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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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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What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

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