Multicultural Congregations in the Blended Ecology
By Michael Beck
In the inherited church, many times we seek to create multicultural congregations from the inside out. We hire the right staff; we create blended worship experiences, and we try to attract diverse people to our pews. Lights, camera, action! Many times, this approach fails or can lead to forms of tokenism and inequality. But what if there is another way? At Fresh Expressions UM, we believe in creating multicultural congregations from the outside in.
By cultivating fresh expressions and missional campuses throughout a parish or region, we can join the diversity that is often just outside the sanctuary walls. By listening, loving, serving, and building relationships, new forms of community can spring up with diverse people currently not connected to the church. These forms of church live in a symbiotic relationship with the existing congregation. Over time, the inherited community is transformed as people flow out into God’s diversity in the world, and that diversity flows back into the church. The blended ecology allows for monocultural congregations to become a diverse network of micro-churches.
In June 2015, Rodrigo and Kelly Cruz began to hear God’s call to start a church in Gwinnett County, Georgia, a community that has been called the most diverse county in the Southeastern United States. After six months and research and prayer, the church found its first home on the campus of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia.
When deciding what to call the church, Rodrigo didn't just want a regionally specific name like First United Methodist Church of Lilburn. He explains, “We wanted to be all-inclusive. God was calling us to minister to more than just Lilburn. Kelly really came up with the name, saying that when we cast a net into the water, we don’t get to pick and choose what kind of fish we catch. It’s the same with the people we connect to within our community. Our neighbors are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and so much more. We want to reach out to absolutely everybody, and our vision is to enable nations to experience transformation together.” The Nett name was chosen, with the additional “t” added to represent Gwinnett.
The Nett is now four distinct campuses living in a blended ecology together. Rev Cruz additionally serves as a district superintendent in the North Georgia Conference. His district is becoming one of the most innovative and diverse in the country.
Don’t miss an opportunity to learn from Rodrigo in this month’s free webinar! Get your team registered here:
Michael Beck is the Director of Fresh Expressions United Methodist (FXUM) with Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries.