Monday, May 05, 2008
The Increasing Need for Ethnic Churches
Yesterday I was invited to participate in the ordination service of Rev. Vyacheslav Paliy (he graciously let's me call him Slav). The service, held at the New Way Russian-Ukrainian Baptist Church, a church we helped start three years ago, was a beautiful example of the power of the Gospel, and the wisdom of contextualization. Though I understood very little that was said, it was still a very special time spent with my Russian brothers and sisters.
After the service, I drove less than 5 miles up the road to the First Hispanic Baptist Church of Reisterstown, a church we helped start in 2006. So it goes without saying that yesterday was definitely a multicultural experience for me.
Our association is culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse. Appropriately, our churches are also diverse. Every Sunday morning our churches worship in six different languages. One of every five of our churches proclaims the Gospel each Sunday in the Korean language alone. Still, when compared with the more than 60 languages that are spoken in our area in the school systems alone, we are way behind the curve.
Years ago, Oscar Romo stated that America, "hardly the melting pot described by history texts, has been a land that from its beginning was marked by diversity, not homogeneity." I live and walk in the reality of that statement almost daily, and yesterday I was reminded of how much work remains to be done. North America is becoming more and more unchurched everyday, but not just in terms of population alone. Just as the church is behind the curve in terms of reaching our growing population, we are also behind in terms of reaching all the people groups that now exist on our home continent.
Distance can no longer be used as an excuse of why we are not reaching the nations (not that distance was ever a legitimate excuse to begin with). God has literally brought the nations to our front doorstep. In light of this, I challenge every brother and sister in Christ to do the following things:
1. Research your own area: Just a quick look at peoplegroups.org, and you will likely be shocked at the vast linguistic and cultural diversity in your own backyard. I just discovered not long ago in Westminster Maryland, a small, socially conservative, largely white community, there was an active Cameroonian church! The world is literally all around you and your church. Do a little research to determine who is there, and who needs the Gospel.
2. Contact your association/state convention for help: If you aren't Baptist, then contact your own denominational agency, or network with whom you are affiliated for help in determining what your church can do to reach out to those you find in your area.
3. Do whatever is neccesary to bring the Gospel to the people: You may need to work with others to bring in an indigenous church planter, provide office space, and part of a salary. Or, it could be just as simple as allowing an ethnic group the use of your worship and education space.
At the end of the age, John tells us that the church will be made up of people from every tribe, language, people, and tongue. The fact that so many ethnicities in my area are without a church is evidence that Jesus is not yet worshipped to the degree that He deserves here! In your area, I am sure the situation is similar. God has now arranged it so that reaching these people doesn't require an overseas plane ticket or immersion into a foreign culture. It only requires seeing these precious souls the way Jesus does.