What are Some of the Benefits and Challenges of a Multiethnic Church? - Radical

What are Some of the Benefits and Challenges of a Multiethnic Church?

What does a multiethnic faith look like? What are some of the challenges and blessings of a multiethnic church? In this conversation, Pastor David Platt and his team explain that though multiethnic churches can be challenging, they can bring much good. Pastor Platt and his team talk about some of the barriers to entering multiethnic churches, and how entry can be harder for some ethnicities than others. At the same time, the team dives into the ways they themselves have been welcomed into multiethnic churches and how Christian hospitality has been shown to them in those places. Even though there will always be unique challenges in multiethnic churches, navigating these hardships helps to foster unity in diversity.

  1. The Good
  2. The Barriers
  3. The Need of the Lord

There’s so much we could dive into here. And we’re not going to obviously be able to do it all in this conversation, anywhere close to it. Let me ask this question. Based on what we just heard and the fruit of being in the body of Christ together and having hard conversations, being willing to take the initiative, being willing to be in a situation where you could say the wrong thing and it wouldn’t be held against you, or you could be honest and it wouldn’t be held against you.

The Blessings Of Being In A Multiracial Church

So, as we are a pretty multiracial church, and maybe, because we could talk about this for a whole nother hour, but just let’s fire off what are, in maybe a sentence or two, some blessings of being in a multiracial church and some challenges of being in a multiracial church. So, just let’s just fire off some different sentences. There’s a ton we could dive into deeper here, but what are some blessings, and what are some challenges?

I would say one of the blessings is just you get to learn from other cultures. And I mean dumb stuff, like in Montgomery County, I know where to get some good pupusas, you know what I mean? I wouldn’t have known that if I wasn’t in community with different kinds of people. So, I think we just learn from other cultures in a multiracial church.

I would have to agree and say for me growing up, like I said, in a pretty much all white church, all white school, I think one of the biggest blessings is just exposure to people who don’t look like me. And the fact that my kids are going to grow up and be comfortable and used to that, and then that will be their normal. That excites me because I feel like I had a lot of catching up to do in my even adult years that hopefully my kids will learn quickly as young people just to have that value and that eye for others who aren’t like them.

I would say one of the blessings of a multiracial church, that it gives us opportunities to have conversations like this in which reconciliation and justice can actually occur. One of the downfalls is that that conversation isn’t automatic. We can easily just exist in the same room and not have those conversations, and then kid ourselves and think that we’re actually a multi-ethnic church.

We can almost intentionally avoid them. Just say, “Hey, let’s just talk about just the gospel.” Which we obviously love and it is what brings us together, but it’s starting point that leads into all of that. And so, yeah, if we’re not careful, we can even cloak a lack of having these conversations in gospel language, or just the Word. Well, yeah, but the Word leads us into this. So, anyway. Yeah, that’s good. What else? Blessings, challenges

For me, one of the blessings is that it helps me to see really my heart. If I really love the people, if I really love. It makes me think about what Todd was saying. Back in the days when it was more display of hate towards Middle Eastern.

And I was thinking now I need to show them this, I need to show them that. Even just with the gospel, using the gospel as a weapon, to show what it is. And it shows you then do I really love? And I think that’s a very good experience, and that’s what it helps, I think. And a challenge is always is messy. It’s more messy. It’s more messy. It’s not as clean cut, and I would have to be willing to either pay the price in dealing with the mess because it’s more messy.

Yeah. I think, for me, it helps me reflect back to my hurtful wounds and pain that I’ve experienced as a child. And it brings me back to the work, the beauty of Christ’s work on that cross and His redeeming power and His work of just reconciliation. Seeing that powerful work of God, and just being reflective of my past and how to move forward. So, that’s a huge blessing for me.

Yeah, I think that one of the blessings is that there’s so much flavor in our church, and I love that. And another blessing for me is that as I get to know other cultures, I also learn how to better share Jesus within their culture. Because what to me can be very safe, it might be seen to them in an aggressive way. So, how to be sensitive to their culture and to their needs, and also how to share Jesus with them.

Effective in the Great Commission

I think one great blessing is I just think we’re more effective in the Great Commission. We need the nations to reach the nations. And I think about the Pachecos, and I’ve been watching them do ministry that no one will ever know that they’ve done for no earthly payment or reward with two and four people that I could never reach or even speak language to. And so, they’re just one small example of why it’s such a blessing to be in a multiethnic church because we need the Nepalese pastors, we need the Ethiopian pastors and lay leaders, and on and on and on.

So, it’s a blessing to hear the stories about when an Iranian woman walks into NBC, and then Roxy is there and she happens to speak Farsi, and she can share the gospel with that person. That wouldn’t happen in a lot of churches, and it’s a blessing to hear how God is using the multiethnic.

