In 1960 Martin Luther King, Jr., told his interviewer on Meet the Press, "it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning." Sadly in the 21st century the quote remains true. Baylor University found in 2012 that only 12 percent of US congregations qualify as multiethnic (a congregation where no one ethnicity exceeds 80%). In my personal denomination, Southern Baptist, I estimate less than 3% are multi-ethnic of some 50,000 churches.
I am Filipino, Cajun French, Spaniard, English, plus I grew up around the deaf community. Though some family members are Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, or Baptist, we all seem to have the same heart struggle of not feeling like we truly belong wherever we attend. Sadly, as a result of this feeling, subsequent generations are less faithful to a local church congregation. I have learned over time that my family is not the only one to suffer in this way.
I am often told by parishioners that we are separate for stylistic reasons. By contrast, in certain circles, forming multi-ethnic churches seems to be the “current cool” thing to do. However, there should be a biblical foundation for all ecclesiological endeavors. So, is the church mandated to become multi-ethnic? If a church does not diversify, are they disobedient? If multi-ethnicity is a biblical thrust, why is it not espoused or taught at most pastoral training schools or from most pulpits?
Some churches that desire to diversify, have the desire but lack the resources to effectively pursue multi-ethnicity. Reality is that your church may be in an area with virtually no ethnic diversity. Other churches who have a diverse community and desire, are led by wrong motivations. The most common motivation that I have heard is Guilt. This is especially true for many white churches. The argument goes: "Whites have marginalized and oppressed blacks for so long, churches need to make it right by 'reaching out' to different races and ethnicities." If a church were to set aside political reasons, such as the mentioned guilt reason, and current cool trends, one should recognize four major biblical reasons to have ethnic unity in the church.
Reasons for Multi-Ethnic Ministry
Reason 1: It is a picture of the Gospel
Reason 2: It is a picture of Heaven on Earth
Reason 3: It Strengthens the Church
Reason 4: The Gospel to the Third Generation
Methods for Multi-Ethnic Ministry
Step 1: Teach Biblical theology
Step 2: Practice biblical Discipleship
Step 3: Diversify Leadership (preaching especially)
Step 4: Diversify Music
Step 5: Diversify Celebrations