Multi-Ethnic Church : definitions / semantics

As we open up the “can of worms” called multi-ethnic ministry I believe it is best we define some things so that all readers know what exactly I’m talking about. 

Multi-racial is the worst term to use regarding diversity - Scientists have grouped all of humanity into 42 differing races. This is more of a scientific term that doesn't define differences seen in churches. 

Multi-national, is, again, not very helpful. Multi-national defines people by the country they are from. May I remind you, other countries are just as diverse as America. 

Multi-cultural is usually associated negatively with “multiculturalism,” which carries connotations of post-modern universalism. Even though ethnicity is close to culture it is not 100% the same thing. (honestly it is sticky trying to define these terms). 

Multi-ethnic reflects most accurately the biblical concept of “the peoples." There are approx. 17,000 ethnicities in the world. Ethnicity is often a bigger determiner of a people's identity and worldview than race or nationality. We often group people together in cultural families rather than separate them out, identifying them as “Latinos” or “Asians” or “Whites,” or “Afro-Americans.” Yet, in doing so, we run the risk of showing our ignorance. Ethnicity is a linguistic, sociologically distinct people group. This will be the term that I stick with for the remainder of this series of blogs.  

Sociologists currently say that a group is diverse if no one ethnicity is 70% or more. This however does not define multi-ethnic. Multi-ethnic by definition means more than two. Sadly many churches that call themselves multi-ethnic are actually bi-ethnic. Your church’s family or two of a third ethnicity, does not constitute a multi-ethnic church. That constitutes a bi-ethnic church with “token” thirds. Hear me out, to be multi-is to have representation on a larger scale than a handful of people. A “multi” church has reached the point that all ethnicities are known, heard and catered to in some way.

When analyzing churches that I have been involved in I have found Darrin Patrick’s definition of churches to be 100% true. All churches are one of the following:

a.     Church in the City – Have an inward look and not on what the city is, and does. The goal is to get people in to hear the gospel. Little outreach, much in reach
b.     Church against the city – The city is irredeemable, and a disgrace. Therefore we’ll stay here and do it the way we’ve always done it. Little outreach, little truth being taught.
c.     Church of the City – Takes all that the city holds and teaches and adopts it for their own, and to their detriment. – so relevant they forget the Gospel.
d.     Church for the city – one that holds tightly to the Gospel, but confronts the pressing needs of their surrounding neighborhoods. A model of engagement where a church speaks the truth of the gospel and is not afraid to uphold a biblical worldview and moral standard. Such a church proclaims the truths of Scripture with passion, clarity, and boldness. At the same time, though, this is a church that commits itself to seeking the shalom, the flourishing, of the city.

So when we’re discussing the implication of multi-ethnic churches we must realize that very few churches in America are at this 70% line. The few churches in America that are truly multi-ethnic are often times from a theological background that yields itself to being more diverse. Pentecostal / Assembly of God / Non-Denominational churches have classically been diverse. Evangelical churches are only now catching up with the desire to diversify ministry. Why is it that the “more liberal” churches are diversified and Evangelical churches struggle to diversify? The answer can’t be summed in one blog post hence the long list of posts to come.

I’d like to conclude this post with a question reflecting back to Darrin’s list of churches.

-What is your church’s stance?
-More importantly, what is your personal stance?

You are only hurting the spread of the Gospel by not answering truthfully.

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