Why the City Needs Multiethnic Churches
Redeemer City to City — July 2015
Eddie Dhanpat is starting Mosaic City Church in Queens, New York. He expounds on four reasons for urban church planting with and for a diverse community: City natives will expect it. The gospel demands it. The culture needs it. The Church needs it.
1. City natives will expect it. I grew up in Queens, New York. This is one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City. Although Queens doesn’t have the acclaim of Manhattan or the hipster population of Brooklyn, it does boast one very important thing: it is one of the most diverse places in the world.
I am a native New Yorker in the truest sense of the word. Growing up here presented an interesting paradox, in that although everything I did in my earlier years was within a two-mile radius of my home, that two-mile radius was my microcosm of the world.
As you would imagine this had a tremendous impact on public life. This was most prominently seen in public school. Most of my closest friends through college looked nothing like me. I say all this to help you understand the shock and awe for many natives of major cities who step into church for the first time and see that everyone there looks the same. For many natives it is as if they have stepped back in time 50 years. Natives will intuitively expect that churches look like what they’ve experienced their whole lives, but sadly they still don’t.
2. The gospel demands it. Ephesian 2 tells us that Jesus died so that humanity would be brought back together through Him. Jesus died so that those who were “far” would form a new people with those who were “near.”
We tend to only think about this spiritually. Those who were spiritually “further,” the Gentile, would form a new people with those who were “closer,” the Jews. But I think that this can also be expanded to mean that those who are “further” racially and ethnically would form a new people with those who were “closer” or more culturally privileged.
Now every culture and subculture has its privileged and marginalized peoples. But what I think is especially abhorrent to God is that these categories tend to correspond along racial and ethnic lines. This completely degrades the image of God that rest in each person regardless of race and ethnicity. So for example African-Americans have been marginalized for centuries directly or indirectly by privileged whites. The Gospel calls us to not turn a blind eye or conversely supplant the privileged but form a new people out of these two, held together by Christ. So if this is true, how are monocultural churches accomplishing this?
3. The culture needs it – Right now urbanization, secularization, and globalization are the major cultural movements of our time. In short, our culture is becoming more urban, secular, and diverse. Much church planting in New York City in recent years has done a great job with urban secular thinkers. But if these cultural movements persist we can only expect the magnitude of diversity to grow. Doing ministry to so many ethnic groups can be overwhelming. With so many different perspectives to weigh its no wonder why some stay away from it entirely. But if new churches in major urban cities are looking to be effective for the next few decades, it must design its ministry to reach city-dwellers, who are both secular and diverse.
4. The Church needs it – The Church in America has sadly been late this party for far too long. Multiethnic churches in America are too few and far between. I am afraid that decades of an unfettered application of the “homogenous unit principle” has caused us to sell out for massive congregations where everyone looks the same. I am not opposed to large churches, but while we were creating colossal churches, the culture became captivated by a different narrative. What if the problem with our churches were not our theology or political stances but the inconsistencies of monochromatic ministries portraying a beautifully colorful God? What if the church rose above our culturally enclaves and instead led the way in authentic multiethnic community? I wonder if the culture would not be inspired if they looked into our churches and saw a glimpse of heaven.
The full article was mirrored from the archive.org cache of the original article at Redeemer City to City.