I appreciate you mentioned even the Nepalese in talking about the particulars. As I think about Gustavo and Sarah and all that you all are doing. I mean, there is such significant outreach to Latin American communities. That’s so significant. Yeah, so important. But it’s not just, “Okay, we’re looking for people who speak Spanish. No, we are reaching out to every type of people around us.” It’s just evident in you guys’ lives. And I think it’s part of the fruit of being a part of a body where we’re having these conversations together. It just makes sense flowing from the gospel and the Great Commission. Todd, I think you were going to say something.

I was just saying one of the blessings and challenges that I’ve witnessed is just even in the worship setting and just seeing how people express their love for God. And it’s a blessing and it’s wonderful being a part of. But as a pastor, I also have the challenge of helping brothers and sisters understand why their brother or sister worships a certain way, and that it’s okay. But I love it. And those are conversations I like going towards, and I really just try to show them biblically that both people are right on how they worship.

The Challenges Of Good Intentions

Along those lines, I think I would mention one of the challenges, well, we’ve talked about this before. I just think those in our church from minority ethnicities face a lot more challenges and, oftentimes, have to give up a lot more in order to be a part of a multiracial community like we’re talking about. And I say that, though, not wanting that to be the case.

Yeah, we’re talking about in Psalm 133 brothers and sisters dwelling in unity. It shouldn’t be a picture where they are welcomed guests in there. And can we talk about that for just a minute? I know we’ve got to close this thing down, but I don’t want to miss that. Have any of you ever felt like a welcomed guest in the church, even in a supposedly multiracial picture? And maybe even elaborate on what that means as you hear that kind of language, which I’ve heard different ones if you use.

Yeah, I was asked a couple times, I think just from all good intentions, they were asking me, where are you from? And I was just naively thinking, I just moved from California, I lived there most of my life. So, California. And then this person, they were thinking, what’s the country of origin more than where are you literally from? So, just having to answer questions like that of, “Okay, maybe, yeah, they do see me as different or from outside.”

Yeah, I think one of the problems, I think, is in some ways the type of information provided. I don’t know if I can explain it in very few words. But even as pastor of McLean Bible Church, I have encountered that some people that do not know me when they see and probably they hear my accent or whatever, and they immediately focus on opportunities for me to receive aid or clothing or materials. It’s not that I feel offended, personally, but I just know that’s how other people can actually perceive it and feel offended. I mean, you have all different classes. So, sometimes I just smile and I say, “Thank you so much,” and I just move on because I don’t know what to say. It’s just like, “Okay. Yeah.

I’m the one distributing the aid. That’s my job. And by the way, I’m a brilliant scientist, as well, but we won’t get into that.

It comes across sometimes, but I mean the intention is good. It’s just sometimes, I don’t know how to say it.

One of the things that I have noticed is that on Sundays, we’re in the NBC Latino fellowship. So, some people, and I know they mean well, but they still see the fellowship as something not of McLean. So, they ask, “How is your church going,” in reference to NBC Latino, right? So, I think that, as a church, we have a problem. The fellowships are not being seen as part of McLean Bible Church. They’re seen as different entities.

How Multi-ethnic Churches Work

Yeah, I think to that I would say that there was a sociologist, I think we’re going to talk about her later, that she led a project about multi-ethnic churches. And she said most multi-ethnic churches, if not all, really are white churches in their preaching styles, worship styles, all of that. And so, I do think sometimes you can feel like an unwelcomed guest, even in multi-ethnic churches because you’re in a church that you might not even take your friends from back home to, right? So, I think that’s that element of that where I’ve felt that in the past.

Oh, Eric, you mentioned this sociologist. Her name is Dr. Corey Edwards. She’s a Christian, and she wrote a book called The Elusive Dream, and it was a research project on multiracial churches. And just for people watching so you know what she said, the way she summarized her research was this. This is in her own words. She says, “In short, I propose that interracial churches work, that is they remain racially integrated, to the extent that they are first comfortable places for whites to attend.”

So, the argument of that that she makes based on her research, and it’s the largest research project ever done on multiracial churches. The argument from her research is basically multiracial churches only work when white people feel comfortable. “The moment white people start to feel uncomfortable,” she says, “then basically they end up leaving, and it no longer remains the same multiracial church.” And I do think that’s one of the challenges, as a person of color, in a multiracial church. Were you going to say something?

Yeah. I was just going to say, I mean, I think just examples of times where I felt like a welcomed guest, and I was on staff at the church. Just in an incident where you have in Ahmaud Arbery situation, those are the weekends I didn’t want to come to church because, historically, I grew up in a black church. So, if I went to church that Sunday, I didn’t have to wonder would the leadership of the church lament with me? Would they lead that process for us?

I didn’t have to wonder what the people sitting around me thought about the situation. And so, I think a lot of times when things like this happen in culture, especially when they’re highly publicized, those are the times you feel the most alienated and isolated, even though you’re in a room with 500 people who are like, “I’m your brother. I’m your sister.

