superiority and elitism. The ethics, principles, and gospel of Jesus should be the only norms within the church. While we are lifting up our particular ethnicity’s norms, it should be the gospel that permeates it. Lastly, the multi-ethnic church must work towards racial solidarity. Racial solidarity is the very opposite of racial blindness – which suggest that we should see beyond race. Rather racial solidarity “means embracing our common human dignity as a human family in ways that celebrate and respect differences between ethnic communities for the common good.”3 It is when these differences are recognized and celebrated within the community of faith that God receives maximum glory. For even at the eternal throne, the vision of different skin tones is not blurred but rather is clear so that all may see the beauty of this multi-faceted oneness.
Mr. Jared Smith
1 Karen Waddles, “Black History Month: Telling the Story of God’s Mighty Power,” True Woman, February 17, 2012, http://www.truewoman.com/?id=2006, (accessed February 18, 2012).
2 “Tim Keller on Churches and Race” http://bigthink.com/ideas/13308, (accessed February 18, 2012).
3Anthony Bradley, “Moving toward racial solidarity” World Magazine, September 7, 2011, http://online.worldmag.com/2011/09/07/moving-toward-racial-solidarity/, (accessed February 18, 2012).
Orlando Semper Informanda | Volume 6 Issue 20