Part 4 in a continuing series.
Links to previous posts include:
- Introduction: “Fighting Racism with the Gospel”
- Part 1: “Ending Racism with Counter-cultural Gospel Ministry“
- Part 2: “Ending Racism with Counter-Cultural Gospel Ministry: Part 2“
- Part 3: “Ending Racism: Rethinking the Suburban Church: Part 3“
Six Core Values for Multi-Ethnic Ministry
What were the foundational pillars upon which we stood?
The gospel, not marketing is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).
No matter what their color or culture, people are the same in their basic human need for grace, forgiveness, purpose, and hope (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23).
Every community with an ethnic diversity needs at least one church that seeks to declare and model to its non-believing neighbors that we are one in Christ at the foot of the cross (Revelation 7:9-12).
The rich need the poor more than the poor need the rich (Luke 6:20-23).
Revivals begin in have-not-communities more often than have-communities (1 Corinthians 1:26).
A church that showed the world great diversity coupled with great love for one another would bring great glory to God and great joy to the world (John 13:35).
We wanted to become that church.
We began to move forward with our plans to become a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church. Part of what drove our vision was the concept that every culture and ethnicity, every socio-economic and even political group sees both more and less of God and His will because of the spectacles with which they approach the Scripture and life.[i] [ Put more simply: Every culture gives both blinders and spectacles. ] That principle causes us to value different perspectives as well as to have a healthy suspicion about our own and others’ interpretation both of Scripture and culture. It causes us to cultivate a Berean-like heart (Acts 17:10-15) not only with regard to the Scripture but also as it pertains to ethnicity and culture.
That vision has kept us on the East side of town where the “poor” and the greatest ethnic diversity in our community resides. It has yielded a food pantry ministry that last year funneled twenty-two to twenty-five tons of food to the needy of our community and a nine-hundred-square-foot clothing pantry that helps to keep children warm and parents appropriately dressed for job interviews. Additionally, eighteen-hundred-square-foot modern health clinic has seen over two thousand patients since we opened it four years ago [2017 update: well over 5,000]. It is staffed completely by volunteers from over a dozen different churches. We attempt to care for the whole person and the whole community.
In 2004, we added an office for the county social service agency housing counselor. The county pays the salary, we provide the office. In the Fall of 2008, a dental care office was under construction, to be added to the clinic to complement the general practice, optometry, physical therapy and chiropractic care that is already offered. In addition, our staff, elders and trained lay counselors offer biblical counseling to our community. [What this meant is that we were able to provide food, clothing, housing, basic medical care, biblical counseling and spiritual growth opportunities all under one roof. It was personal ministry not institutional ministry. And all of these ministries established the church as a suburban church with a decidedly urban texture.] We are able to provide direct and personal help without a bureaucratic referral process that might rob the person we are trying to help of their dignity.
[i] I owe the phrasing of this idea to my friend and colleague Dr. Michael Green, seminary professor and former pastor of the English Language congregation at the Chinese Christian Union Church in Chicago.
All culture both obscures and reveals different aspects of God and His truth.
Any “white” ministry that aims at multi-ethnic ministry will necessarily take on a decidedly urban texture. What does this tell us about life in the 21st century?
Tomorrow: Growing Pains in Multi-ethnic Ministry