IS MONO-CULTURALCHURCHES A SCANDAL?
Is Mono-Cultural Churches a Scandal?
Thechurch is called upon to act as both the sign and instrument of theGod`s kingdom1.Acting as a sign, the church directs to the God`s kingdom as theright witness to its power and reality. Individuals are supposed tofocus on the church and exclaim, "That`s how God`s kingdom lookslike." Acting as an instrument, the agent of God to the world isthe church, sharing Jesus` love to the hurting and broken world isopen. In this sense, it is a door into the God`s kingdom to encourageother individuals to be part of the fellowship of faithful, connectedby Christ.
In the Bible, Revelation Chapter 7 talks about how men and women offaith will gather together around the God`s throne for eternity, andthat they will emerge from different tongues, tribes, and nations.The difference in However, the churches, in recent times, across thelandscape, is still mono-cultural. A United Kingdom missiologistrecently acclaim that we have a lot of diverse communities, whichcontains predominant mono-cultural churches, and that good fullyintegrated church models are rare. Based on the New Testamentteachings, the whole scenario may be seen as one of the recent"modern scandals of evangelicalism." The paper, therefore,agrees about these churches are "modern scandals ofevangelicalism" by drawing relevance from the Bible.
MonoculturalChurches a Modern Scandal of Evangelicalism
To begin with, Galatians 3:26-30 states that, "we are allreferred to as the sons of God."2A monocultural church disregards the fact that our identity is foundin God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and that cultural ethnicityshould not take part in any negative role in the manner in which weengage and relate with one another and the Kingdom`s work.Monocultural churches, instead of uniting people as the "sons ofGod," its scandalous nature is found in the fact that the peoplebecome more ethnically, racially, and culturally sensitive to oneother.3In the modern multi-cultural churches, it is healthy to talk aboutthe differences in ethnicity, race, and culture in the church as partof daily interactions.
For instance, the United Kingdom missiologists think thatmono-cultural churches are a modern day scandal of evangelicalismbecause they see Britain as home to multi-cultural society. Theybased their reasoning on the fact that these churches should reflecton their respective demographics.4The scandalous nature of this evangelicalism, according to themissiologists, is that the theological development fails to embracecultural diversity that is the United Kingdom and that all attemptsto articulate it with what multi-cultural society stands for becomesdifficult and break down. The bible embraces diversity however, itbecomes unacceptable and unbiblical in that the missiologists alsosees people to lean on their racial groups.
Secondly, mono-cultural churches are a modern scandal for evangelismin that they encourage unsafe haven for people from differentcultural and ethnic background. Regardless of people`s culturalethnicity, no one wants to worship or seek God in a palace, whichfeels "unsafe," however mono-cultural churches havesucceeded in this quest. What these churches have done is that,instead of encouraging safe and sound doctrines with accessible anddiverse cultural experiences, they have managed to create places ofworship with no love and sound theology, but culturally distant.5For example, Paul in Ephesians 4:12-13 writes about the need forChristians to attain unity in keeping the faith and growing up tomaturity, knitted together with all sections of the human bodyworking in the right way, and in all this is love.
One question resurfaces from the book of Ephesians 4: Domono-cultural churches assist with building the body of Christ? It isevident mono-cultural churches is scandalous in the sense that itstruggles with their redemption to call up, impact, and transformmulti-cultural communities. For instance, what makes humans, despitethe race and ethnicity, exclusively is in the thinking, which when itis confined in a cultural convergence, tend to limit and curtail theability to be an influence and share love across ethnic borders.6 1st John 1:5 emphasizes that God has called on us to "impactand penetrate all walks" in the society, which makes it evenharder when there is a single focus on a single particular group ofpeople.
Monocultural churches fail to create a haven for a betterunderstanding of what is considered the primary need and what is apreference. These churches are “modern scandals of evangelicalism"in that they fail to work constantly to solve the diverse needs ofdifferent groups, which in turn do not reflect the important truthsof the New Testament and the entire gospel. The church is the "bodyof Christ."7Here, what mono-cultural churches fail to understand is that "TheChurch" is regarded as a "universal body or entity thatembraces all the believers" Tipsy (2012).
