Image for Q&A – What Gets in the Way of Being a Multiethnic Church?

Q&A – What Gets in the Way of Being a Multiethnic Church?

Photo of Michael PattersonMichael Patterson | Bio

Michael Patterson

With over two decades in church development and leadership experience, Dr. Michael Patterson has served ministries in Tallahassee, FL, New York City, and currently in Atlanta, GA. He is also the author of Running with Lions, a leadership development book, and an adjunct history professor at the prestigious Morehouse College. His doctorate is in education from Abilene Christian University. After the blessing of salvation, Michael has enjoyed 25 of marriage to his wife Shawn, and they have two children Alexis and Joseph.
Photo of Marcos MercadoMarcos Mercado | Bio

Marcos Mercado

After over 25 years of full-time ministry, Marcos planted a church in the heart of Wilmington, Delaware. Educated at Manhattan College and Abilene Christian University, he wears many hats, including that of Pastor, Church-Planter, and Radio Personality. You can hear him host the popular Radio One show “Marriage beyond the Vows” on WPPZ Praise 107.9 FM. Marcos, who is fluent in both English and Spanish, speaks both nationally and internationally in places like South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Happily married to his wife Amarilis, they are the proud parents of Lillian and Matthew.
Photo of Ronnie RoseRonnie Rose | Bio

Ronnie Rose

Ronnie Rose and his wife Sharmarra lead the FirstRock Church in Greenville, SC. They’ve served in the full-time ministry since 1996 and have worked with churches in New York and South Carolina. Ronnie was born and raised in New York City and became a Christian as a teen. Sharmarra was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and became a Christian in 1995. They’ve been married since 1999 and have two children, Kaylen and Stephen. Their life passion is helping make disciples that make disciples.
Photo of Kerry CoxKerry Cox | Bio

Kerry Cox

Kerry has been doing ministry since he was 18, all the way back in 1996. In 2004 he and 30 others planted a church in Wentzville, MO. The Crossings Church has grown to be a very young, diverse, and unchurched group of disciples committed to making disciples. The Crossings has since planted three other churches and partners with a fourth church plant. He has been married to Hannah for 20+ years and they have 3 kiddos who are all actively engaged in College, High School, and Children’s ministries!

*Editor’s Note: Churches which are truly multiethnic and multicultural take a lot of intentionality, and there are plenty of factors that can obstruct the process. I recently sat down with four church leaders who are doing this well and asked them questions which get at the heart of how churches can be more intentional about pursuing multiethnic, multicultural churches. This the second in a series of Q&A articles to come out of that conversation. For Part 1 (Why is it worth it?), click here. The church leaders are Michael Patterson (The Path Church in Atlanta, GA), Marcos Mercado (Delaware Christian Church in Wilmington, DE), Ronnie Rose (FirstRock Church in Greenville, SC), and Kerry Cox (The Crossings in Saint Louis, MO). 

Q: What gets in the way of churches moving toward the Bible’s vision of a multiethnic church?

Marcos: I don’t think it’s always intentional. And I think it’s because it’s not intentional that churches tend to miss it. The natural, easy way is to just reach people that are like you, which we also need to do. But a lot of times people don’t make that extra step to get out of their comfort zone and reach people who don’t look like they do. It doesn’t just automatically happen. You’ve got to be praying about it, you have to be intentional, you have to get out of your comfort zone. When churches aren’t multiethnic, it’s often because they’re not intentional; it’s not a focus.

Ronnie: If Jesus’ vision is to make disciples of all nations, then our devotion to that great commission is everything. One of the things that prevents churches from being multiethnic is a lack of devotion to the great commission of Jesus. Our love for different types of people really will reflect our submission to God and to His plan. And if there isn’t a devotion to God’s mission, then there’s no real hope. Loving and sharing Christ with people who are different will always be a challenge. It will always be something that reveals our level of devotion to God, because it’s just not easy.

One of the things that prevents churches from being multiethnic is a lack of devotion to the great commission of Jesus. 

Jesus’ team, the apostles, all shared the same ethnicity, but He was an example of having diversity in His own team. He had a tax collector and a zealot in His group. That’s dangerous! Yet this is how Jesus built His team.

You relate to everyone. You serve everyone.

So we have to have a devotion to the great commission, to sending people out. This devotion opens the door to really confronting prejudices that we have. When I’ve had to reach out to this person or this person, I’ve had to really deal with the obstacles in my heart that kept me from really embracing them. The great commission is what helps me to do that.

Mike: Yeah, Jesus set the example and also Paul. Paul did a tremendous job with intentionally reaching out to people that were different. So that tells me that church leaders have to do this. It’s cool to say the church needs to be engaged, but the church is going to basically follow the preacher’s example or the opinion leaders’ example. It’s about seeing leaders in a body of believers having diverse people in their homes and hanging out with them.

Just doing church for a couple hours on Sunday morning with people who are different from you is just integration. Genuine relationships happen outside of that planned worship service. So, whom do you spend time with? Who’s in your home? Whom do your children date? Now, that’s when it gets to be a real challenge.

Questions like these cause us to reevaluate, is it really about the mission of Jesus or about perpetuating the American religion—which are two very different things.

Just doing church for a couple hours on Sunday morning with people who are different from you is just integration. Genuine relationships happen outside of that planned worship service.

Kerry: I think a lot of people are afraid that things are going to change too much. It’s a fear of letting too much influence from other people come in. And it’s not just Christians of other ethnicities; it’s really the same thing churches have done for years with lost people. They’re so afraid that people are going to come in and change everything. It’s a fear that we will lose control. When you have people come in who look different, churches can bristle up like a porcupine.

Churches have to let go of this idea that if you bring in people who are different from you, it’s going to somehow negatively impact or change the church culture. It will change the church culture, but it won’t be negatively.

Another reason that many churches aren’t multiethnic or multicultural is simply because they’re not reaching anybody. They’re not disciple makers. How are you going to pursue multiethnic diversity in general if you’re not out there reaching people in the community in the first place?