More than likely, when you were young there was something you really wanted to be when you grew up. Maybe a professional athlete, a police officer, a movie star, or the always popular fireman. Now, there are any number of reasons why that one-time dream of yours didn’t pan out, not the least of which is that God took your life in a different direction and of course you couldn’t be happier about that. But how many little boys and girls have ambitions like these, maintain them when they’re older and can do something about it, but then never take the first steps in achieving them? They never try out for the team, apply to the academy, or seriously consider what it would take to make it in Hollywood. Hence, we have the cliché of how we miss 100 percent of the shots we never take.
As a pastor, I’m willing to bet that you honestly strive for more diversity in your church than what you currently have. Maybe you read books about it, discuss your hopes at staff meetings, and tell God you wish to reach the different ethnicities in your community. But what are you actually doing about it? Because the cliché still applies: you miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
Have you actually begun doing the work it takes to obtain a multiethnic church?
It Starts with You
Where are you personally building relationships in your community? Does everyone you invite over for dinner look like you and speak like you? Are all the places you hang out at with your friends and family in the same suburb as your white picket fence? Begin today praying for God to show you where you need to be seeking relationships in places you perhaps were not placing any emphasis on before. Ask him to give you a heart for all people, just as he has.
Build friendships with local pastors of different ethnicities as well. This does not need to be done with the mind-set of combining your congregations for special services from time to time, although that is not a bad idea. But simply add to your community of missional support pastors of different races and cultures who can speak into your life in ways that others cannot.
Then Take It to Your Staff and Leaders
You won’t see any significant changes within your church in the area of diversity if you’re the only one on the bus. So you need to be intentional about educating the rest of your staff and lay leaders as well. It is extremely important that your staff sees the multiethnic church as not being about political or social correctness but about being a biblical mandate for the sake of the gospel and its maximum effectiveness in your community.
You might also consider taking your staff through a study like The Multi-Ethnic Christian Life Primer. Having all the leaders on board with a multiethnic mission will be extremely vital before the next step in building a more diverse church . . .
Getting Your Congregation Involved
Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 10 to find a “man of peace” when they enter a new mission field applies still today, here in our mandate to build healthy, multiethnic churches. Be strategical about recruiting help from within your congregation. Look for men and women “of peace” who will have the same desire as you and your staff and ask for their involvement. And certainly do not hesitate to seek help from any church members who are minorities of some sort or speak a second language. You may consider taking them through any studies you did with your staff. You can also challenge them to begin seeking new ways to host diverse groups in their homes as well.
The important thing here is sharing your vision of the multiethnic church that simply must come if you are to reach your community and having enough people on board with you as you begin making any changes or adjustments that God brings your way. Because many in your congregation won’t see eye to eye with you and will leave. But that’s okay. Remember how Gideon’s army was cut down from 32,000 to 300 in Judges 7, in order that God would get the glory in their victory. You, too, will lose a few. Maybe a great deal more than a few.
But you must continue to trust that you are building the church God desires most. There will always be a church available for big donors and anti-change churchgoers to attend. But is there a church in your community for the outcasts, for the refugees, for the immigrants, for the minorities? Be that church. You will not regret it.
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, his most recent being All You Want to Know about the Bible in Pop Culture. He also writes at BibleInPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter under the handle @PopCultureKevin.