Skip Navigation

A multiracial church – the best of both worlds

Tracy Wood

SUMMARY: Look at your church and its racial diversity or lack thereof. Has God been speaking to you about becoming a multiracial church? Do you feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped for the task? Take heart and know that hundreds, if not thousands, of others across the United States feel the same. In this article, you will read helpful tips to begin the transition into a multicultural congregation.

I am reading a book about a displaced African-American church that began using the worship space of a predominantly-Caucasian church for services. However, as the two pastors began praying together, they felt the need to form one church – together – modeling an all-encompassing church as spoken of in Revelation. While some objected, the congregations merged, renamed their church and forged ahead. Not only did this new body of Christ become one in spirit; they also thrived and continued to break down racial barriers by creating a melting pot of worshippers!

Embrace inclusiveness!
Two of the most critical factors in forming a multiracial congregation are to have inclusive worship and diverse leadership. Your church must be willing to embrace various cultural worship styles. When embracing members of other ethnicities, this may mean singing in a different language or welcoming shouts of praise during the sermon. Strive for a balance of all worshipping styles to avoid the inevitable power struggle over how to worship.

Much like a lion cannot lead a group of lions, elephants and giraffes, one person cannot lead a multiracial congregation. Diversity in both clergy and lay leadership is critical to assuring respect for each culture’s needs, concerns and perspectives. Pray that God will provide leaders to minister to all members of your congregation.

What is the common thread?
We may come from different backgrounds and hold different values, but if we believe in the Bible, love God and neighbor, and are followers of Jesus Christ, we already have common ground. Multicultural ministry will be more conducive and effective if the larger picture is witnessing and service. Don’t get bogged down in the “how” but focus on “why” we’re here to worship together. Bringing in new cultures does not mean giving up traditions of the current congregation. It is a melding of different styles – in essence, the best of both worlds. Remember, there is no one “right” way to worship God. Sit back, relax and enjoy the variety.

It will not occur by accident.
Remember “The Brady Bunch”? The two families did not come together by accident; the melding was purposeful and took initiative. Churches who are primarily one racial group will not become diverse by mere accident. There must be willingness, motivation, commitment and perseverance. We must have open hearts, open minds and open doors to all who want to worship God. Faithful servants chip away the racial wall. Be intentional about making the wall crumble.

Now more than ever, believers are scouring Scripture to see how we successfully can reach across cultures to bring together the gospel of reconciliation and commitment to living united in Christ. Large congregations are often leaders of change. Small congregations may look to them for guidance and support. If you are a large church, lead the way in combining the best of both worlds and offer support to smaller congregations who seek the same. After all, the church that models the reconciling power of Christ truly lives out his vision for a diverse and loving church in a hurting world.

--Tracy WoodTechShop, United Methodist Communications.