Neighborhood Transitions and the Local Church, Part 4

So far we’ve looked at two options churches typically consider when the neighborhood in which they are located goes through change. The first was to to create a true multicultural church. Those options are often the most common, especially relocating, but they also leave out a third scenario which is becoming more common in large metropolitan culture: multilingual neighborhood churches.

I should add that these are broad categories. You could start another campus, relocate part of the congregation, and be a multilingual multisite. Or, you should move to multicultural ministry AND have language congregations as well. You get the point– these are broad categories.

However, if the community transition is dealing with more distant cultures that speak different languages, an important third response is to create a multilingual church or different congregations meeting in the same buidling (and, better yet, part of the same church).

I once preached at a church in Boston that had five languages represented in the church. They had a multilingual church with different language congregations. In the midst of this, however, they were clearly one, unified church They shared an elder board containing people from each of the congregations who prayed together, worked together, and led together along the way.

I think that the best scenario is not relocation (option 1), though I understand there are times and situations when that it the best thing to do– and congregations need to listen to the leadership of the Lord. The church is not a building and, if the church has moved far from its building, something has to be done with the building. So, if you relocate, start another church and ministry in the building the Lord gave you.

However, I think multicultural transition is a better choice, either in one multicultural congregation (option 2) or in multiple congregations in one facility or (even better) one church (option 3). With that in mind, let me conclude with some thoughts that are applicable to both options 2 and 3.

Practically speaking, how can this pursuit for a genuine multicultural community in a transitional neighborhood be accomplished? Based on my own limited experience, and more broad experience researching and consulting with churches, I see five foundational steps:

  1. Begin to build leadership reflective of the community. When we were planting our church in Buffalo, our neighborhood was about 40 percent African-American, 30 percent Anglo, and the rest was a mix of other races. We tried to model those percentages in our leadership from the very beginning. The community responded.
  2. Intentionally engage ethnicities present. Multicultural engagement will not happen by accident. A strategic plan should be created. Intentionally seek sufficient knowledge and background about the culture from someone who knows this information.
  3. Move beyond tokenism and give actual representative leadership.Disingenuity will be spotted a mile away. Multicultural leadership must be present across the church: in worship, administration, and teaching to name a few areas.
  4. Consider calling a pastor that is reflective of the predominant ethnicity of the community. Ultimately, it is God’s call who to place as pastor, but be intentional, however, to broaden the search to include candidates from a number of different backgrounds.
  5. Reflect the values of the Kingdom of God. Above all else, our church, and the people that make it up, needs to be a picture of Heaven on Earth. Only through God’s grace, love, and guidance can this kind of miracle happen. I can’t think of too many other images that can better illustrate what Jesus Christ can do in the hearts and minds of people who love Him first and each other second.

 

Since pursuing a multicultural setting goes against individuals’ natural tendencies toward homogeneity, church growth WILL be slower. Nevertheless, when God gives the opportunity to move to multiculturalism, take the risk and make the commitment. When changed lives are the fruit, it’s worth it.

This is the final post in a series of 4; read the rest here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer is the President of LifeWay Research, a prolific author, and well-known conference and seminar leader. Stetzer 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.

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Great article as usual from Ed.
 
— Jim Bradshaw
 
I recently left the church where I had attended for 10 years & have been looking for another church home. I visited several in cities that were a distance away- 35 minutes, 1 hr & 1.5 hrs. I could see myself serving in any of those churches, but would like some place closer. I tried several in the town where I live, but no luck so far. One service was supposed to start at 10, but didn't start til 10:20 & the "announcements" took up- no exaggeration- 30+ minutes! THEN they called a guy up to "pray over the offering" He proceeded to whip the congregation into being cheerful givers: "What time is it saints?" [mumble, mumble] "I said, what time is it?" "HAPPY TIME!"- this went on for 15 minutes. ONE hour after their supposed start time, they actually began praise & worship! Another church I went to locally was ok, but the morning I visited there, near the end of the sermon, the pastor announced in his sermon, "I'm not one of those educated preachers! I'm just a simple man with a simple message; I don't get into the Old Testament & all the feast days & all that....I like to stick with the gospels." Nothing wrong with the Gospels, but it's like going to Golden Corral & only eating at the taco bar...good stuff but you're missing out on so much! Needless to say, that was my confirmation to move on... I'm currently driving 1.5 hrs on Sunday nights to attend an excellent church in Charlotte.
 
— Cathy
 
I have an autoimmune disorder. It would be nice if the 'meet & greet' didn't include "Shake the hand of 10 people" Basically it all seems so artificial anyway. Once you sit down can you remember that person's name, color of their eyes, anything they said? My church has an information area with a live person behind the counter. However, the person behind the counter is clueless as to what is happening at the church, which groups they have or where they meet. Basically that person can't answer any questions. The church also has a website. It informs you when the services are, a few of the groups that are available but very little information about what the groups entail or who to contact for each group. There isn't a calendar of events. They are very impressed with themselves since they have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Defeats the purpose if it's all about past events. The rest of the top 10 - luckily don't fit the church I attend.
 
— Jean
 

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