Opposition to diversity in church worship is unavoidable. There will always be those who don’t want to see change occur in your church. Most of the time, those who oppose multiculturalism in church do so out of fear of change rather than any sort of deep racism, but concerns about race can always be a foundational issue in opposition.
The early church in Acts showed us that it’s always been hard to allow other cultures to worship with us, even from the beginning.
The disciples had to debate whether or not to let Gentiles (non-Jewish people) worship with them as believers (Acts 15:1–12) without first becoming Jews. The debate was heavy and heated, but unity ultimately won out. Some people, nonetheless, were angered by the decision.
The same can be said about those who oppose any sort of change that brings in multiculturalism or diversity to your church. Rather than get caught up in the debate itself, which is too easy to do, understand that at the heart of the matter is preserving the relationship between yourself and any who may oppose you. Good relationships are what lead to unity. Winning arguments for the sake of being right do not lead to unity. If you experience opposition to your efforts to bring a multicultural aspect of worship to your church service, remember that you are speaking to a brother or sister in Christ. They are not your enemy no matter how heated the debate or opposition may be. Once you understand that, then you can more easily handle any opposition to multiculturalism in your church.
Let’s analyze some more ways to handle opposition to multiculturalism in church:
- See those who oppose you the way Christ sees them. We already touched on this subject in the previous paragraph. We need to see everyone who may oppose our ideas the way Christ sees them. When we get into debates, it’s far too easy to get into an us-vs-them mentality which leads to dissension. We can turn our debates into fights. Rather than falling into the major pitfall of debate, strive to see what Christ sees in those who oppose you.
- Pray for yourself and those who oppose you. Prayer can come off like a stock answer to anything, but the fact remains that prayer is truly our lifeline to God. In prayer, we find God’s heart for many things. In prayer, we can better align ourselves with what God wants. When we pray, we find that it is easier to allow God’s work to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer will help you to see others as Christ sees them and opens up the door for the Holy Spirit to be the intermediary between yourself and any opposition.
- Seek to understand any concerns that lead to opposition. These concerns cover a vast array of topics. Some who may be opposed to multiculturalism in worship may say, “We like the way our church worships: Why change?” Others may be concerned they would lose their culture among the many. Most may simply not want to change anything about church. They joined the church because they liked how the service ran, and they may see that now you want to go and change the whole thing. Ask questions and strive to answer their concerns as fully as possible.
- Be open to change. Maybe what you are proposing is too much too fast. Maybe smaller changes can be implemented at first rather than your grand ideas. Once visionaries get an idea in their head, it’s all or nothing. Many other people are not the same way. Be open to allowing for variations to your ideas. You may find that some opposition is actually beneficial to your desires for your church.
- Open the debate to a broader group of church members. Allow for public-forum-like settings where church members can ask their questions and receive answers corporately instead of one-at-a-time. This will greatly reduce your stress and energy in answering opposition. It also opens up debate within the church as a whole where others who agree with you can voice their opinions as well.
Ultimately, as we said before, remember to remain friendly in all discussions.
Opposition doesn’t always mean “bad.” Debate doesn’t always mean you have an “enemy.”
Opposition and debate are ways for iron to sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17). As best as you can, try to embrace any opposition to your desire to bring a more diverse worship experience to church as a way for you to learn more about your church and those in it. It is a learning experience. If you don’t get your way at first, don’t hold grudges. Keep praying and asking God for direction on how to bring multiculturalism and diversity to your church.
Keep in mind that small steps are better than large when introducing change in your church. Consider starting the process by having specific nights where multicultural worship can be experienced by church members outside of the main service. There are ministries that provide multicultural worship, like Unified By One does, that can be utilized in these situations. Read more about what we do and keep working to see unity through diversity occur in your church. Contact us if you need help.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.