The phrase multi-ethnic means different things to different people. When I visit churches with reputations of being multi-ethnic, I often chuckle when I arrive and see that it’s not very multi-ethnic at all. To some, multi-ethnic means the presence of a few ethnic minorities in the congregation, regardless of whether that diversity shows up in the leadership.

However, in my view, the above would not classify as a multi-ethnic church. A congregation with predominately mono-ethnic leadership or even a little diversity doesn’t qualify as a multi-ethnic church. When I define a multi-ethnic church, I mean both the leadership and congregation represent a diversity of ethnic groups, the church has a Gospel-centered commitment to multi-ethnic ministry in its DNA, and it has an unwavering commitment to intentionally engage the various ethnicities in its community and in the realm of influence of its members.

This ethnic diversity might not equally represent all of the ethnic groups in the community. But at least, there will be enough visible ethnic diversity present in both the leadership and congregation that anyone from any given ethnic group from the community should be able to see the congregation’s commitment to an intentional multi-ethnic Gospel ministry. I think the American evangelical movement desperately needs more Gospel-centered and reformed multi-ethnic churches led by ethnic minorities.

What Does Reformed Mean?

By Reformed, I’m speaking with reference to what many would call a “Big God” theology. At the very least, those with a Reformed understanding of the gospel would gladly embrace God’s comprehensive sovereignty over all things, especially with respect to salvation.

In addition, by Reformed, I also mean one has a high view of Scripture, high Christology, and an understanding of salvation as outlined in some of the classic reformed confessions, such as the Westminster Confession, the 1689 London Baptist Confession, and the 1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith.

At its most basic level, Reformed theology emphasizes both God’s comprehensive sovereignty over all things, God’s complete love for his own glory, and his desire to maximize his glory throughout the ends of the earth for the good of his people, by the salvation of sinners by faith in the perfect, exclusive, and finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Reformed theology also emphasizes the complete and utter dependence of man upon God’s supernatural provision for everything pertaining to eternal life and godliness.

But why does the evangelical movement need more reformed multi-ethnic churches led by minorities?

The Intersection of Racism and Evangelicalism with the Blackening and Browning of America

The modern construct of race is based upon a racist, pseudo-scientific fiction grounded in the belief of racial hierarchy, white supremacy, and black inferiority. Racism, as a modern social construct, is an ideology of hate directed toward black or dark skinned people and it is based upon fictional anxieties.

Of course, ethnic minorities are racist too. But the modern construct of racism historically flows out of the modern construct of race, which was rooted in white supremacy.

Those who romanticize the American evangelical movement fail to see that racism is inseparable from American evangelicalism. Certain white evangelicals were some of the most ardent white supremacists in the days of slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, and in the early post-Jim Crow era. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention (my denomination) was founded because many Baptists in the South were racists, demonstrated by their insistence of the enslavement of blacks, whom they thought were inferior.

After emancipation, eventually white evangelical churches became segregated. And black Christians began to establish their own denominations and places of worship. Although there has been much racial progress on race relations within the evangelical movement, many evangelical churches in the U.S continue to be some of the most ethnically segregated and ethnically dysfunctional places to be on any given Sunday morning.

Added to the historically underlying racism of American evangelicalism that is still deeply engrained in certain aspects of the movement, the U.S. is becoming increasingly black and brown. In 2015, the U.S. News & World Report reported that census data shows there are more ethnic minority children under the age of 5 than white children.

While acknowledging the many complicated challenges of trying to identify someone’s ethnic identity in a census, the report nevertheless asserted that “the number of minority and mixed-race children in the U.S is only expected to rise. More than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group by 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, referring to all kids under the age of 18.”

NPR likewise reported in 2015 that “America is heading toward the day when whites will no longer make up the majority of the population. And U.S. children will get there soon, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.”

If the evangelical movement wants to continue to grow and reach its changing ethnic neighbors with the Gospel, then more Reformed minority evangelicals need to lead in the work of establishing multi-ethnic churches, or leading traditional mono-ethnic churches toward becoming multi-ethnic churches.

The Total Depravity of All Races

The evangelical movement needs more Reformed minorities leading multi-ethnic churches, because every race of man is totally depraved, and incapable of responding to God in Christ apart from God opening dead hearts to believe the gospel (Eph. 2:1-10).

The Unconditional Election of Some Jews and Gentiles to be Saved

The evangelical movement needs more Reformed minorities leading multi-ethnic churches, because God has chosen and predestined some from the races of Jews and Gentiles to be adopted into his family, in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5).

Once more, these whom he has chosen will hear and receive the word of truth, the Gospel of their salvation (Eph. 1:13), and become sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise—the one who guarantees their eternal inheritance of salvation (Eph. 1:13-14).

Jesus Died Exclusively for “Some” from “All” Tribes, Tongues, Peoples, and Nations

The evangelical movement needs more Reformed minorities leading multi-ethnic churches, because Jesus died exclusively for “some” (i.e. the elect and predestined) to include “all” of the elected and predestined ones from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation within the people of God, and to make them a kingdom of priests for his glory (Rom. 3:28-30; Eph. 1:4-7; Rev. 5:9).

God’s Irresistible Grace Draws “Some” from “All” Ethnic Groups

The evangelical movement needs more Reformed minorities leading multi-ethnic churches, because God will draw “all” elect races of Jews and Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel and the quickening of the Spirit (Eph. 1:4-14; 2:1-10).

God’s Enabling and Persevering Grace of the Elect within “All” of the Ethnic Groups, for Whom Christ Died, until the End

The evangelical movement needs more Reformed minorities leading multi-ethnic churches, because God will cause his elect, within all ethnic groups for whom Christ died, to persevere until the end once they come to faith in Christ as a result of hearing and believing the Gospel (Rom. 10:5-14; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:3-12), which is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes—to the Jew first and to the Greek (Rom. 1:16).

God does not need anyone. But the American evangelical movement desperately needs more Reformed ethnic minorities leading multi-ethnic churches or leading traditionally mono-ethnic churches to become intentionally multi-ethnic. May God help us do it for the sake of the nations!