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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"How to Become a Multicultural Church" (Douglas J. Brouwer)

TITLE: How to Become a Multicultural Church
AUTHOR: Douglas J. Brouwer
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2017, (176 pages).

These couple of weeks have been filled with tensions over ethnic differences due to the rise of the alt-right and white supremacist movement including events leading to Charlottesville tragedy. From anti-immigration to anti-Islam, a growing proportion of radical whites are making their voices heard. Instead of diversity, they are claiming a preservation of their ethnicity. Instead of multiculturalism, they are insisting on white-only preferential treatment. What about the Church? Sadly, for various reasons, many American churches are more white than anything. If multiculturalism means no more than 80% for any one race, that a majority of churches will not make the grade.

Fact is, a majority of churches tend to be ethnic based. Whether it is a white-church, a black church, a hispanic or an asian church, there is a tendency for people of the same race to stick together. Even those in mixed marriages would have to make themselves as much a part of the majority race as possible. Failure to do so would mean exiting the group altogether. Based on current trends, whites will no longer command a majority come 2050. Is the solution then to try to keep the status quo at all costs? Or is it to learn to sense the movement of the Spirit toward becoming a more multicultural Church? The authors affirm the latter. It begins with a careful listening to the many voices in a multicultural church. This means recognizing the changing landscape of society while keeping an eye on what Scripture is saying. Listen to God teaching us the meaning of home. A Church is a home for all people, not just a certain group. The word "home" is a powerful word with strong connections with people all over the world. It is associated with a safe place, a place to belong, and more importantly a destination to become. This calls for an inclusive name, preferably an intentionally named multicultural one. Brouwer is careful not to jettison tradition or history by encouraging us toward thoughtful change that has considered the many factors behind the original name before suggesting anything new. The key thing is the willingness to change rather than the change per se. This means learning to adopt new thinking on leadership. Take on new roles. Learn to expand our theological mindsets such as learning to use different cultural illustrations. Learn not to major on the minors. Adopt Brian McLaren's "generous orthodoxy." Among the community, Brouwer gives additional tips such as:

  • Earnestly seeking to understand instead of waiting to be understood;
  • Learning the language of other cultures;
  • Moving beyond cultural stereotypes;
  • Be respectful and curious about other nationalities;
  • Rising about nationalism toward acceptance of others;
  • Learning to worship together and eat together
  • ...
With a fresh dose of ideas and inviting conversations, one can sense Brouwer's excitement oozing through the pages of the book. In sharing about his personal journey from a white-majority church background to a vision of a multicultural future, he stands between the gap between the past and the future. Even as our present contexts and cultural environment continues to change due to immigration and global movements, he reminds us that the Church cannot stand still and stick to their old ways. Moreover, it is biblical that we learn to expand our acceptance of different people, races, languages, and cultures, and to cultivate an environment of faith, hope, and love. Together in Christ, we can do more. We can learn more from each other. We can achieve more and put into practice the ways of love for one another regardless of language, race, denominational affiliations, and worship styles. This also reflects the inner spiritual conditions of the people beginning with the leadership. If humility is present, change will be easier. Together with love and kindness, we will definitely change for the better. 

The future is definitely one that will be increasingly multicultural. There will be more intermarriages, international movement of human resources, relocations, etc. Technological progress will also facilitate such movements. If that is so, why not prepare to receive that?

Douglas Brouwer is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton Illinois. This is his fourth book published with Eerdmans.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of William B. Eerdmans and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the kind words! I used to live in Wheaton, Illinois, but now live in Z├╝rich, Switzerland.