White city, white church, multicultural ministry?
The past two weeks our brother Emmanuel has written encouraging about being a black man in our majority white congregation. His posts have been brief and have only scratched the surface, but already many you have expressed to him that this has been encouraging, especially for those of you who have struggled to put to words your feeling of being foreign or alien in our congregation.
In different ways, my family’s experience has had its own journey while being a part of City On A Hill: City On A Hill is the first church that my wife and I have ever attended that was not majority Korean (even though the languages were different). We have had to make a lot of adjustments in how people do worship, prayer, and the biggest struggle to us, how we do community and life together. The amount of “individual space” people seem to require has at times been stifling and lonely for us who came from a context where people were simply all together more often and with greater spontaneity.
It is one thing to be a multiethnic congregation, for you can be multiethnic (have people from various ethnicities) but still be monocultural (do things in a way that is hospitable to just one group of people).
It is another thing to actually strive to be a multicultural ministry that begins to call everyone to sacrifice personal preferences for the sake of gospel unity and a witness to what the Lord will bringing about in Revelation, as our brother Emmanuel pointed to wonderfully last week.
We all certainly love this idea of sacrifice for the greater unity of the church, but I think when we must actually do it, it can only be sustained with the power of God.
It is one thing to tolerate a few extra worship songs in a style I don’t prefer; it will be another when most of the songs don’t seem to jive.
What about if the church begins to do things which challenge your personal, individual “goals” for your life? If the demands of community and mission as a group encroach on what you believe is “reasonable”?
What if our styles of prayer and socializing, communicating need to change?
What if we need to become more spontaneous and not need RSVPs to accommodate people who do not have the same sense of time and schedule as us?
What if the demands of gospel unity begin to conflict with our preferred styles of parenting?
If I have encroached on sacred territory for you, I understand. But also recognize this is territory that many in our congregation have already given up to be a part of City On A Hill.
Brother, sister, let’s stretch together for the sake of the gospel. If you are unsure where to start, let me challenge you: ask a fellow Christian in our congregation who is from a different cultural background where they notice these differences are, and prayerfully consider how you can begin to open the door of hospitality wider than you thought possible through the Spirit’s power!