by Mark Croston
We love to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….” (Matthew 6:10), but are there areas we are missing?
While I was serving as a pastor in a small city in Virginia, I attended a meeting in Atlanta. At the meeting were leaders of the 27 ethnic fellowships in the Southern Baptist Convention. Sitting next to me was the president of the Vietnamese Fellowship.
During one of the sessions, he quietly slid a gospel tract toward me. I took one look at it and saw it was written in something I couldn’t read that I assumed was Vietnamese. So I quietly slid it back and said, “We don’t have any Vietnamese in my area.”
He pushed it back to me again and said, “Go to your local nail salon.” So, at a meeting in Georgia, a guy from Arizona, who has never been in Virginia, told me where to find Vietnamese people in my neighborhood.
I started taking a look around. I noticed more distinctly that there were more than just black people and white people in my city. The owner of the nail salon was Vietnamese. The owner of the beauty supply was Korean. The owner of the motel was from India. My doctor was from Kenya and my wife’s doctor was from the Philippines.
I looked inside my predominately African-American congregation and there were people from Uganda, Ghana, Jamaica, Trinidad, Panama, and St. Croix. There were Caucasians of Irish and other European ethnicities. I came to realize that our church, in a little southern town, was looking more and more like the kingdom of God.
While the numbers of these various ethnicities were not great because of the demographics of our community, the openness of our church was great. How did it happen?
Pastor-led commitment to missions
Since the end of my college days, I have traveled for vocation and vacation to 32 countries on five continents. As the pastor, I led one of our international mission trips every year for 19 years.
This helped me and the members of the congregation develop and maintain a true biblical world view. Sometimes we have a biblical view, but it’s often a biblical community view.
Identity, but not exclusion
We led our church as a church that was black, rather than as a “Black Church.” We were a church that was black because we were in a community that was demographically black.
That meant we could embrace and celebrate our heritage and black Americans, while at the same time being open to accept and embrace people who were not black Americans.
I believe that if you hold up your ethnicity over your Christianity you may consciously or unconsciously be closed to God’s greater kingdom work. If we see ourselves as a Black Church, White Church, Korean Church, or whatever, it means all who come to us must conform and become what we have declared we are.
However, if we see our Christianity first and our ethnicity only as representing the people we currently serve, we remain open to God leading others our way who may not be what we have been, but are a part of God’s greater kingdom agenda.
Celebration of every member
We had flags that hung in the sanctuary that either represented nations we as a church had travelled to on mission, or countries in which our members were born.
We hosted international potlucks and Sundays where members dressed in the attire of their native country. And we were open to new songs members brought from their homeland or from a mission trip.
Multicultural experiences can grow when we are authentically kingdom-minded believers. We love to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Being multicultural is one way to reflect His kingdom here on earth.