One of the best experiences of my life was our decision to move out of our apartment and into a townhouse in a multi-ethnic community in the downtown area of Phoenix, AZ. That’s our humble abode above with the arched windows on the second floor. Our neighbors were from South America, Europe and Asia. It was not the safest neighborhood but we called it home from 1996-2008. We created some amazing memories. We started our family there, we built deep relationships with our neighbors and we saw God do some pretty cool things.
We did not do this to be trendy, popular or politically correct. We lived in a multi-ethnic community for 12 years because we believed God cares for the disenfranchised!
I remember one night when an explosion rocked our townhouse, lit up the sky and rumbled through our home like an earthquake. Gina and I grabbed our two children who were fast asleep in their bedrooms in the front of the house and quickly brought them into our room until the firetrucks arrived with the other support vehicles. Apparently someone had triggered an explosion in a car that was sitting on the curb within a football field’s distance of our townhouse. Once we were safe I went out to explore the wreckage under the moon-lit sky and glow of the street-lights. Bits of metal, plastic and assorted car parts were scattered everywhere Nothing gets your attention quite like a car bomb!
We re-evaluated our purpose for moving into the community.
We assessed our motives again after a break-in and attempted rape of our neighbor at gun-point, 2 doors down to the left of our home. And again when we discovered the proliferation of sex offenders, drug activity and suspicious behavior from people we would observe as they made their way through our complex.
Despite that, we built high-trust relationships with people living on the fringes of society, one-step away from moving up in society or falling through the cracks. Fact is, most of our neighbors still live in that place.
3 questions to answer when planting, or becoming a multi-ethnic church
Over the next three blogs I will do a deep dive into each of the following questions with the intent to give context to the discourse around multi-ethnic ministry. I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert. Just a person with a heart for people far from God, experience building authentic relationship with our neighbors and perhaps some lessons learned that I can pass-on.
Here are the 3 questions I will address related to multi-ethnic church planting and ministry:
- What is your “why”?
- How will you create a culture of diversity?
- What is your leadership development strategy?
I do hope you will participate in the conversation below. Let me ask you that first question another way: Why is it important to break down the walls in your community that separate you ethnically, socially and economically?
Look forward to reading your response to continue the conversation.
In South Africa, we have many cultures and languages. It is imperative that we bring our society and churches together to demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ.
Agreed Bill, It is exciting to hear that this is happening in South Africa. What are the tangible outcomes when your churches come together? Look forward to your response.
As you have stated, Gary, the call to foster multicultural communities is rooted in something deeper than current social trends. For me, the story of the Antioch Church in Acts 11 is instructive and inspiring. You have a community of disciples started by Greek speaking Jews, but reaching into every stratus of the society, to Jews and Gentiles, to free and slave, to those with power and those with none. And it is there, as the gospel is lived out in this context, that Acts 11:26 says the disciples were first called Christians, “little Christ-ones.” This name supposedly came from outside the movement, and while it may at first have been a pejorative term, it was, if nothing else, a recognition that something unique was happening, something that could only be accomplished by the power of Jesus, the one whom Ephesians 2 says is our peace, destroying the dividing wall of hostility.
Thank you for sharing Russ. Would you say that the seeds of the Jesus Movement, from it’s very inception, was a multi-ethnic disciplemaking movement?