Dealing with Neighborhood Transitions in Your Church, Part 3

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been discussing neighborhood transitions and what to do when a church and its community no longer share a socio-economic or ethnic makeup. Last week we looked at relocation as an option. While I do not think this is the best answer, it’s quite possibly the most frequent for churches. If you are going to do it, I suggested a few things to consider.

This week, we turn our attention to the hard work and commitment required to create a multicultural church. That, I think, is a better course of action.

While a neighborhood transition is a fantastic opportunity to create a multicultural church, most people who call for this have never actually been in, much less have successfully built, a multicultural church. Juan Sanchez has written a pair of blog posts about multicultural worship and multi-ethnic congregations here on the blog in the past few months. While his church didn’t face these exact circumstances, he provides some helpful suggestions.

First, we must understand that a multicultural church is a lot more than simply getting someone who is African-American by background, Latino by background and Asian by background and proudly saying, “We’re multicultural.”

If all those people live in the same geographic area, listen to the same music, and go to the same movie theaters and restaurants, they do not reflect true multiculturalism– where there is intentional embrace of cultures, not just the presence of people who come from certain ethnic backgrounds. More accurately, such churches reflect a mono-culture with different racial and ethnic backgrounds represented. This is not to belittle this development. I praise God for the development of churches containing multiple races and ethnicities.

However, to be truly multicultural, however, takes a lot more work. Now, I should not say that I am the expert on the subject– others have written more articulately on the subject. However, what I’ve learned personally was from a planting a multicultural church among the urban poor in the inner city of Buffalo, New York.

We learned a few things there, but a subsequent study illustrated more.

Here are a few things to consider (which I will flesh out later) on the transition:

1. A church needs a vision for a multicultural future— a passion to reflect the Kingdom in this way.
2. Leadership needs to embrace and model the change— including creating a multicultural leadership team.
3. Churches need to prepare for the challenges, conflicts, and opportunities that such transitions provide.

A multicultural church is more work than you think– everyone likes the hypothetical idea and complains about the lack of multiculturalism in the church, but are often not willing to make the transitions and pay the price needed.

We’ll talk more about them in the next post.

Read Part 2 of the series here; read Part 4 here.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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