becoming a multiracial church, part 4
From religionjournal.com mirror [and edited], Multicultural Churches Show Fast, Large Growth: The thinking among many U.S. church leaders in recent years is that the key to church growth lies in focusing on specific cultures, whether it be Hispanic, Slavic, Korean, Hmong, Tongan or 55 other groups that have formed their own distinct ethnic categories within the Assemblies of God fellowship.
Amazing statistics about Assemblies of God churches and excerpts from the original article:
The 472 “no single majority” congregations have an average Sunday morning attendance of 253, a growth of 101 since 1992. That compares to 145 average attendees in white churches, 137 in black churches and 111 for Hispanic churches. There are 51 multiethnic churches with more than 500 attendees, and 22 topping 1,000.
Preferring to associate with people of one’s own race — whatever that may be — is the path of least resistance, says Berryhill, who became senior pastor in 1992. It takes effort to integrate. … But moreover, there has been a purposeful effort to blend races.
“You can’t program that,” Berryhill says. “It has to come out of authentic relationship. There has to be a commitment not just to the concept of relationships but the actual spending time together getting to know each other.”
The bottom line that was left out of the mirrored article:
There aren’t more multiethnic congregations, according to Berryhill, because most people don’t want to relinquish their preferences to make others feel welcome.
“It’s really not diversity if you just talk about it but don’t take steps to make it happen,” Cooper says. “Intentionality means we do this even if it’s uncomfortable,” Berryhill says. “It’s one thing to say, ‘We would like black people to come to our church.’ It’s another to have something there that people of color can identify with. There has to be something there that says, ‘That looks like me’ or ‘That speaks to my heart.'”
Berryhill has blacks, Hispanics and whites on the pastoral staff, serving as deacons and as ministry leaders. Services are designed so that those leading prayer and singing special music are of different hues.
“What brings us together is the Cross, Jesus’ voluntary death that broke down the barriers of hostility,” Berryhill says. It’s important to be united on earth because skin color won’t matter in heaven,” he says. “Our natural relationships will die, but our spiritual relationships will last forever.”
“In the body of Christ you really can have diversity and unity in the same body,” Cooper says.
Temple notes that around 70,000 whites attend the Fellowship’s churches where no ethnic group dominates. “Multiethnic, intercultural churches are wonderful models of heaven on earth,” Temple says. “If Christians are going to reach a divided world, then we need to present a united front.”
[Also see previously posted: part 3, part 2, part 1, original post. ]
The apostle Paul said to the Jews he became like a Jew, etc. (1 Cor. 9:20-22) I think that it can be applied to churches as well, as long as it is not done in a way that’s exclusionary. Part of the message of the emergent church (as I understand it) is that church needs to be culturally relevant. The thing with that is that there are many cultures out there. You can’t be culturally relevant to every single culture. You have to choose. So sometimes that means to the Chinese, you have a Chinese church, to the blacks, a black church, etc.