Guest Blog – The Multi-Ethnic Church Proclaims Jesus’ Ultimate Worth, Part 1

While living in Prague, Czech Republic, my husband and I attended the International Church of Prague which had many different cultures represented. It was a blessing to us to be a part of God’s global community. Recently, we heard a great sermon by the senior pastor, Drew Stephens, who laid out the calling of Christians and the Church to be multi-ethnic.

Due to my recent move and the busyness of settling in, I asked Drew to turn that sermon into a guest blog here. Enjoy. Be challenged.

The multi-ethnic Church proclaims Jesus’ ultimate worth.  God is most glorified when people from many cultures and ethnicities worship Him in unity, transformed by the gospel into a gathering reconciled to God and one another.  Therefore, the loving pursuit of all ethne[1] (tribe, race, language, people and nation) must be a core value for the church. Furthermore, God’s glory is the vital motivation that empowers the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-20).

The Reformers proclaimed: “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”[2]  The ultimate purpose of humanity is to display the beauty and greatness of God. Revelation 5 declares why Jesus alone is worthy of glory.  And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You …, for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 NASB). This great hymn boldly proclaims Jesus’ divinity[3] and the proof of Jesus’ immeasurable worth. The ultimate expression of Jesus’ glory is the redeeming and reconciling of peoples from every ethnos.

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of the Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday Morning.”[4] King’s statement should have been a clarion call that the church had drifted from both Jesus’ great commandment and great commission; “to go and make disciples of allpeople groups (ethne)”[5] (Matthew 28:19). However, most churches remain homogeneous. A 2015 LifeWay Research study revealed that 67 percent of American church goers believe that their church has done enough to become racially diverse.[6]  Nevertheless, 9 out of 10 U.S. congregations contain more than 80 percent from a single racial group,[7] and nearly-half of the congregations in America are ethnically similar.[8] 

People naturally drift toward homogeneous congregations.  The pull of the familiar is incredibly powerful no matter what ethne a person most identifies with.  Progress has been made and significant works are available that offer practical steps for the church to move forward.[9] However, tangible solutions often prove difficult to implement. In part, there is a blindness within a homogeneous church to its own prejudice[10].  Within American evangelical churches “White Privilege,”[11] is rarely recognized by those who enjoy its opportunities, making it difficult for them to comprehend the challenges faced by other ethne.  In contrast, Jesus is multicultural. Jesus overcame the fall of humanity and the division that resulted from human rebellion.  His sacrificial death declared the infinite value of every race and people.  His ministry was repeatedly targeted to those outside of the religious and ethnic norms of Judaism.  He pursued the Samaritan woman at the well, celebrated the Roman Centurion’s faith, and healed the Canaanite woman’s daughter.  Each ethne is a facet revealing the love, power and beauty of Christ’s redemption in its own unique ways.  Jesus, in his high priestly prayer of John 17, passionately intercedes for his followers of every ethne to be unified in him. 

[1] ethne (εθνη) –For the purpose of this essay ethne will be used to refer to people groups as referenced in Matthew 28:19.

[2] Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1647

[3] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 358.

[4] Martin Luther King speaking on “Meet the Press” NBC Television April 17, 1960.

[5] Matthew 28:19 (παντα τα εθνη) “panta ta ethne” – to all nations or people groups

[6] LifeWay Research: “Sunday Morning in America Still Segregated – and That’s OK With Worshipers,” by Bob Smietana, January 15, 2015.

[7] Michael O. Emerson with Rodney M. Woo, People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 40.

[8] Dougherty, Kevin D. and Kimberly R. Huyser. 2008. Racially diverse congregations: Organizational identity and the accommodation of differences. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 47(1): 23–43.

[9] Emerson, Michael, Smith, Christian, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (p. 120). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. Note: “Divided by Faith,” offers four practical solutions to help bridge the racial divide in churches.  1. Try to get to know people of another race 2. Work against discrimination in the job market and legal system 3. Work to racially integrate congregations 4. Work to racially integrate residential neighborhoods

[10] This is called “unconscious bias” and will be addressed in later blogs.

[11] Naidoo, M., 2017, ‘The potential of multicultural congregations in supporting social reconciliation’, HTS Teologiese Studies/ Theological Studies 73(4), a4622. https://doi. org/10.4102/hts.v73i4.4622.  p3 “Meaningful conversations and changes are additionally muted in that whites typically embrace individualism and don’t see themselves as raced or enjoying advantages.”

Author: Leslie P Johnson

Christ follower, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, love children, dogs, and horses and love to hike, and I am helping develop Culturally Intelligent Communities (CIC)

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