This month on the blog, we explored how to encourage diversity in your church. Many churches are content with their expression of worship, but still desire to reach a diverse group of people. The church will have outreaches to peoples of many different cultures, but their church service remains monocultural. Therefore, what often happens is that these outreaches are often hindered by the church’s lack of desire to bring a multicultural aspect to their services. Or, the church will create a special ethnic service to serve the diverse in their neighborhood. These special church services, though helping to spread the gospel of Christ, do little to establish unity within the general church body because the races and cultures are still isolated from one another.
As Christians, we are called to be of one body and mind as a church. We are called to be united under Christ. As the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4–6).
There is no allowance for lacking diversity in our local church body, yet many of our services lack diversity.
In our introduction to this series we quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in saying: “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”
Today, we still struggle with what Dr. King noticed over 50 years ago. The average church service remains monocultural despite the strong diversity of the United States. A 2010 article by the Minnesota Public Radio News observed a large church, Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, where unity within diversity could have been expressed but wasn’t. The church served three different cultures in three different services: American, Ethiopian, and Latino. As the article notes:
“On a Sunday morning at Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, the first service lets out. In a few hours, a Latino congregation will fill the pews. But right now, an Ethiopian preacher takes the pulpit. The sanctuary is certainly large enough for all three ministries to worship together in one combined service. Nearly all the congregants can speak English. But each group prefers to praise God separately.”
As a church body here in America, we are depressingly monocultural. So now we ask our question: What did we learn about encouraging diversity in our local churches?
We covered several different ideas that could help a monocultural church become a diverse church. We wrote on:
1. Incorporating diverse church members in your service through allowing for diverse members to share testimonies, read scripture, pray, or lead a special song during the main church service. Doing so allows for people to relate to one another as well as feel comfortable in church by seeing people like them speak from the front.
2. Partnering with diverse churches to join two monocultural churches together for worship and outreach. If a white church joined a black church for worship or outreach once a month, and vice-versa, we would see unity within diversity in our church services.
3. Educating your church on other cultures by allowing for church members and non-church members to speak about their own cultures. Others, such as missionaries, could be welcomed to do the same thing. This will not only open up your church as a whole to other cultures, but opens minds and hearts for change.
4. Stimulating diverse expressions of culture once your church has been educated on different cultures. A church could put into practice what they learned about different cultures by stimulating diverse worship expressions in their church service.
5. Becoming comfortable with other languages in your church service. Doing so allows others to be comfortable themselves within your church as well as overcoming the general prejudice many Western Christians have towards other languages.
In summary, we learned that a church must be highly relational for it to be truly diverse. All of the ideas we examined during this month are best expressed when we truly desire to get to know another culture well. When we find new friends, the first hours we spend with each other are spent getting to know each other better through like-minded activities. As Christians, we are united around Christ. That is the foundation of our relationship, but there are cultural differences that often come between us for no other reason than we let it out of fear or difficulty. The ideas we shared this month on the blog are designed to not only create diversity in church but to create friendships with one another. The best and first step to creating diversity in your church is understanding one another as not that different than you. Then, from there, you can acknowledge that the similarities overcome any differences between the cultures. This then leads to more openness between the cultures and allows for friendship and unity to occur.
Friendship is how we encourage diversity in church.
What do you think?