Monday, March 20, 2006


I heard from someone that ethnocentric churches should stop being ethno-centered and start reaching out to those who are different from them. The argument sounds compelling. However, have we asked ourselves what it takes to build a multicultural church? I made some observations from my church visits, my cultural autobiography, and theories in class. These resources teach me that as Biblical as it sounds it is not easy to create, let alone lead, a multicultural setting. I will describe how five factors—geographical location, pastor of the church, church ministries, study of Scriptures, and missions—contribute in building intercultural relationships. The confluence of these factors leads to a multicultural, multiethnic, multinational church environment.

The first factor is the geographical location of the church. A city that is populated with many different nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities aids in promoting a multicultural church. The beginning of intercultural relationships starts with people who have certain amount of exposure with people who are different from them. Exposure with people who are different increases one’s tolerance towards other cultures. The more an individual spends time with people from different cultures, the more one becomes inclined to get to know others, thus initiating intercultural conversations. People who stay in multicultural environment develop likeness towards others. The amount of exposure an individual has with people who do not share similar values and worldviews pave the outset of intercultural conversations. Conversations among people from different cultures establish intercultural relationships.

The second factor is the head leader of the church. The head leader of the church is the pastor. The pastor is like a shepherd whom the flock follows. He is like a sailor who steers the ship. When he leads, the people imitate. When he envisions, the people grasp the visions. When he shares his passion of creating a multicultural environment, believers agree as one. The pastor who promotes in building a multicultural environment helps establish the kingdom of God. To accomplish this task, a pastor informs the pastoral staff (if he has any), lay people, and the congregation. I imagine a pastor following these steps: first, encourage the pastoral staffs to carefully study passages in the Bible regarding multiculturalism; second, tell lay people about his visions and probably conduct seminars; third, exhort intercultural relationships through homilies and allow them to practice intercultural relations in small groups.

There are ministries in the church that fosters intercultural relationships. This is the third factor that encourages intercultural relationships. A welcoming church includes all people from different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities. The church promotes intercultural relations through ministries such as small groups. The church exhorts the community of faith to come together as one and to cross cultural boundaries. Dialogues begin in small group settings. Small group is an instrument in furthering multiculturalism. To form a small group, one or two members of the church organize a group, find more people to join, have short conversations over a cup of coffee, or enjoy long conversations over dinner. In short, small groups provide warm and cozy atmosphere that is inviting to all people and good and delicious food that is pleasing to the stomach. Small group ministry is a tool in building intercultural relations.

Intercultural relationship begins from the sermon of the pastor—the fourth factor. A sermon delivered to the community of believers leads them into an act of communion with another person regardless of nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities. A sermon that explains the literal and evokes the Spiritual meaning of Genesis 1:27 aid believers to unfold the Sacred Scriptures. This verse implies that the stranger whom we sit with in church is a creation of God and a reflection of God’s image. The practice of getting together and crossing cultural boundaries is an example of applying the Scriptures in our daily lives. This exercise puts the Word of God into action and allows believers to engage with the Scriptures. Simply put, the Word of God urges us to know enough not to make distinctions among ourselves, but to distinguish only in God. We are called upon to discern to be Christlike and in Christ, in whom all distinctions are one.

Mission trips initiate intercultural relations. This is the last factor. Christians have been taught that it is the responsibility of the church to make disciples of all nations. I add to this statement the obligation of the church to develop relationships with people from other countries. Relationships with other people from different countries bring all Christians on the same level, erasing all divisions between the rich and the poor. Christians from first world countries are called to know what other Christians from third world country are experiencing—some of which are appalling and disheartening. Stories of disadvantaged people in third world countries hopefully alarm Christians from the first world, compel them to be compassionate, and move them to end poverty. The deeds of a blessed person, who reaches out to the poor, neglected, and outcast, not only bring the chasm between the rich and the poor closer but also stimulate intercultural relations with people from different nationalities.

The grace of God is so mysterious that we often miss it. We do not notice that we are living in a state of grace that God has provided for us. We do not need to be in this state, but we are. Our life is in the state of grace and everything that happens in it. Our churches are in a state of grace and every change/progress that occurs in it. To become better instruments of multiculturalism, though as difficult as it seems, (thus we are in desperate need of the grace of God,) our reference point is the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of God welcomes all diversity, transcends all boundaries, and includes all nations.

Etnicities and Churches: Final Reflections Paper

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