The Blessing of Serving in Multiethnic Ministry

May 6, 2016

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Nicolas Ellen

BCC Staff: In this post Nicolas Ellen reminds us to make discipleship—rather than race or ethnicity—the focus of our private ministries of the Word. This is important as our world becomes “smaller” through increased travel and broader Internet-based communications. There are, of course, differences in cultures that we must keep in mind as we share the Scriptures with other people. Wise ministry requires that we figure out how to present the transcultural message of the gospel in an understandable way, and this is where understanding differences in cultures is important. To that end, we encourage you to consider registering for the upcoming Global Summit in June. Visit the website at

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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 four 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 disciple others. Too often the goal of many multiethnic ministries is to be multiethnic. Instead, biblically, we are called to focus on making disciples, not on promoting multiethnicity.

Multiethnicity will develop as you are being used of God to disciple various people groups according to His Word. Those people groups will attract people like themselves and thereby create a multiethnic group. 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:

“Multiethnic 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 to whom you are seeking to minister. You must be careful not to think you have all the answers to their problems and imply that all they need to do is just shut up and listen to you as a child does 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 a people group different from your own, learn to identify the common biblical themes of sin that all people experience. Look for pride, idols, lust, worry, fear, etc. Evaluate how those common themes manifest themselves particularly within the cultural context of the people group you are seeking to serve.

Ask questions of the people group you are serving that will allow you to learn about their cultural norms and common struggles. Take the information and analyze it within the context of systematic and biblical theology in order to draw some conclusions about some strategic ways you can serve them 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 instead seeks to promote Jesus Christ and His agenda within their cultural existence.

Grace relations are not color blind. They promote 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.

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How can you apply these four wisdom principles for multiethnic ministry within the context of your ministry?