Our church has many different nationalities represented throughout our congregation, from Filipinos, Jordanians, Indians, Ecuadorians, El Salvadorians, Brazilians, Scots, Vietnamese, Mexicans, South Africans, Nigerians, Britons, Germans, Chinese, and Koreans, with a few Martians sprinkled in… okay. I’m kidding. I wanted to see if you are actually paying attention.
When my wife, Jane, and I planted Southridge Church in San Jose, we never set out with an intentional goal to be a multicultural church. If you want to know how we became a multicultural church, then we have to go back to where it all started for me.
It began on a Saturday morning in August of 2005. I encountered a girl running past me as I was heading to the college cafeteria. It was still early, and I had just gotten off the night shift at my job at Best Western.
When I saw her, time suddenly slowed down. She began to run in slow motion, clouds parted, rays from heaven showed down upon her, and doves flapped their wings behind her… Alright, maybe it wasn’t exactly like that. Nonetheless, this is where it all began for me, and ultimately our church, because that running girl eventually became my wife. Jane is Filipino. Up until that point, I had never dated anyone from a different ethnicity, so I called my mom to get her take on an interracial relationship.
My mom said something so amazing. She said, “doors are going to open to you that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you.” I didn’t have the wisdom at the time to fully grasp the significance of what she was saying until we started our ministry in the Bay Area.
When I met someone that was Filipino and told them I was in a relationship with a Filipina. Immediately, there was an open door to talk to this person, hear their story, and share the gospel with them.
How does all that help you to open cultural doors that are closed to you in your city? The good news is that if you are not inter-racially married, you can follow a few easy insights we’ve utilized to access closed doors.
Briefly, here they are:
Care – Care about different cultures:
You may not be able to care for every culture so pray over the ones in your area and ask God to help you fall in love with them and you will see doors open to share the gospel.
Curious – Be curious about different cultures:
A few weeks ago, our family went to the Philippines. My wife had not been home in 20 years. Some people in your community live here but miss the countries they left. If you will be curious and ask questions about their language, customs, foods, traditions, and history, you will find an open door.
Celebrate – Celebrate different cultures:
Every year at Southridge, we host an event called “International Sunday” to help us celebrate different cultures. Everyone dresses up in clothing from their home country. We organize an international buffet. The children’s ministry prepares a flag parade, and our worship will be in a variety of different languages. We invite missionaries and teach on reaching people outside our comfort zone. Here, people know their cultural diversity is honored.
Communicate – Learn to Communicate with Different Cultures
The average immigrant speaks multiple languages. However, many church leaders only speak English. Consider putting your sermon notes and worship lyrics in English and Spanish. Consider sending your church newsletter out in English and Vietnamese.
There are also non-verbal cues that can highlight the multi-ethnic diversity of your church. On your church website, post pictures of different nationalities. On your platform, try to have guest speakers that are of different ethnicities. Do the same on your worship team if you can.
My prayer is that our local churches will make their cities a harder place to go to hell from, especially with all of the ethnicities represented. By implementing these insights, know you are fulfilling Revelation 7:9-10.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”