The scandalous nature of these churches is that they do embracepeople`s diversity in culture and ethnicity. In Ephesians 1:22-24,the fullness of the Church is well-mediated in the diversity andrichness of the body, which fulfills the entirety.8Therefore, to disregard the existence of the mono-cultural churches,every church fails to exist or be a part of the community in itsentirety as a single entity.
This means that mono-cultural churches, based on the missiologiststatement, is a scandal to the modern evangelicalism and to thekingdom of God in that different communities have different cultures.This is because most situations in which different churches facetoday, in what is termed as the "global village," do notappear like this.9The community that people live in is a mix of cultures andnationalities, which makes it wrong to say that mono-culturalchurches are in a better position to fulfill their redemptive call ofbeing a united entity.
Tobe one entity like a church, disregarding what mono-cultural churchesstand for, draws relevance from the Bible by being the partaker ofthe "one bread" as is shown in 1st Corinthians 10:17. Thisbook encourages the church to share in the universal joy and natureof the church, and also, remain united beyond the diversity ofparticular community groups.10Furthermore, it releases people`s believe from the need toartificially create unity.
Inthe United Kingdom, especially in Cardiff, Swansea, and Edinburgh,the missiologists thinks these churches are scandalous because theyto abide by modern evangelicalism in the representation of the Churchas diverse heterogeneous units. Biblical, one of the strengths isfound in the book of Revelation 7:9, which emphasizes on this throughevaluating a redemptive idea belonging to a particular eschatologicalcommunity to allow "modern people" from worshipingtogether.
Again, the strength of these heterogeneous units is that the book ofrevelation disregards people from failing to worship together. Whenpeople agree to worship, celebrate, and learn from the diversity ofethnicity, gender, age, life changes, and class, which is broughtabout by multi-cultural churches within the Christian community, thescandalous nature of mono-cultural churches disappears.11The people also start to experience glimpses of eschatological hopefrom the foretaste position of the church.
Heterogeneous units also have weaknesses in that individuals’social and cultural biases are a hindrance to the church and thekingdom of God as is shown in the Bible. Monocultural churches do notconform to Galatians 3:28, which talks about the non-existence of"neither the Greek nor Jew, neither free nor slave, nor femalenor male, for all people, are one in Christ Jesus."12Again, the scandalous nature of today`s heterogeneous units fails towitness the authenticity brought forth by the power of the gospel tobring people together and reconcile them with God.
Monocultural churches are a scandal in that it blurs the glimpse ofthe kingdom of God. Revelation 7:10 in the New Testament provides aclear depiction of the kingdom of God. It says, "After this, Ilooked, and behold, a huge multitude of people that no one couldcount, from across the nations, from all languages and tribesstanding before the Lamb, with palm branches clothed with robes."13The Scripture teaches the faithful that what is an important aspectof the "God congregation" is characterized by race andethnicity. The Christ is calling upon people from across allcommunities and nations to himself. Therefore, mono-cultural churchesfail to excite God since they do not reflect God`s flock.
The Scripture disregard mono-cultural churches from the beginning.The Scripture talked about God when He said, "Let`s make man inmy image and likeness." So in God`s eyes, He created man in "Hisimage and likeness, in God`s image, He created male and female"Galatians 1:26-28. Both the male and female, in this regard, is madein God`s image. It is noted that historically, the Christians mindshave fought and wrestled with the fact about what this imagecomprises of. Theologians comprehend the image to consist ofspiritual, rational, governmental, moral, or ruling positions andfunctions. At this point, mono-cultural churches are thus disregardednot to abide by the God`s own image regarding engaging in a broadersense of the term.
