As a child, my life was marked by racial diversity in almost every aspect, except for one—the church. While my school and social circles were diverse, self-imposed segregation was prevalent within the worship services. This discrepancy puzzled me: why could diversity be seen in sports events and general life, but not in the sacred space of worship? These observations, along with personal experiences, fueled my desire for a multi-ethnic and multicultural church.
Growing up in a traditional African American Baptist church, my exposure to white Christians was limited. I harbored skepticism towards majority-culture Christianity due to perceived racism and prejudice. However, my true conversion at the age of 24 challenged my preconceptions and led me on a transformative path. This article chronicles my journey as I navigated through various church experiences, ultimately finding solace and inspiration in a multi-ethnic ministry.
A New Denomination, Adversity, and a Multi-Ethnic Home
After my conversion, I studied Scripture and developed theological convictions which led me to the Southern Baptist Convention. I not only joined a SBC congregation, but I also embarked on a journey in ministry.
However, my journey took an unexpected turn when I was struck by a rare disease called vasculitis. The resulting strokes, vision loss, and dialysis treatment left me physically weakened. Despite my determination to continue pastoring, my health prevented me from doing so. In the midst of this challenging period, I discovered Freedom Church in North Carolina.
A Home in Multi-Ethnic Ministry
At Freedom Church, I experienced the transformative power of multi-ethnic ministry. The congregation displayed remarkable kindness towards me and my family, offering unwavering support during our difficult times. Their care extended beyond mere material assistance; they exemplified Christian love that transcended race and background. I was given opportunities to preach and serve, and my family was embraced with genuine affection.
The Beauty of Diversity
This experience shattered my preconceived notions about majority culture churches. While acknowledging the sins of the past, it is crucial to recognize the transformative potential of the gospel. I was ordained in a majority culture church, became an elder in another, and currently serve as a supply preacher in yet another. These experiences have taught me that not all majority culture churches are defined by past indiscretions. It was during this time that I had the privilege to preach at North Shore Baptist Church in Queens, New York. There, Pastor Ed Moore has dedicated himself to building a thriving ministry that embraces saints from various ethnicities, languages, and nationalities. Witnessing the genuine diversity at North Shore firsthand only deepened my desire to see the same kind of unity in my own hometown, which was once plagued by segregation.
I was filled with wonder and hope with the thought of a multiethnic church in a small southern town, where races, once segregated at restrooms and water fountains, would come together to worship our Triune God, hear the word preached, and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
A Biblical Vision
As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of the vision depicted in Revelation 7:9, where people of all languages and backgrounds unite in worship before the throne of grace. This biblical vision compels me to embrace diversity and strive for a multi-ethnic, multicultural church that exemplifies the transformative impact of God’s love.
I firmly reject the notion that I learned nothing in the black church or that everything they did was wrong. Rather, my journey has broadened my vision and deepened my understanding of the beautiful diversity within the body of Christ. It has taught me that the transformation brought by the gospel extends to all individuals, regardless of their cultural or ethnic background. While it is admirable to desire diversity, we must remember that monoethnic churches are not inherently sinful. There are many factors at play, and past racism is not the only cause of their existence.
Additionally, community placement and other circumstances can make achieving diversity nearly impossible. It is not fair to criticize churches lacking diversity, because forcing diversity for appearance’s sake helps no one. Instead, these churches should reflect the makeup of their communities and be open to diversification if and when the community changes.
I am aware that there are valid reasons for having monoethnic churches, such as language barriers. I was raised in Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Waco, NC, where my uncle and pastor, James E. Montgomery, faithfully shepherded us to love God, love His Word, and reach the lost and dying world. From this foundation of evangelistic fervor, I have devoted myself to the mission of reaching people from every tribe, language, and nation.
A Call to Action
My aspiration is to pastor a multi-ethnic, multicultural church that serves as a beacon of God’s love to the world. While acknowledging the sins of the past, we must actively work towards reconciliation, understanding, and unity. It is through the collective efforts of diverse congregations that we can truly demonstrate the impactful nature of God’s grace.
My journey from skepticism to embracing multi-ethnic ministry has been marked by transformation and a deepening understanding of God’s love for all people. The kindness and acceptance I received from the multi-ethnic congregation at Freedom Church shattered my preconceptions and inspired me to pursue a vision of unity and diversity in the church. By acknowledging past sins and actively working towards reconciliation, we can build a church that reflects the transformative power of the gospel, bringing people of all backgrounds together to worship our Savior and King.
- Pray for a revelation of the sinfulness of self-imposed segregation in our churches: Ask God to open our eyes to any divisions or barriers that exist within our churches based on race or ethnicity. Pray for a deep conviction of the sinfulness of such segregation and a genuine desire for unity and inclusion among believers.
- Pray for a shift in focus within our churches: Ask God to help us prioritize godliness and the giftedness of pastors over the color of their skin. Pray that we can move beyond superficial considerations and truly value the qualities and abilities that come from a godly character and spiritual gifting.
- Pray for churches that reflect the image in Revelation 5:9: Ask God to raise up churches that mirror the beautiful picture of diversity and unity described in Revelation 5:9. Pray for congregations that are inclusive, welcoming, and reflective of people from every tribe, language, and nation. Pray for a deep sense of unity, love, and worship among believers, regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.