And I’ll just add to that, David, because I know we’re running short on time, which we should have known this was going to happen. But I think that brings up one of the most difficult parts of being a multiracial church is that, ever since the 1960s with the civil rights movement and integration, a lot of American Christians have really taught a lot about racial reconciliation and, which is interpersonal, kind of what we’ve been doing here, which is good, necessary work. But I think, increasingly, you hear a lot of calls for not just racial reconciliation, but also we need to talk about racial justice.

Human Rights

We need to talk about issues out in society where people are denied their human rights, and treated unfairly, and oftentimes along racial lines what responsibility as individuals and as churches do we have in that? And so, man, we might have to do a part two to dive in a little bit more around some of those issues because those are the issues I feel like that become the most inflammatory, that expose how frail sometimes our unity can be. And that’s a very significant issue. And it’s across all different kinds of ethnic groups and racial categories. So, that that’s a big, big challenge that I know we as a church are trying to pray and figure out what is our role in that.

I was thinking the same thing about part two. I didn’t want to commit you guys to a part two, but I agree. Because yes, well, one, I just love you, brothers and sisters, love the privilege of having these conversations with you guys centered around the gospel, flowing from the gospel and working itself out in all of life.

But along those lines, to your point, yes, this is really important, just relationships with one another. And then, flowing from that, how does this affect the way we live in a world of racial injustice? And we’ve talked about that right around us and far from us, just among the nations, including metro Washington, DC. Which we didn’t even get to that, the unique challenges of doing this in metro Washington, DC, just how politics comes into that. And so, there’s part three. So anyway, I do want to draw this to a close.

Because before long, are kids going to be coming in because they’re waking up. And so, why don’t we do this? Let’s close with just the Word or prayer. So, let’s just go around. Now, we could spend a whole hour praying at this point. We won’t do that. I’m talking to us pastors and the wives. So, for the pastors, let’s keep this brief.

I know I’m the most hypocritical person for just saying that. But let’s offer, each of us, we’ll just go around and offer, each of us, either just a one sentence prayer or a verse straight from the Word. And let this be the way we close just by turning our attention to the Lord, either hearing from Him or speaking to Him. So, yeah, Mike and Ashley, why don’t you guys start, and then just different ones jump in along the way. But either a verse that you read, or a one sentence prayer. And we’ll let this be the way we close just by turning to Him together.

Praying For Multiracial Churches

Well, Father, I pray, Lord, that as Your church, You would give us wisdom to know how to accurately reflect Your character in the world around us, across all of our differences and diversity. God, please help us to reflect Your character accurately, Your heart for reconciliation, Your heart for justice. Father, please give us wisdom to know how to do that in a very difficult and complex world.

God, I pray that our church would just be known as people who have the mind of Christ, and who view others as more significant than ourselves. That we’re not shaped by self-preservation, God, but that we see ourselves as not as significant as the people around us.

God, we thank you for the truth of Psalm 45:6 that says, “Your throne is forever and ever. The scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice.” Father, we thank you that You do not just care for all of us to be in one room, but You care that we reflect the values of Your kingdom. You care that we reflect what Your coming kingdom is going to look like with tribes of every nation, tribe, and tongue, on level ground, together, and worshiping You. Father, we can’t wait for that day.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. Father, would You bring unity to your people in Your church?

After this, I looked and behold a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.

And crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.”

Lord, help us to have courage, Lord, to be faithful, not to get tired of doing this type of work, Lord, in reaching out people from every nation here and everywhere.

And that the world gets to know You because we love each other, God.

Galatians 3:28 to 29 says, “There’s neither Jew nor Greek. There’s neither slave nor free. There’s no male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offering, heirs according to promise.”

Thank You, Lord, that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Lord, would we heed Paul’s words in Philippians 1:27 when he says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ so that whether I come and see you or I’m absent, I may hear of you that you’re standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

James 2:8 and 9, “If you really fulfilled the royal law according to the Scripture, which is you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you’re doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin.” Lord, would You help us not to make distinctions among ourselves and not to show partiality, Lord, but would You unify us and let us treat everyone as You see them and treat them?

Lord, God, thank You that we are just able to have this conversation, Lord. And just forgive us, God, for all the ways we fall short of understanding each other. Lord, forgive me. Please, Lord, just help us see the people around us. See each other from Your perspective, God.

Father, we pray that You would make us more and more and more like Jesus in our church, more and more and more like the bride You’ve created us to be. And flowing from that, that You would help us to live to do justice-

Yes, Lord.

…to love mercy, and to walk humbly with You in the time and place you’ve put us in.

Yes, Lord.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Closing Words

Well, thank you guys for doing this. And I should close by saying something I probably should have said at the very beginning. Even as we were praying, I was just freshly reminded of our need for the Lord. We don’t presume to be experts on any of these things. So, that’s one. Two, we don’t presume to speak for everyone who looks like us.

So, yeah. So, there’s all kinds of different perspectives. But hopefully, in having these conversations together, even as leaders in the church, we want to see these conversations among members of our church. And like we said, not just have conversations, but conversations that lead us to, well, do what Micah 6:8 says, “at least to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God.” So, may it be so, more and more and more so, among us.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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