Why start an intentionally multicultural church?

This is one of the key questions we have asked ourselves over and over again about City Hope Fellowship. Over the past two and a half years, I have read, prayed, studied, taught, and written about this subject. And now I want to summarize and share it in a 6 part blog series. My goal for this series is share my heart. And to show our motivation to start a missional and multicultural reformed church in downtown Muncie.

From the outset it is important to get our definitions and terms straight. The word multicultural may stir within us sociological or political ideas. Yet, for us it is informed biblically and theologically. I am not a sociologist. I am not a politician. That is not to say those are bad, they most certainly are not and are desperately needed. Because of God's common grace to all people there is truth to be found in every field of study and profession. But, I am a Bible teacher and a herald of the good news of Jesus. And when it comes to the church we must cling to the Scriptures.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith (our statement of faith) says:

The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.
— Westminster Confession of Fatih, 1.10


So throughout this series I hope to do just that, to point to the Scriptures to show why we believe God is calling us to intentionally start a multicultural church and in so doing I will also show the necessity for it to be missional and reformed as well (3 for the price of 1!). As I have joked with our team, when I say that we are trusting God to start a missional and multicultural reformed church I am saying we want to start a church, church, church church. The Scriptures show that the church should be all these things, and so we must pursue them. 

So, to begin I want to offer what I offered to our team of what we mean by saying that we want to be a multicultural church (hint: not a fancy definition, just my own words): 

We want to bring the gospel to everyone in Muncie, which means taking the gospel to every ethnicity and culture in Muncie. And we want to see the gospel heal and bring restoration to real hurts and issues that our city faces. This means that we will intentionally seek to unite in Jesus across all divisions: age, gender, ethnicity, race, and socio-economic status.

This comes from a biblical-theological study of God's story of redemption from Genesis-Revelation, and is another way of stating what the Apostle Paul articulated in the book of Galatians. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:27–29, also check Col. 3:11) This verse contains so much of what I will unpack over the next few weeks, including the deep connections between this vision for a multiethnic and multicultural church (I will use these terms interchangeably at times) and the promise of God to Abraham. But here, in this first installment I want to end at the end of all things. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” (Revelation 7:9–10, ESV)

This is the end of history. We are headed to a place where Jesus is on the throne and gathered before him are his people, all those who have turned from their sin and are trusting in his work on the cross to be saved from the judgement they rightfully deserve. And John's vision of this people is glorious. They are a multicolored, multilingual, multicultural people. They represent every ethnicity, every culture, every language, every race, every economic class. And they are united in their worship of King Jesus. And yet we see very clearly that they remain distinctively who God created them to be in ethnicity, language and color. John can see and hear that they are different yet united around the person of Jesus. If this is the end of history, we figure, lets get a jump on that now and intentionally pursue the glory of God's multicolored grace! (Ephesians 3:10). 

Coming Up:

This blog was just a brief overview, but over the next few weeks I hope to tackle the following topics:  
God's covenant with Abraham as the foundation of the New Testament church
The Great Commission within a covenant framework
The New Testament pattern of multiethnic local churches
The power of the gospel from Ephesians 2
Multicultural church planting in Muncie. 

Please join me in this journey. 

Also, much of this work is indebted to so many people so I will try to highlight some resources each blog that have helped me along the way. And if you are interested in learning more, I have written two seminary papers that are attached that have full bibliographies. 

Highlighted Resource:

The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World by Derwin Gray. 

This book has been very impactful for me personally and is a great introduction to all the issues I hope to address in this series. I had an opportunity to spend some time with Pastor Derwin and his team at Transformation Church last year at a roundtable discussion of the book with other pastors and church planters. If you are interested in this topic, please check this book out. 

Further Study:

For those of you who want to dig more behind the scenes on this topic, I have attached two of my seminary papers that deal with the issue more in depth and include significant bibliographies. And if you want to chat about any of this, contact me please and lets get coffee and discuss (if you're blessed to live in the greatest city in the world, Muncie, IN).

Multiethnic Church Planting: The Biblical Pattern for Fulfilling God's Covenant Promises

A Multitude that No One Could Number: God's Covenant with Abraham and Its Fulfillment in Christ