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What does a multi-ethnic church really look like?

I get asked this question a lot at Crossroads, namely because we teach and vision-cast a lot about our desire to be a multi-ethnic church, which I usually follow-up by saying we still have a long way to go.  We are three and a half years into a 5-year-plan where becoming a multi-ethnic congregation was one of our goals.  Sociologists say that a multi-ethnic congregation can be defined as when the dominant group is not larger than 80% of the total population.  On our best day, if you include our kids and teens (where the majority of our people of color* are), we might barely fit the 80/20 rule — so does this mean we’ve met our goal in becoming a true multi-ethnic church?

*People of Color is the contemporary term used in academic conversations about race in America.  “Non-white” is not a good term because it forces people of color to identify themselves in relation to the standard of whiteness rather than in relation to themselves.  It is not to be confused with the historical racial slur “colored.”

This is where I follow-up by saying we still have a long way to go!  It’s relatively easy to become multi-colored, but this is very different than being truly multi-cultural.  A true multi-ethnic church is probably beyond the reach of most people, which is why you see so few of them and so few real efforts to become one.  So, beyond the 80/20 principle, what does a true multi-ethnic church really look like?

Trust and Safety

I’ll start with this one because if it goes misunderstood, the rest of the identifiers won’t matter (and probably won’t happen).  A person of color needs to be able to lament, emote, pray, and petition the Lord and their church community about the challenges of oppression they face on a daily basis.  They need to be able to do this without being judged or corrected by the white population. Continue Reading…

For most of my life, I never thought having a multiracial church mattered.  I also thought racism didn’t really exist anymore.  Slavery was over.  Don’t use the “N word”, be nice to black people and racism is eliminated.  As a rough summary, this is what a lot of white Christians think about race.  If asked if white churches should reach black people, white Christians will say yes.  If asked how this should be done, you’ll often get a response similar to what I heard recently from a denominational leader:

You will become multiracial if you are colorblind. 

The idea of being colorblind is the mindset that we see everyone the same.  “I don’t see color” is a phrase you’ll often hear from people when the topic of race comes up.  Continue Reading…