This post first appeared at MinistryMatters.com.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3:27-29
The Body of Christ is most effective when all of its parts are working at their maximum potential. Consequently, we should be the greatest advocates for cultural diversity, in race, gender, class, and more. We certainly should not lag behind secular society’s notion of diversity. Part of maximizing the capabilities of the church and accomplishing its mission is by being sensitive to and proactive in reaching and ministering to more diverse audiences; all without sacrificing the integrity of God’s word.
With the transformation of our collective hearts, the body of Christ can actively shift towards a multicultural, multidimensional (and subsequently more effective) approach to ministry. The first step is to quell the distracting myths about multiculturalism in the church.
What are these myths?
1. That multiculturalism and diversity is only about race.
Race, particularly in America, is a significant and sensitive subject. However, ministries can also be faced with issues of cultural diversity related to gender, socioeconomic class, generational differences, geography, and subculture (hip hop, punk, etc).
2. That only white people and “white” churches need diversity or cultural competency training.
Any church that has accepted the call to minister to a world that is becoming smaller every day and whose congregation is predominately-anything should consider ways to diversify while maintaining the integrity of the Gospel; unity can be born from both.
3. That tolerance is the answer. No one desires to be simply tolerated.
One of the key ways to have an effective multicultural ministry is to rid ourselves of the ridiculous idea of being “color-blind” and begin to embrace all cultures represented.
4. That multicultural ministry is easy.
It’s not. Implementing a multicultural vision can be both unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Church leaders must prepare themselves and their congregations for this.
5. That the world is too far gone for this to work.
God rarely waits on the world to be ready in order to exact His plans. Even Christ was born into a world that was not “ready” for His message. Yet His message of redemption and salvation was so much bigger than His circumstances. Because He changed the world even when the world was resistant to change, He must be our model in this as well.
There are several ways that the Body of Christ can effectively walk out Christ’s mandate to “go and teach all nations” and allow our congregations and our worship to be reflective of the church without spot, wrinkle, or blemish (Ephesians 5:27) to which Christ desires to return. A few of these include:
Doing the due diligence
Research the true demographics of where you are called to minister, examine the need in those areas, educate yourself on the cultures in those areas, pray and fast for direction, and write a detailed plan.
Tap into areas that speak to our similarities vs. differences. When establishing a multicultural agenda in our ministries we cannot forget that it is the grace and mercy of the Father, the sacrifice and power of Christ, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit that is the ultimate draw.
Eliminating the role of preferences
Many people use their preference for a particular type of worship or ministry experience as a way to justify the divisions that we see in the church. I believe God is least concerned about what we’d “prefer” to hear, say, do, or experience, and more concerned about advancing his agenda in the earth.
Our worship and fellowship together should look more like heaven is going to look—both diverse and unified.