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EXCERPT #4 – From my new book, “The Integrated Church: Authentic Multicultural Ministry”

About a year ago, after a series of personal trials, I found myself examining the various relationships in my life. A question came to mind that was the catalyst for what I like to call a mental and spiritual shift in how I saw myself and others. I asked myself, How much of what people connect to within me is innate, genetic stuff I have no control over and how much are experiences I’ve accumulated over time that are similar to the ones they might’ve had? The answer was crystal. The relationships I cherished the most were developed, not because the people looked like me or acted like me, but because the relationships were born out of shared experiences, simple areas of commonality that provided a foundation for a bond.
One of the first steps toward being an effective church or ministry leader as it relates to attracting a multicultural audience is identifying the things common to us all. When working to find common ground with people of other cultures, it’s important to explore and highlight experiences we all share. Finding common ground on issues such as family, loneliness, joy, despair, success, and hurt will help to draw a diverse audience who can identify with these aspects of the human condition in spite of whatever culture they come from.
Start with the easy questions. How many people remember taking their lunch to school in a lunch box? How many people have had a bad breakup? How many people like to dance, sing, paint, or participate in any other art forms? How many people have every felt lonely?
Then gradually ask the harder questions, always keeping in mind Paul’s warning, “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22-23). How many people have been neglected? Abused? Committed adultery? Committed murder?
While some issues are ones that we never hope to have in common with anyone, it cannot be ignored that, in most cases, people connect with others at their point of brokenness. Of course, this will require that you become familiar with your own wounds. If you are unable to face your own brokenness, then you will probably be unwilling to connect with someone at theirs. This kind of transparency often challenges church leaders, but in understanding the difficult circumstances we’ve all had to endure we can begin to identify with each other in a way that can only be enhanced by our cultural background instead of threatened by it.
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