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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This article reminds me of an experience I had. In my third year at the parish I pastor I needed to make some staff changes. During that process I was constantly praying for insight and enlightenment. Some old time parishioners did like that I was making these changes. They did not like the growth that was happening and did not want any change. This group parisioners decided to protest by only putting a dollar a week in the collection. The most incredible thing happened, during the weeks they were protesting the parish collection went up by over 5%. Now as any pastor can tell you all collections fluctuate, but while people are deliberately trying to hurt the parish or more to the point hurt me, this was a blessing. This reminded me that if I pray and I try to do what I believe God is telling me to do, God will take care or me and my people. Pastors that are trying to do God's will, put God's will first and don't be bullied by people trying to lead you away from God's will.
 
— Fr. James Wozniak
 
I feel that church has become a production. Like there is a big show in town and all of the IN crowd goes.
 
— JK
 
Julie, I wouldn't think everyone was friendly to your mother because she gives a lot of money.. Most people really have no idea what other members give.. If I had to guess, I would say it's because she has been there all those years and everyone knows her, they have built relationships.. That's the entire reason to be in church.. So we can build relationships to help, encourage, and love one another... Tithe is very important to a church and to Christ.. But not the most important... I'm sure if you get involved, and be friendly towards others, you to will receive friendship and community with others...
 
— Ella
 

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