Mono-Ethnic Ministries and Multi-Ethnic Churches (Part 1)
A multi-ethnic church leader responds to the call for more homogeneous churches.

Tom Steers, founder and co-director of Asian American Ministries for The Navigators, recently wrote a guest opinion column for Christianity Today (July 7, 2010). The column is entitled, "Needed: More Monocultural Ministries".

In the opinion piece ("not necessarily representing the opinion of the publication," as CT makes clear in the footer), Steers argues that a multicultural society demands more monocultural ministries. In so doing, however, he does not clearly state what he means by use of the term, "ministry." Consequently, I believe he a) confuses evangelism with local church development, b) wrongly exegetes Scripture in attempting to support his claim, and otherwise c) speaks from assumption in stating what advocates of the multi-ethnic church truly believe. With this in mind, the following blog entry respectfully, but critically, challenges Steers' thinking.

Steers writes:

"Some argue that since we are an increasingly multicultural society, our churches should become more multicultural. There is a certain logic to that. As long as there are people who want to be culturally and socially multicultural, or multiethnic, there also must be structures for them. Such ministries are crucial for healing America's racial and ethnic wounds. They potentially model the unbiased oneness that Jesus prayed for in John 17."

Theologically informed "advocates" of the multi-ethnic church however (at least, none that I know) are not suggesting, as the author states, "since we are an increasingly multicultural society, (that) our churches should become more multicultural."

Nor are Bible-centered proponents of the multi-ethnic church interested in the "logic" of "providing structures" for "people who want to be culturally and socially multicultural, or multiethnic," as if guided by sociology, political correctness, or changing demographics. Furthermore, while we certainly celebrate any gains that are made through "such ministries" in "healing America's racial and ethnic wounds," informed advocates of the multi-ethnic church understand that so-called racial-reconciliation is only a by-product of two a priori works of reconciliation, namely a) reconciling men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ, and b) reconciling local congregations to the principles and practices of first century churches such as existed at Antioch and Ephesus, for example. Yes in these churches, men and women of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds proclaimed God's love for all people by practicing love for one another beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide.

August 25, 2010

Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Daniel K. Eng

August 29, 2010  1:52am

I really appreciate this post, especially as a response to Tom Steers' column. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I'd like to make a few comments: -I am a product of monocultural ministries. I truly believe that I would not have a relationship with God if it were not for the Chinese-American church and parachurches that my parents have been involved in. -You write: "no one I know advocating the multi-ethnic church today is saying multicultural ministry is more biblical than a monocultural approach." I have been repeatedly told by white churchgoers that my church is "unbiblical" and should not exist. I have constantly felt belittled by their comments and their sentiment that their (even more homogeneous white) church is somehow superior to mine. -I'd like to suggest that seemingly multi-cultural churches are indeed monocultural. Unlike the first century church, where believers did not have much choice of which to attend, we now have a variety of churches to choose from. Many multi-ethnic churches center around a certain demographic of education, income, or industry. Even if a church can cross socioeconomic lines (much harder than ethnic lines), it often has one prevailing culture: if nothing else, a group of people who conform to the ideology of worshiping with other ethnicities. As long as people have a choice, they will gravitate to people similar to them: if not in ethnicity or social class, in ideology or ecclesiology. -What if Jesus had indeed planted a church? What would it look like? You bifurcate the ministries of discipleship and church growth, but don't both of those "ministries" fall under the local church? Can they really be divorced from each other? Thanks for taking the time to write this, I truly believe that the Church at large must have more conversations about this very relevant topic. Ultimately, church history has shown us that both monoethnic ministries and multiethnic ministries have all proven effective in gaining people for the body of Christ and furthering the name of Jesus. If we keep this our first goal, we can allow room for both models of ministry and live out Paul's principle of "becoming ALL things to ALL men, so that by ALL means I might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22).

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Wayne Park

August 25, 2010  3:41pm

Interesting article (original) I think I get what he's saying but at the expense of multi-ethnic... not sure if that's on target. From an asian-am perspective we need both; monoethnic churches that carry heritage, multiethnic churches that carry mission. Now if only we can get monoethnic churches to start planting multiethnic ones...

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