History, in general, is beautiful and ugly, broken and stable, insane and sane, and full of both the godliness and humanity of the people who have been made stewards over it.
If we consider American history alone, we have to celebrate the freedoms that came with the Revolutionary War, the conquering of the West, the writing of our Constitution, the industrial revolution and the democracy in which we now live, as well as acknowledge the long-term impact of slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese concentration camps, and immigration inequalities. If we expand our view to encompass global history, then while we celebrate the independence of nations like Haitior Nigeria and the technological advances of Japan, we also cannot ignore the significance of the Holocaust, the colonization and resource depletion of the continent of Africa, and other calamities executed by the hands of humans.
It is undeniable that there is physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual residue left behind by these historical events, and it is critical that leaders within the body of Christ not only educate themselves but also have a genuine sensitivity to these issues. Many minority groups, particularly communities of color, find themselves struggling with accepting the Christianity presented to them simply because, in some cases, a distorted version of the gospel has been used to perpetuate stereotypes and their feelings inferiority. This residue has now given birth to a remnant generation that is seeking God, even if unknowingly, but which has to reconcile its own past, laboring to put away their suspicions or skepticism about the authentic Christ and his followers. This is why a multicultural approach to ministry is even more important. It challenges the internal battle that has entrenched many minority groups.
In discussing the importance of acknowledging the more tragic parts of our history, I don’t want to imply that the need for a vision and church strategy that is multicultural and employs diversity at every level would only impact predominately white churches. There is a great need for churches that are predominately black or Hispanic to also take up the call and address the fears that keep their congregations from diversifying. While these fears might be the result of some of the very real injustices, horrific experiences, and negative stereotypes that have been endured by minority groups, God is still not a respecter of persons. Black churches as well as white churches (or Hispanic and Asian churches, for that matter) are not off the hook. The journey of each group might be filled with different experiences and perceptions of those experiences, but the destination is still the same. As challenging as it is, a multicultural strategy that will diversify our pews is very much God’s mandate for ministries that are predominately anything.
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