Posts Tagged ‘cultural context’


The Ideal Model for An Ethnically Diverse Church

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Michael Wilson from Australia asked, “Is there one right or ideal church model? If so, what is the biblical and theological basis for this?  


         I have yet to meet a pastor of a multi-ethnic or a homogeneous church for that matter, who doesn’t feel that his approach to ministry is the right-if not best-approach. We can gather them all in one room and discover that they are for the most part basing their ministry on the same biblical principles and mandates.  What differs is the methodology, the manner in which they carry out the ministry of the church.  This personal guideline for ministry is called a Philosophy of Ministry. For instance, there are some pastors of English speaking congregations in the United States who see the need for providing homogeneous immigrant services in the language and cultural context of the ethnic group they desire to reach, while others refuse to provide such services insisting that immigrants must learn English and attend the English speaking services.

         The Bible clearly instructs the church what it is that she must do, but falls short of explicitly telling us how to do it.  The how is mostly based upon one’s philosophy of ministry.  For a guide on how to develop a biblical philosophy of ministry click here.  

         The ideal model, from my perspective, is a church that will, in the case of the United States, reach out to the English and non-English speaking members of her ethnically diverse community. I don’t see where the Great Commission restricts the proclamation of the Gospel only to those who speak our heart language. On the contrary in Acts 1:8 the church is to proclaim the Gospel across cultures.  Doesn’t this mandate hold true if those cultures come to our neighborhoods? That is why I believe that the local church in an ethnically diverse community is to minister to the native and foreign born 1.0, 1.5, and naturalized generations of ethnics in her community.  With that in mind lets consider a few models. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an inclusive list. But for the sake of our discussion I will address four.

         The Renter/Rentee Model.  This church rents its facilities to an ethnic congregation. The Pros, it provides the host church with additional income, an opportunity to indirectly reach an ethnic community it is unable (or unwilling) to reach and it gives the immigrant church a facility in which to meet. The Cons are that the churches continue to be segregated and there is little opportunity for the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church to be reached by the renter church.

         The Mission Church Model. This church sponsors an ethnic mission church plant of its denomination. Providing its resources, usually facilities and utilities, until the mission church is self-sufficient.  The Pros, it provides the host church with a mission outreach opportunity and it provides the ethnic church plant with resources that lowers their initial expenses while working toward self-sufficiency. The Cons are that the churches are still segregated and there is little initiative for the sponsor church to reached the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church.

         The Multi-ethnic Church Model.  This is a church that intentionally transitions from the original homogeneous congregation to a multi-ethnic one that reflects the diversity of its community. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, and love one another. The Con is that the immigrant community is still unreached.

         The Hehogeneous Church Model.  Don’t bother to Google “hehogeneous” I coined the term. This church is heterogeneous (multi-ethnic) in the dominant language service and homogeneous (multi-cultural) in the various immigrant services conducted in their respective language and cultural context. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, love one another, and all levels of assimilation among ethnic groups are reachable. The Cons? I don’t see any but then again I am biased.

         The local church should strive to reach not only the diversity of ethnic groups within her community but all levels of assimilation among them as well.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.


For further reading on models for multi-ethnic churches and immigrant outreach see:

Eldin Villafañe, “Seek the Peace of the City: Reflections on Urban Ministry,” Eerdmanns, 1995

Manuel Ortiz, The Hispanic Challenge: Opportunities Confronting the Church,” Inter Varsity Press, 1993 and “One New People: Models for Developing A Multi-ethnic Church”, Inter Varsity Press, 1996