Based on the New Testament teachings, diverse communitiesparticipating in the services of mono-cultural churches fall short ofits own teachings. For instance, as far as genealogy study isconcerned, the New Testament plainly agrees that God only recognizesone race. Instances of other bodily colors feature, for example, theskin color, may be disregarded and concluded that all people are madein God`s image.14The black, brown, red-haired, white, male or female – does notdetermine imagery distinctions, which may either interfere with the"genetic or organic unity of human life" (Acts 17:26)
The fact that the New Testament knows nothing about people`scontemporary presumption about "race" makes mono-culturalchurches appear scandalous in dealing with modern evangelicalism. Asa matter of fact, people may have skin color differences, but do notnecessarily belong to different ethnic backgrounds or faces. Thewhole idea of having one race in a church is fictitious and does notrepresent the ideals of Christ Jesus as is described in the NewTestament (Padilla, 1985). Additionally, to borrow from 1stCorinthians 8:4, these scandals are stated in a different way. Itsays that "our allegiance to race is a form of idol worship."It further states that "an idol is nothing of importance in theworld." These are mere constructs that are inherited as a resultof alienation created by the fall. Psalms 115:8 states that "webuild them, and they shape us."15
The restoration of people to see beyond their race and ethnicity isnot emphasized in mono-cultural churches, which also explains today`srarity of multi-cultural churches. This unity in Christ across allraces and ethnic backgrounds entails slow recovery of the God`s imagethat was lost in the Garden of Eden, as is seen in Corinthians 3:18.Since Christ Jesus acts as the "Hindrance to God`s glory and theperfect imprint of His nature" (Hebrews 1:3-4), then the icon ofthe "invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) unites people withChrist by restoring them to God`s image and likeness.16Here, the New Testament disregard all the structures that interferethe association of people with God and His image and likeness, be itrace or cultural differences.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Mono-cultural Churches
Monoculturalstrengths and weakness are based on what the Bible says regardingpeople are churches. As discussed earlier, mono-cultural churches areimportant in that they encourage strengthening of values in acommunity and race to remain intact. For one culture, race, or acommunity together, means that it abides by the Bible’s emphasis onthe need to remain united despite challenges of evangelicalism.
On the other and, the weaknesses of mono-cultural churches issupported by the Bible, especially the New Testament, whichrecognizes these churches as a scandal to modern evangelicalism inthat people`s social and cultural biases are a huge hindrance in thekingdom of God`s work, as is borrowed from the book of borrow from1st Corinthians 8:4-5 (Foster, 1997). There exists nothing betterthan seeing people in the kind of environment where there aredifferent flavors of cultural backgrounds joined with one informedking of God`s values instead of going against what God sees as Hisvalues within the Kingdom.
For a fact, and in regard to the above statements, the rarity ofgood models of fully functional integrated churches is because offailure for people to heed to the New Testament`s emphasis on theorganic unity that Christians have in Christ Jesus. It also lies onthe failure of Christians to be willing enough to be decisive in theunderstanding of the essence of humanity inherited from fallenancestors as is emphasized by Galatians 4:3 when Paul called for the"world`s elementary principles."17
Fully-integrated models of the church are rare because people seemono-cultural churches as a place to be provided for connection tocustoms, home, ritual, language, and power structures. The emphasison mono-cultural churches in today`s world revolves around assistingthe minority groups from marginalization.18These churches are seen as a haven for the minority communities fromdangers of assimilation. Additionally, the rarity of fully integratedchurches is because they are in a position to confirm the notorietyof the church on the teachings about "homogenous unitprinciple."
Strengths and Weaknesses of Multi-cultural Churches
The congregations are able to minister effectively for a long periodacross all cultural groups, which in turn, act as a kind ofmissionary engagement within a community. The Bible support thismulti-cultural strengths in turn it emphasizes on loving one anotheracross borders regardless of race and color (Galatians 3:28).Secondly, multi-cultural churches do not experience threats on theirown cultures, especially in the United Kingdom, and in turn becomemotivated by the experiences of becoming more exclusive to all peoplefrom all races and cultures.19Here, the Bible supports multicultural churches for a simple, and yetprofound way, which is found in the Book of Luke where Simon ofCyrene opted to carry the cross for Jesus regardless of him being aJew.
