A Word from the BCC Team: As part of Black History Month, we’ll have several posts this week on Black Church History, the Black Church, and Multiethnic Ministry. Rick Horne began our series by talking about What’s a White Guy Know About Multiethnic Ministry? Nicolas Ellen continues our series today by pondering with us 4 Wisdom Principles for Multiethnic Ministry.
The Blessing of Serving in Multiethnic Ministry
I have had the privilege of ministering cross-culturally for over 20 years. I consider it a blessing and an honor to be able to serve people from various ethnicities.
No matter who I have served or where I have served, I have learned that people have the same sin tendencies regardless of the ethnicities as well as the same intensity of sufferings. Those tendencies are shaped in various cultural contexts but in essence remain similar. Let me suggest to you 4 wisdom principles to consider when seeking to do multiethnic ministry.
Wisdom Principle # 1: Allow Disciple-Making to Be Central, Not Multiethnicity
Don’t allow yourself to focus on the color of the skin and miss the calling to discipleship. Too often the goal of many multiethnic ministries is to be multiethnic. Instead, biblically, we are called to focus on making disciples, not to promoting multiethnicity.
Multiethnicity will develop as you are being used of God to disciple various people groups. Those people groups will attract people like themselves thus creating the multiethnicity. I co-pastored a Chinese church for five years. Within that time the church begin to increase in Anglos, Hispanics, African-Americans, and various other Asian-American people groups. The church began to adapt the concept:
“Multiethic is who we are but making disciples is what we do.”
Wisdom Principle # 2: Partner, Do Not Parent When Ministering to Various Ethnicities
Too often I have seen ministry workers connect with a people group different from their own in a condescending manner. The ministry workers would treat the people group different from their own as if they were children in need of a parent.
You must be careful not to assume that you are smarter than the people you are seeking to minister to. You must be careful not to think you have all the answers to their problems. Thereby assuming all they need to do is just shut up and listen to you as a child with a parent.
They just might surprise you with what they know. When seeking to minister to people different from your own, seek to be a partner with them not be a parent to them. Seek to identify what they know about various issues of life and learn how you can serve them accordingly.
Wisdom Principle # 3: See the Character Issues as You Study the Cultural Context of the Various People Groups
As you study the people groups you are seeking to serve that are different than you, learn to identify the common biblical themes of sin. Look for pride, idols, lust, worry, fear, etc. Evaluate how those common themes manifest themselves within the cultural context of the people group you are seeking to serve.
Ask questions of the people group you are seeking to serve that will allow you to learn about the norms, the struggles, the honors, the accomplishments, or even what they would consider embarrassments. Take the information and analyze it within the context of systematic and biblical theology in order to draw some conclusions on some strategic ways you can serve that people group accordingly.
Wisdom Principle # 4: Do Not Minimize or Maximize the Cultural Differences
As Dr. Charles Ware of Crossroads Bible College would say:
“Let’s move into grace relations instead of race relations.”
Let’s consider the culture, context, condition, and contributions of the people group we are seeking to partner with and serve. As we do this, let’s connect with that people group in such a way that does not minimize their unique cultural existence or maximize their unique cultural existence, but seeks to promote Jesus Christ and His agenda within their cultural existence.
Grace relations is not color blind. It promotes the powerful message of Jesus Christ while considering the context and condition of the people to whom the message is being articulated without any comprise of the message or condescension (in a negative way) to that particular culture.
May we learn to see people within their context without minimizing or maximizing who they are by partnering with them to serve them according to our gifts and talents.
Join the Conversation
How can you apply these four wisdom principles for multiethnic ministry within the context of your ministry?