God wants us to be a multiethnic church because God wants to rewire us so that we relate to the world around us and the people around us differently.
— Geno Olison
The call to include all people groups—no matter how you group them—in God’s kingdom is consistent throughout the story of the Bible. It’s part of God’s covenant with Abraham, and we just see it come up again and again after that. It’s really hard to read the New Testament and not see it—Jesus’ birth, the Great Commission, Pentecost, Peter and Cornelius, the ministry of Paul all show us God’s deep concern for all people to be welcomed into his kingdom.
And there are so many benefits for us when we embrace this concern, too. The most obvious, perhaps, is that we more closely follow the model of Jesus. He actually saw people who were invisible to the people around him. Samaritans, Gentiles, women, children, the weak, the small (literally), the diseased. He engaged with them, tended to their needs, treated them as friends. If we can follow his example, then we aren’t just playing church. We are being the church. That should always be our goal.
Another benefit, though, is that we are enriched by people who are different than we are. I totally love the story of the good Samaritan—it’s surprising in a few ways. Not only does Jesus pick an outsider with low status as his example of who our neighbor is, but he also makes him the hero of the story. When we think of loving people, we can often cast ourselves in the hero role, and forget that relationships are a two-way street. When we share our lives with people who are different, we’ll find that they bring a lot of value to the relationship, too.
And, as we learn to love each other despite or even because of our differences, we have an opportunity to bring healing to the deep wounds our culture bears in the way people treat each other and distrust one another. This is something we need.
So how do we start? Here are a couple ideas:
- Start with your own life. We can’t serve what we’re not cooking, right? So if we want our churches to be welcoming to people of all different races, backgrounds, cultures, political views, etc., we should check to see if our lives are welcoming. Do you have friends who don’t share your views, preferences, ethnic background, or culture? Do you invite people who are different from you to be close to you, or is your inner circle only filled with people your same age, race, and gender?
- Ask God to show you your blind spots. When I took a look at my life recently, I realized that I have very few friends or even acquaintances who are from a different ethnic background than mine. So I asked myself if it was because the people just aren’t here. And while it’s true that I am a white person living in an overwhelmingly white community, there are other people here, too. I just never see them, because, I realized, I don’t go where they go or do what they do. The places where we are comfortable and like to hang out are not the same. So if I want to build relationships across cultural lines, I need to start seeing where those lines are, and be willing to step into places that aren’t comfortable for me.
But no matter how we start, let’s do this together. A weary world needs to see us love our neighbors—not just some of them, but all of them.
Phil Strout recently released a letter to the Vineyard about our call to bring the kingdom in the face of the grave wounds our nation has sustained. If you haven’t yet, be sure to take a moment to read it here.
And if you want to hear more on the topic of church diversity, check out our webinar on The Healthy Multiethnic Church.