Multi-Ethnic Novelty
Are consumer Christians engaging justice and racial reconciliation because they're trendy?

You can learn a lot about Evangelical Christianity by going into a typical Christian bookstore in a shopping mall. You'll find scores of how-to, self-help, and church growth books. I doubt you will find many books on reconciliation.

While the church definitely needs good, practical literature on helping individuals and churches grow, we must guard against replacing the gospel of reconciliation with a gospel primarily or exclusively focused on quantitative church growth. In fact, Dr. John M. Perkins prophetically confronted the Evangelical church as far back as 1982, saying that "We have substituted a gospel of church growth for a gospel of reconciliation" (See Perkins, With Justice for All, pp. 107-108). Perkins was speaking primarily of the need for churches to break down racial barriers between people of different ethnicities. With this in mind, it is a welcome sight to find churches like Willow Creek being intentional about welcoming diverse ethnicities (See "Can Megachurches Bridge the Racial Divide?" Time, January 11, 2010). There are vital signs of hope.

The gospel of reconciliation calls us out from affinity groupings based on cliques that intentionally or unintentionally exclude those who are different from us according to race, class, gender, generation, etc. Unfortunately, people don't just shop in bookstores. Many people inside and outside the church in North America view the church as "a vendor of religious services and goods" (Hunsberger, in Missional Church, p. 84); they look for churches that will "sell" them the religious goods and services that they as individuals and as individual nuclear families want, not what they ultimately need relationally as citizens of God's communal (and not commodity-) kingdom. We need to be expanded relationally, moved beyond hanging out simply with our "own kind of people," moving toward being enriched by Jesus' people from diverse backgrounds, and moving into the realization of God's kingdom.

Multi-ethnic is increasingly in, but I am afraid that it may be because many religious consumers are infatuated with multi-____ (like multi-grain, multi-vitamin); infatuation is only skin deep. It's faddish in some circles to take on board various concerns for justice, but I have witnessed how people want to talk about race matters at a forum but not embody racial justice in concrete practices in diverse community as Christ's body. I also find it hard to move beyond my comforts and preferences to engage people who look and think differently from me culturally, especially when it entails being marginalized by the dominant culture if I continue down that path.

July 21, 2010

Displaying 1–9 of 9 comments

TheBranch

September 01, 2010  10:42pm

What if it is that we have made gatherings the issue instead of the functions and identity of the Church. Gathering in any form is not the purpose, function, or direct identity of the church. It is just something that we are supposed to do as a body of believers. Rightfully so to stay connected with one another. I feel that we have made our gatherings the issue and disciple making has taken a back seat role. As Tim said 76% of a churches money and probably time and other resources as well to just put on a meeting and gathering. I agree with Tim that does not seem like the Biblical view of using Church resources. We should be disciple making, feeding the poor, fixing the medical care crisis that the government cannot fix, and many other things with the money. I also find it interesting all of the weird stipulations that we put on churches here in the States. Church looks much different if you step into an eastern country. I think the way we do missions should inform the way we do church back home in the states.

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theycallmepastorbryan

August 02, 2010  1:05am

Tim, I'm going to base this on what I've experienced of smaller house churches... They have just as hard of a time if not harder, pushing outside of their affinity groups. And like it or not, yes the words we say do matter. And there is a truth to that we don't preach a demanding gospel, generally we end up preaching a "just get your butt covered so you can go to heaven" gospel. Captcha: "Graft Often" I'm not willing to pursue an institutional vs. house church discussion other than to point out that all the house churches I've seen suffer the same homogeneity problem. If you've got stats that prove my anecdotal experience wrong, I'll take it, but I don't see much in the way of multi-ethnic house churches either.

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Tim

July 28, 2010  3:27pm

theycallmepastorbryan It's easy to play the hijack card when you don't want to deal with the substantive issues involved. I would not bring it up except that the Biblical basis for supernatural relationships is the core of organic church life and the bane of institutionalized gatherings. You see the problems but do not want to question your comfort zone of institutionalized leadership. You think it is holy as is. It's not. "...because we aren't preaching a gospel that pushes us out of our comfort zones..." Are you thinking that if the saints just heard the right words coming from from the other side of the pulpit they would step out of their comfort zone? The institutional form is a finely tuned comfort zone version of God's design for His people. Results will be no different than what you see even with different words. As someone who left those habits 12 years ago, I still struggle with their residue in my flesh. Believers in home churches are not immediately able to kick all the selfish habits they were trained in when they sat in the pews. No surprise there. Doing what God has asked for does help spiritual growth. You can't "run the race" until you "throw off everything that hinders...". Heb. 12:1

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Bobbi

July 28, 2010  12:25pm

Hurricane Katrina caused some white churches to integrate because some black churches were destroyed. So God will do what we won't do.

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theycallmepastorbryan

July 27, 2010  12:11pm

Tim, do we really need to hijack this into a house church debate? I agree with you that churches should be wary of how much of their spending goes back to themselves, but house church has its own set of maladies as it relates to our attempts to move beyond gathering with those who are just like us. Most house churches I know of fall into the same homogeneity issue - people like to be with people who they are like. And to me that's the root of addressing why our churches don't move us in a direction of engaging the "other" - because we aren't preaching a gospel that pushes us out of our comfort zones, a gospel that doesn't consume us with God's love for humanity and the other.

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Tim

July 26, 2010  7:32pm

" We must become, rather than buy, a kingdom community where people of different ethnicities and economic backgrounds among others feast together at Jesus' banqueting table." There will be no end to the buying until God's people give up the system of church that consumes 76% of the "giving:" to make gatherings "seem" beneficial. This is systemic buying of church. So the saints select from the buffet of brands and styles to pick one that matches their styles and tastes. When saints see the Biblical value of church were there is no buying of buildings and hired staff, where 100% of the giving goes out the door. where 100% of expression of truth is "one another" oriented in full participation and where leadership is 100% reproducible, then you might see a quality of faith that can be fully relational from God's design. It doesn't matter how much passionate lecturing the pulpit guy does to push multi-ethnic truth. True God designed relationships will be marginalized to a very few, not just with multi-ethnic but also multi-generational. Most children will NEVER see their parents faith at work at church because they are age separated, and their parents are largely consumers rather than producers. How shallow is that. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein Systemic change driven by God's Word is required to get different results.

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Dan Lilledahl (not a fake name)

July 23, 2010  9:12pm

Only 2 comments 'bout racial reconcilliation? Ouch.

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muse

July 22, 2010  11:14am

Partly. It's what I call "ministry du jour."

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Bobbi

July 21, 2010  8:45pm

The Presbyterian Church, whose Boy Scout leaders wouldn't let a young black boy join their Cub Scout troop in 1965, is now 1/2 black and 1/2 white. God is patient and kind.

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