Weaknesses include not being inclusive in their worship services toindividuals from different cultures in the immediate church building.Here, the church congregation may be carried out in a sociological orgeographical context that has a lot of opportunities to preach andminister to people of different cultures, but in turn may choose tofocus on a group of their choice. Again, the multicultural churchesmay fail to utilize available resources at their disposal to reachout to wider congregation, and in turn miss out on the importance ofhaving a diverse congregation.
The UK missiologist forms the basis of this paper with his informedstatement about mono-cultural churches as a scandal and fullyintegrated churches being rare. Relevance is drawn from the NewTestament about how mono-cultural churches are viewed to interferewith the doctrines of evangelicalism. Some of this relevance is aboutpeople being created in the image and likeness of God. This image ofGod is understood by Theologians to include their rational, moral,spiritual, and other ruling functions, which ought to make up achurch and not necessarily one section of the Church`s race orcultural background.
Again, the paper touched on instances of these churches functioningas an unsafe haven for people from a different race. The scandalslikely to emerge are these communities being looked down upon for notbeing part of the "majority race." Additionally, the paperalso touched on the rarity of fully integrated churches, and what itmeans for the marginalized communities. For example, the rarity ofsuch churches means that these marginalized communities will fail tofunction properly in a given society, and thus goes against thedoctrines of the New Testament.
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Branson, M. L., & Martínez, J. F. (2011). Churches, cultures& leadership: A practical theology of congregations andethnicities.
DeYmaz, M. (2007). Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church:Mandate, Commitments and Practices. John Wiley & Sons.
DeYoung, Cyrus Panda. United by faith: The multiracialcongregation as an answer to the problem of race, 2003. Oxford:Oxford University Press, p. 29-31
Foster, C. R. (1997). Embracing diversity: Leadership inmulticultural congregations. Bethesda, MD: Alban Institute.
Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. (1978). The Pasadenaconsultation on the homogeneous unit principle. Wheaton, Ill:Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.
McIntosh, G., & McMahan, A. (2012). Being the church in amulti-ethnic community: Why it matters and how it works.Indianapolis, Ind: Wesleyan Pub. House.
Milne, B. (2007). Dynamic diversity: Bridging class, age, race andgender in the church. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic.
Padilla, C. R. (1985). Mission between the times: Essays. GrandRapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
Payne, J. D. (2012). Strangers next door: Immigration, migration,and mission. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books.
Rhoads, D. M. (1996). The challenge of diversity: The witness of Pauland the Gospels. Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press.
Rhodes, S. A. (1998). Where the nations meet: The church in amulticultural world.
Sudworth, R. (2007). Distinctly welcoming: Christian presence in amultifaith society. Bletchley: Scripture Union.
Tipsy, J. (2012). The Joyful Pursuit of Multi-ethnic Churches.Scriptura: International Journal of Bible, Religion and Theologyin Southern Africa. Retrieved fromhttp://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-joyful-pursuit-of-multi-ethnic-churches/
1DeYoung, Cyrus Panda. United by faith: The multiracial congregation as an answer to the problem of race, 2003. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 29-31
Sudworth, Ryshter. Distinctly welcoming: Christian presence in a multifaith society, 2007. Bletchley: Scripture Union, p. 23-28
3McIntosh George, and McMahan Alista. Being the church in a multi-ethnic community: Why it matters and how it works. Indianapolis, 2002. Ind: Wesleyan Pub. House, p. 12-78
Anyabwile, Titus. Many Ethnicities, One Race, 2010. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://9marks.org/article/many-ethnicities-one-race/
5Payne, Jaden Dee. Strangers next door: Immigration, migration, and mission, 2012. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, p.35-65
6Milne, Byrsth. Dynamic diversity: Bridging class, age, race and gender in the church, 2007. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, p.12-21
7Anyabwile, Titus. Many Ethnicities, One Race, 2010. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://9marks.org/article/many-ethnicities-one-race/
8Rhodes, Silst Asher. Where the nations meet: The church in a multicultural world, 1998. p.9-34
9Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. The Pasadena consultation on the homogeneous unit principle, 1978 Wheaton, Ill: Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.
10DeYmaz, Mathew. Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices, 2007. John Wiley & