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, 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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I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 

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