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Multicultural Worship

Multicultural Worship

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Multicultural Worship Column with Nikki Lerner

How do you and I engage in true, healthy multicultural ministry this year when we feel like we don’t know where to start or how to do it. God’s Word, the text of our lives offers us a great place to begin. Are you ready? Let’s get right to it! In Ephesians 4: 1-3 (NLT) The Apostle Paul says this… 

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“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

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Wait, Lord. Does this Scripture apply in every area of our lives? Certainly not in diversity work, right? If there were ever a space where I can lean into my flesh, do my own thing, yell at someone on Facebook, and make my own decision about what my ministry team should look like it’s certainly in this area, right, Lord? 

We all have this war within us at some level. Not because we are bad people or don’t love God, but because we are human and part of being human is the journey of learning and growing. In moments like this, old residue from our old life is rearing its ugly head. It can emerge when having deep conversations around race and culture. Mostly because so many thoughts, feelings, and emotions are connected to the depths of who we are and what we have experienced thus far in our life-journey. We need not be afraid. Our leader, Paul, reveals the provision of Christ to us.  

Always Be Humble and Gentle. 

No individual, no culture group, no gender, no pastor, no elder is excluded when it comes to this admonition. I’m sorry. I actually wish that wasn’t true, particularly when you and I have been in situations when we have been sinned against. When we have been the victim of an act. When we have been the recipient of an unusually unkind word or deed. And yet, here it is, right here in the Word of God, the text of our lives. Freedom comes in asking better questions. The question in this situation is not, “God, do I have to be humble and gentle when I feel like someone has sinned against me pertaining to my race?” A better question may be, “God, I feel angry, hurt, and confused. Can you please show me how to embody humility and gentleness in this situation?” Sometimes you are actually the one who needs it for yourself. Other times, Jesus invites us to give this grace to others. We always get a choice, however. Whether that comes today or later on the continuum of our life journey. 

Be Patient and Make Allowances.

This is my favorite part of this verse. Paul doesn’t randomly suggest that we do these things. He gives us a reason. It’s because of our love. You see, when we are hurt, tired, and confused with one more conversation about ethnicity, color, privilege, lack—this list is eternal—we can have a moment where we forget who we are and who our God is and settle back into the remnants and residue of an old life. Be patient? When someone has told me that I am a racist? Yes, because of your love. Make allowances…again? When revealed again how I am not represented or included? Yes, because of love. If we could get a moment to breathe when we feel anger—that is oftentimes righteous—and remember that the same grace was and is offered on our behalf, we gain perspective. 

God is patient with us. God makes allowances for our faults. Can you even pause now, and remember even just one time where God lavished these things on you and showed you a model of how you can love others? “Yes,” is always the answer to that question. He is so good to us. He has modeled for us already exactly what this looks like. It is by His power, by His Spirit, and by His Word, the text of our lives, that any of us are even capable to do what Ephesians 4 has asked of us. Lean in to the discomfort of exercising patience and making allowances. You will find Him there with a provision of Grace for the moment. 

Make Every Effort

Paul gives us a question for every situation in our lives. Have I made every effort to keep the unity? Have I made every effort to make someone feel welcome? Have we made every effort to make sure that when people walk into our church and see pictures on the wall that they are represented? Have we made every effort through the training of our staff, leadership team, worship team, volunteer influencers to prepare them for a shift in the ethnic culture of our church? Have I made every effort as a leader to pursue what Christ has asked me to in the local church—every tribe, every nation, every people, every language —worshiping around the Lamb? Tough question to answer, right? Have I made every effort in the area of multicultural work and ministry? 

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“Want to reach the nations? Start with your local congregation by making every effort towards unity.”

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Now, before you go and decide to give up ministry work for life, let me give you a virtual hug and share a critical perspective with you. The admonitions in Ephesians 4 are meant to encourage you, not trap you. They are meant to give you a vision of what is possible for your ministry and your ministry reach. Want to reach the nations? Start with your local congregation by making every effort towards unity. Want to see your worship team or pastoral team be more ethnically diverse? Always be humble and gentle when you connect with people, when you talk about politics, and when you discuss current events that are racially-fueled. Always, means always. Want to see a church community that is more concerned with learning about one another, celebrating cultural come-from and learning? Then make allowances for each other’s faults, because of your love for each other and your love for Christ. 

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Make. Every. Effort. 

Don’t. Give. Up. 

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Let the residue of an old life and old ministry ways stay where they belong—in the past. Embrace the way of Christ in the work of multicultural worship and ministry. You are stronger than you think.

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