I’m amazed that at any one Sunday, I could be worshiping next to someone who is of Jamaican, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese (Mainland/Hong Kong/Taiwan/Other), Filipino, Irish, German, Iraqi, Iranian, Saudi, Egyptian, Indian (North/South), Portuguese, Mexican, Trinidadian, Canadian, Caucasian, African-American, or Black decent. Not only that, but around half of the children at my church are also born from mixed families! It’s quite a sight to see, especially when you see everyone warmly greeting one another with hugs of all color and walks of life.
Going to a diverse, multi-ethnic church is a great blessing. But it’s not without its own challenges. Below I want to share some of my own thoughts, good and bad about pastoring at such a church.
1. It is the most ideal, biblical model
When Christ died for all mankind, he tore down all racial and social divides for those who would put their faith in him. As it says in Colossians 3:11:
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, the white man is just as equally forgiven and given the an equal amount of Grace (leeway) as the black/yellow/brown man. The same would be said for the poor homeless man versus the rich million dollar man. As such, Christianity has no “tier” system. There are no super-Christians, but only broken Christians. And so all races should worship together in harmony, regardless of personal prejudice or pride. So when I worship at Rouge Valley Church, I sense a deep fulfillment of this Colossian passage. It reminds me of the beauty and wisdom of God. That he loves the whole world, not just a selected few.
There are two important exceptions to this case. If some of the Christians in a locale (immigrants) do not speak the language of the land, then its extremely difficult for them to worship in the same service as the other Christians who do speak it. So a special accommodation has to be made for them to worship with a culture/language they can understand. BUT when they eventually learn that language, those barriers need to be torn down. Such is the challenge for the single-ethnic church that focuses on new immigrants.
Also, a Churches demographic can only reflect the demographics of its locale. For example, 95% of China is ethnically Chinese, and so its impossible to expect a church there have a mix of other races too.
2. Diversity brings perspective
Through the Jamacians, I have had a great appreciation for gospel hymns. From the Filipinos, I have learned the power of hospitality. From the Arab, I have made shawarma’s a staple in my diet. Through the Indians, I have learned that yes does not always mean yes. From the Korean, I see that not all east-Asian’s act or think the same way. As a famous philosopher once said, “learning something new always adds little more colour into your life”. So it is with ethnic diversity.
Think about that one dish you love eating. Imagine being able to eat it all the time, as much as you wanted. I bet that about the 1000th time you take a bite, your body will be begging for something different. In the same way, God has created us to enjoy diversity. That’s why it’s good to love the arts, creation, nature, and more importantly, people. And that’s why a culturally diverse fellowship is what God has made us for. And that’s what heavens going to be like.
1. Segregation and division still occur within
As with any church, compromise has to occur in order for everyone to work together. Though sometimes it takes greater leaps of faith to bridge the gap in a multi-ethnic church. Not all ethnic groups within are willing to work together, even if they label themselves as Christian. After all, we are all sinners. People will naturally flock toward racial groups they are more comfortable with. So it takes time and effort for members to step out of their comfort zones. To break out of the shackles of discrimination, favoritism, and legalism requires the supernatural work of God’s Holy Spirit.
Here’s a classic Rouge Valley Church example. When we go out for authentic Chinese food, not everyone likes it (e.g. Pastor Miles). So then those who don’t, have to choose not to eat/come or just adapt to what’s given to them. Other times, we have to choose to go to Swiss Chalet to mix it up (appease others). Inevitably, someone always get left out. Personally, I hate spending a lot of money on Canadian chains such as Jack Astors or Milestones. But I have to remember its not about my own desires, and to go because I want to bless the welfare of others (Philippians 2:3). Compromise is hard even for Pastors too!
Still, I love the church I go to for the reason it’s so ethnically diverse and honest. Because we live in North America, we have this awesome privilege and responsibility to love our neighbor who may not look exactly the same as we do.
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