How to Avoid Becoming An Unhealthy, Multi-Ethnic Church Plantation

Comments (16)
  1. Rod says:

    I know that this article and comments are several months old, but I am thankful for the article as well as all the comments. I am currently studying the challenges associated with growing a multi ethnic local church, and i have learned many related lessons. We must understand as Christians that The Church at large is called to be multi ethnic, and the mandate to the local church logically follows on. The Great Commission teaches us to share the Gospel of Christ and make desciples of everyone. If we are obedient to this instruction, then our local churches will begin to look more like the communities that surround them. If the community is diverse the local assembly should be also. Once this occurs there will still be some challenges associated with the bringing together of multiple sub-cultures in such a way that they all receive what they require. The gospel or good news has both spiritual and social elements (salvation provided by Christ John 3 as well adressing the social needs of others Matthew 25).
    Unfortunately because of our great nations history, ethnic relations between White and Black. Has always been a challenge. Things are much better, but to attain true healing for our land The Church (every Cristian black , white, asian, native American, etc) must unite and acknowledge and repent of those challenges that we face individually and as a body. 2 Chron 7:14. Many times if we are truthful, these challenges are based on how we view those that are different. This takes Love, introspection, and consideration of our Christian family member as well as all people. (Mark 12:31). Important to keep in mind that ethnicity in The US is really just a matter skin color. Our cultures are more alike then different, but we are all creatures of habit and tradition and therefore our sub-cultures tend to be very important to us all even in church (this is human nature without regard for ethnicity or hue ). This is ok as long as our traditions don’t outweigh the effectiveness of The Word of God!

    I appreciate you all (my family in Christ).
    These conversations are needed.

    Love and Blessing

  2. James says:

    This article made me really, really tired. When will we ever get past our obsession with race?

  3. Randy Ehle says:

    Thank you for the challenge of your words, Dr. Jarvis. As a follower of Christ, a missionary kid, and a pastor I have long desired to be part of more multi-ethnic churches; yet I can think of only one that would qualify. Unfortunately, as a white Christian, I have been blind to my own hidden racism (see CT’s 2015 article, “Pastor, Can I Come to Your Church?”) and have felt powerless to make a difference.

  4. Mon says:

    I think people forget that this site is initially for black reformed Christians. Everyone else is welcomed, but overall it’s not for, addressed or about you. Why do white people who hate this site keep coming on it? The white gaze is real guys!

  5. James says:

    “Christians must reject the idea of colorblindness if they want to build healthy, gospel-centered multi-ethnic churches. Colorblindness basically says that humans should look beyond color, because we live in a post-racial society”

    NO, THE BOOK OF ACTS SAYS WE’RE TO LOOK BEYOND COLOR, BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY OF SAVED AND UNSAVED. HEAVEN AND HELL. DARKNESS AND LIGHT. PERIOD. No surprise that your article has NO SCRIPTURE, hence no truth to any of this divisive regressive leftist ideology. Just race theory that has no place in a gospel worldview. But race theory is good at one thing. Making more divisions and building up more walls. It is people and ideas like yours and RAAN that make me more and more ashamed to be a bi-racial christian living in Harlem New York. I am half Mexican, with a long history my descendants experiencing oppression at the hands of the Spanish and the colonialists. Half Filipino, with a long history of oppression at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors and Japanese. But I don’t view my trials as a result of sexism / racism. I don’t assume that if I didn’t get a job, or the apartment, or the acceptance into the university, or a seat on the train, or get overlooked standing at a counter waiting for service, its because I’m not white, or Asian. I say that because Asians still do better than Whites in IQ scores, standardized testing, and are about to outpace whites in overall income. But I didn’t read anything in this article about Asian privilege. Also whites are still gunned down more by police officers than blacks, and have the highest suicide rate in the country second only to native Americans. But hey, “white privilege” right “professor”? What about the privilege of being attractive? Have you ever looked at the stats surrounding how incredibly more privileged you are from the beginning of life to the end if you are an attractive woman (of any race) vs. a skinny pasty white male? How about the privilege of being raised by your biological mother and father? But since race theory is all subjective experience anyway, presumed guilt until innocence, then my subjective experiences at the hands of attractive women, East Asians, and Jewish Americans has oppressed me since childhood. They’ve beaten me out for jobs, apartments, and successes in all aspects of my life. And you’re not allowed to say I’m wrong. Because those experiences ARE REAL. TO ME. AND IF YOU DISAGREE YOU’RE A RACIST BIGOT.

