“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
I look around at various local churches in our denomination and I notice that the majority of them are still either predominately Caucasian or African-American. However, I also see many other local churches becoming more multi-ethnic or attempting, which makes more sense in our globalized world.
I was participating in a conference recently that had the goal of challenging the local church to be more intentional in reaching the diaspora communities, there was a pastor of a local African-American congregation whom spoke in the part of the conference that I led and he made a statement that is so very true about the local church. He said that the Anglo church did international missions the best but local missions poorly and that the African-American church did local missions the best and international missions poorly. He talked about his goal to lead his church in a more balanced direction.
The local church needs to work harder at modeling the early church. When we look at the church in Antioch, we see a multi-ethnic church from its leadership to its members. The same is true for the churches in Thessalonica, Corinth, and Philippi. We are surrounded in Columbia by many diaspora communities that need to hear the Gospel. We, the local church, need to be more like the early church, an intentional, multi-ethnic church. One may ask, what steps can we take to become the multi-ethnic church Jesus seeks to build? Frank Damazio, pastor of City Bible Church, listed in an article that he wrote some steps to reach this goal.
- Build a bridge of love and friendship to the people groups of Columbia.The nations have to our city and continue to each year. Target different areas of Columbia and people groups, reach out and build relationships, and welcome them into the family as one church.
- Welcome people in,giving them opportunity to maintain their own cultural distinctions without being separated from the rest of the body of Christ. This helps internationals assimilate in the culture surrounding them. However, with the first generation, gathering them in groups or planting churches based on ethnicity, country of origin, or language, this is a good way to reach them. Regarding the second and third generations, it is best to incorporate them immediately in the larger church body since they consider themselves more American.
- Give opportunities for those with a different ethnic backgroundto gain practical experience and training more quickly in the area of church leadership. This opens the door for ethnic groups to be an arm of the local church to reach out to the various communities throughout the city and back to the home countries represented.
- Intentionally reach out and be willing to pay the cost.Make a commitment to persevere. Becoming a multi-ethnic church may require and adjustment to our lifestyle such as going to an ethnic store or restaurant and befriending someone who works there. Commit to leaving your comfort zone and becoming a learner. We must also be more evangelistic once we have strong relationships built.
The various ethnic churches across our state are doing just this by being devoted to Christ, devoted to fellowship with each other, and devoted to missions. Every month the ethnic pastors get together to fellowship with each other, learn from one another, work together in ministry, and worship together as one body. Now some Anglo churches and African-American churches are catching the vision God has laid in front of us and are slowly working and fellowshipping with the ethnic churches. God is a multi-ethnic God who created every people group to be reached with the Gospel. The building of an international culture into the church starts with its leader, the pastor, who motivates this multi-ethnic vision. I pray that every pastor will be that kind of leader.
Rev. Ryan Dupree