Recommendations

Although I’m passionate about the important role that multi-ethnic churches need to play in the kingdom of God, my own well is pretty dry on this topic at times. This is a primary reason I launched this blog last year. Sure, I have thoughts, ideas, experiences and reflections of my own, but I need conversations with others to be the leader my church requires.

Along the way, I’ve often been reminded that LISTENING is one of the most important skills for ministering, or participating, in a multi-ethnic church. I can’t speak into the lives and stories of my congregation if I don’t know their stories. If I’ve never heard their pain, I can’t be part of their salve.

So this week’s blog is simple. I want to point you to two excellent resources.

The first is an interview with Don McLaughlin. You will find it HERE on the Newsworthy with Norsworthy Podcast. Or you can find the podcast on itunes. Luke Norsworthy has some very interesting guests and I recommend you subscribe to his podcast.

The interview with McLaughlin was posted on 20 August, less than 2 weeks after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. McLaughlin is the pulpit minister at the North Atlanta Church of Christ. This is perhaps the largest multiracial Church of Christ in the United States.

In the interview McLaughlin briefly discusses racial attitudes in the US. He provides a great perspective on the humanity of all parties involved in the Ferguson tragedy. In a series of narratives he describes how racism has touched his family, and how his church has taken steps to welcome all people, regardless of “what color they’re wrapped in”.

The second resource is a blog post published by a friend of mine: Sean Palmer. You can read it HERE. One point that struck me from Sean’s post was the observation that,

“The strongest indicator of race relations in America is the church. Well, it’s the church, plus backyard barbeques or girlfriends’ weekends and guys’ poker nights – the strongest indicator of racial relations is who we are with when we get to choose who to be with.”

God’s call to unity and oneness doesn’t apply merely to what takes place within the walls of the church building. For those of us in churches with racially diverse memberships, our task is not complete. We can only truly consider ourselves a reconciled church when the church gatherings outside the building reflects the diversity found inside the building. A multiracial church filled with mono-racial friendships and social events is not reconciled.

Sean also does a great job of highlighting the fact that God is greater than culture. I really hope that if you’ve taken the time to read this far, you’ll take the time to read his post too. You’ll be blessed.

What’s in a Picture?

This week a friend shared an article with me about university marketing. It told the story from 2000 when the University of Wisconsin wanted to portray itself as racially diverse in its recruiting material. Somebody had the bright idea that Photoshop would help them out. So the front cover of the 2001-02 application booklet features a scene from a football game with the photoshopped head of a African-American student who never attended a football game!

This illustrates the difficulty institutions such as colleges and churches have when portraying themselves. Unless a church is targeting a particular demographic sector such as young professionals, or a specific immigrant community, churches want to portray themselves as welcoming to everyone. As a consequence our websites and promotional material often emphasises diversity. However, these pictures don’t always tell the truth.

The difficult question to answer is “Should we portray the church accurately, or aspirationally?” How does a 98% white church communicate that black and Hispanic members are welcome? Does a picture of a room full of white faces communicate that message? But if a church posts a stock photo of great racial and generational diversity that’s not a current reality will guests feel deceived when they walk in the door?

Did we miss anyone?

Look at this picture I found in some search results for “church diversity”. It’s obviously staged, but they’ve managed to include quite a few demographic groups: Children, Men, (mostly) Women, African-Americans, 50+, and they’re all so happy!!

One suggestion I like is that if congregational is more aspirational than real, “Start making it real!” Obviously churches can’t drag ethnic diversity in off the street, but they can develop an attitude of diversity by deliberately including diversity in everything we do. If we begin with intentionally including generational and gender diversity on committees and ministry teams, we’ll develop an attitude toward inclusiveness that will prove invaluable when connecting with those of other ethnic backgrounds. Don’t let pictures be the only expression of the church’s aspirations for diversity.

This is a topic I’m sure we’ll explore further in later posts. Churches that are racially integrated really should get that message out. Remember, 93% of churches are not! But what’s the best way of letting our communities know who we are?

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences. Do you think the picture above is positive or negative? You might also like to read these related articles: