“I look upon the world as my parish…” John Wesley Works XXV, 616
The first book I read on the multi-ethnic church was Stephen A. Rhodes’, “Where the Nations Meet: The Church in a Multicultural World,” which was based on his personal visits to multi-ethnic churches in the United States. The title is what initially caught my attention. After reading the book I began to wonder how the United Methodist Church would fare in its effort to the comply with Christ’s great commission to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” given our demographic shift.
Indeed the nations meet in the United States in our communities, yet we struggle to understand how to offer opportunities for ethnic groups to congregate for ministry. Many times we are stifled by the challenges rather than encouraged by the opportunity. I am convinced that too often the wrong questions are asked rather than asking those that will lead to adaptive changes, the only type of change that will turn opportunity into reality.
One of the chapters in the Rhodes’ book is titled, “Just Give Them Jesus: A multicultural church is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” As simplistic as this may sound, given the opportunity in our efforts to either plant a multi-ethnic church or for an existing church to engage in ministry with a new ethnic group, Christ’s lordship is paramount. Taking a posture of humility to Christ’s lordship and to adaptive and accommodating hospitality is a spiritual matter. Many times this posture can wane too rapidly ending in lack of progress.
In light of the our recent Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance I’ll end with his quote that is still true today, “We must face the sad fact that the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America.”
What can we do to make the eleven o’clock hour look more like the heaven we read about in the Bible, filled with ethnically diverse people?