    But I disagree with you completely (because of facts) and therefore I’m racist by your ideology. Despite my ethnicity(s), despite all my African American, Pakistani, Palestinian, Muslim, Gay, Asian, Afro-Caribbean, Jewish, South-east Asian friends and living in a black neighborhood. Despite attending the most diverse student body in the country (Temple University) It’s just not enough. It’s never enough for you guys. And with that I must say shame on you and your supporters. Read the book of Acts again “professor” and be enlightened. Sorry for being so mean, I’ll use that same liberal excuse and say its because I’m “passionate” about these issues. 🙂

    1. Mon says:

      My history books have no scripture in them. The president didn’t quote scripture to back up his words. No one’s used scripture in any of my college courses to prove their point. Guess I should return my degree. Silly

    2. liveright says:

      @ James. Would you go back and slow down your reading about the section on colorblindness so you first absorb his argument? Then if you would specify what about his actual argument that you disagree with–it might lead to dialogue.

      He is addressing a ministry strategy–not a heavenly objective. In other words, if you create a congregation that speaks six languages, he is saying to not just jump to the New Jerusalem and assert that language does not matter. He is not saying it matters because it is important to God that we speak English and Mandarin–but that in order to build to incarnate His love in our love for each other there must be an ownership of these language differences.

      The ultimate racial oppression shows up in genocide–the obliteration of a people. But there are lesser forms. The forms share something in that they impose a certain level of ‘invisibility’. So when two groups of people walk into a room, and they both want to genuinely build a relationship that is focused on Christ (versus our distinctions)–if there is a failure to recognize languages what will happen is that unity will be achieved by everyone submitting to the dominant language. No one really has to think about this. This is just the way culture operates. So by saying ‘there is no language distinction’ what we keep in force is a single dominant human language (not a heavenly language).

      The same is true with race. If one ignores race we don’t end up with a unity beyond race–but a reinforced social order white superiority. Please understand that this can happen with the best intention and love of everyone that is present.

      I am a white guy that has been in black churches all my adult life. Minorities typically are multi-lingual and multi-cultural. It is typical for “unschooled” persons in parts of the world to be fluent in 5 or 6 languages. When I went to High School, language was pushed out the door. All we needed was English–with the world pounding at the door to learn it.

      I can approach a half dozen friends at church whom I know and love. They know I respect and love them. They can be communicating using one set of rules about language and communication, and if set foot in the circle the dialogue all continues; but they shift (sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small ways) to make an accommodation for the white guy.

      The same was true in my marriage to an African American woman. How do we negotiate different cultural patterns. Easy. Since she was adept at both cultures, just expect her to move my direction. But this is not a genuine unity. It is not an ‘owning’ of who we are and what we bring to the table. It does not own the history.

      I am in Montgomery, Al. The city and state do not just need white and black Christians who stand next to each other and smile; who say, “Now we get along.” The world desperately wants a Good News that has the power to see and embrace tremendous places of pain, trauma, devastation, hatred, sickness, sin, etc. If we don’t bring the realities of race to the Cross and work our salvation out in loving Christian community–we don’t have a life-giving hope for the world.

      I would fully agree it is possible to erect race as an idol. That is exactly what white racism did. The point of rejecting colorblindness is not to erect a new set of race idols but to own who and what we are so that all things can be made new; and THEN the world might see Christ in our unusual love for each other.

      The reality is that I think the statement really needs to be stronger that the writer puts here. I really do not think a unity is formed until the dominant culture (or leader) submits to the ‘minority.’ My church was under the leadership of an African bishop (and was actually a mission plant out of an African church). When that was the case there were a fair number of white members. When the pastoral leadership changed to African Americans, the white members left (facing comments from others like, “Why are you going to that church with a black pastor?”) This is very common. Of the few churches where there is multi-ethnic leadership and membership there will be black members. But the senior leadership will seldom be black–and the cultural forms of the church will seldom be black.

  6. Steve says:

    I’m not sure who truly has the problem in this article. It’s simply appalling these accusation, or titles like “white Christian.” This is like reverse racism or black supremacy. I’ve seen these segments in increasing measure over this last year with others such as Thabiti Anyabwile. I personally see it as bringing a fight into where there isn’t one, even if I can only speak on my behalf,

    Personally, I like Jarvis. I had him as a difficult but thoughtful Greek prof in seminary. He was passionate and caring in his classes. I always had respect for him, stood up for him as a pastor during his hard times at Campellsville, and never considered him other than a brother in Christ. But these remarks makes me wonder if this viewpoint wasn’t mutual. I feel like he’s forcing me to accept a racism I don’t have. Why must I be required to see him as black or he has to see me as white? Why must we talk some much about not being racist or racism, or that I need to get on track, etc? I simply don’t understand and frankly it’s hurtful to be labeled by my race, the very thing he doesn’t want labeled for himself.

    It’s like that old story about a man who consistently tells his wife, he’s not cheating on. Day after day, he says the same thing: I’m not cheating on you. After a while, hearing it so much and it talked about often, she begins to wonder if he really is cheating on her. Because it seems like that’s all he can talk about. From the heart, the mouth speaks. And when I hear people consistently bring up this problem of racism, pointing fingers, saying I have a problem, as if they can make assumptions about my heart, it really makes me wonder who’s heart really has the problem.

    1. Stephen says:

      With respect, part of being “reformed” is saying I do have a heart problem. It should not be hard to admit the brokenness of our sin, that it is so widespread that the decisions of yesterday impact the preferences of today.

      For White Christians, accepting the idea that our ancestors created a bad system, and that the system still impacts us today is extremely logical and biblical. Why does the Bible talk about the sins of the father affecting the 4th and 5th generation? Because it does.

      I have no doubt that RAAN would agree that anyone, regardless of race can be prejudice. Anyone can hold grudges based on race, or any category. But the idea of racism, it has to be connected to power. Racism is a misuse of power.

      White Americans, whether they are Christian or not, are part of a system that has given advantages to themselves because of their race. That is American History, Slavery to Jim Crow to voting rights to red lining to present day America.

      As Christians we shouldn’t be so upset when people tell us we have privilege. Having power is not wrong, for Christ himself has ultimate power. But look what he did with his power, he humbled himself. He looked to share his privilege with others. He made us co-inheritors of his actions.

  7. Gary says:

    If race is ideological and not biological (which it is) as the author says, why is there a need to understand the complexities of race? Biblically, for Christians, there is no race. We are all one in Christ.

    What on earth is “the gospel of reconciliation?” There is only one gospel. All other gospels are false gospels and have no place in the church.

    “If colorblindness is the guiding principle for predominately white churches, then the predominately white members of those churches will not be able to love their ethnic minority brothers and sisters well…” Why not? I have to understand all that someone has gone through in life to love them? This is ridiculous.

    More nonsense: “…learn how non-white people view reality.” Shouldn’t we all view reality through the lens of the Bible? Isn’t that’s what’s important?

    The author has not even attempted to write from a Biblically basis. Taking any secular theory (in this case, Critical Race Theory) and Christianizing it is always a bad idea and has absolutely no place in the Church.

    1. Stephen says:

      The gospel of reconciliation is quite simple. What Christ accomplished on the cross reconciled us to God, and to each other. When we don’t have reconciliation with each other, we are deceived, just as early Christians were with their gentile converts.

      Do you really think you have no “blind spots”, and that everything you view in the world is shaped only by the bible? To claim that American culture, your past, your family, your experiences, your relationships have not helped shape your view of reality is quite the claim.

      Part of having a discussion is admitting the obvious, which is that our reality is shaped by many things. We should all long to see the bible, but we have to start with the base of our worldview, and any discussion, has to start there.

  8. John says:

    As a white man married to a black female with biracial children thanks for the talking down to. I am so sick of the African American obsession with race. Can we just preach the Gospel? I have a great friend who was subject to childhood physical and sexual abuses and extreme poverty; his where drug addicts could you look at him with Christian compassion and empathy or would you not be able to look past the mans white skin? REPENT!

  9. Eric Farley says:

    “God created the human race (Gen. 1-2; 11), but the human race constructed races for the purpose of racial hierarchy and white domination.”

    Maybe in the United States. Yet in other contexts we see the human race imposing racial hierarchy for the advancement of other races and ethnic groups. Discrimination in Central African contexts looks very different, as does the discrimination in India, Southeast Asia, and Central America. If we are going to talk about how the human race behaves we will need to go deeper into the common human condition. Pride and excessive self love lead men to prefer men who are like them, because we naturally think that we are the best thing going. I appreciate the comment by Matthew Hughes, who points out that this is a problem that cuts both ways. It is not only predominantly/culturally white churches that are guilty of racism and the desire to dominate or otherwise minimize or extinguish other legitimate social and racial expressions. Let’s dig out the root of sin, each his own, and let us be truly reconciled without reservation.

  10. Alex Clayton says:

    I really appreciate this article and it approaches many of the reconciliation and growing pains that a true multiethnic church will go through. One of the blessings that I keep reminding my elders is that many of our discussions that center on racism would not even be discussed in a monoethnic church. I am a white pastor, who serves alongside two elders (one white and one African American). The congregation is 50-50 in ethnic makeup. There are three things that we have discovered in our journey through many of the deeper racial discussions. First, the majority (white) has to be educated. Most minorities have PhDs in racial issue and most white are barely in kindergarten. This i why the approach by the minority is usually greeted by a look of ignorance. I am not excusing, just sharing that education and patients need to be involved or the majority will ignore and walk away; even in the church. Second, the discussion needs to move from the wrongs of slavery (which is vital to the education process) to the persecutions of systemic institutionalism, social injustice, economic hardship and other systemic suffering that minorities face everyday. These are persecutions and wrongs that the church needs to recognize and defeat. The church needs to make sure that it is not a cause of the persecution. 3. The use of minority Christian is not Scriptural and needs to be eradicated from the discussion. There is not a minority salvation. Discussion will be heated, and forgiveness will be needed. For instance my African American elder stated to the congregation that a white pastor cannot preach to an African American audience. Would of the great advantages of a “color blessed” (Derwin Gray) multiethnic church is that it is gifted to bring unity and peace in a racial divided community.

  11. Matthew Hughes says:

    This is a great article and rings true. The advice here can be applied to non-white churches as well. I am a white Christian male married to a African-American woman and we have attended a predominately African-American church. When we first attended the church because there was a strong emphasis on racial diversity, the pastor was African-American as well as most of the staff with a few white leaders. The congregation was very friendly and we quickly developed friendships. But as time went on the church began to back away from trying to racially diverse as many of the members want to be more of a “black” church. This result in the less of a diverse church. I can genuinely understand your viewpoint but from the opposite side. I think we need to accept that there are differences but that we as Christians have something more powerful in common than differences and that is our faith in Christ. It is time that we as the Church really address the issue that still divides us, the sin of Slavery and Racism. And until we truly have this discussion and honestly hear the other side concerns, fears and confessions and then follow that with true forgiveness, all the “looks like heaven” veneers churches put on today trying to be multi-ethnic is just not going to work out as we planned and hope it would.

    Again thanks for the article and I hold many will read it and apply it.

  12. Chuck Kinsey says:

    http://www.newhopechurchepc.org/

    Come wirship with us.

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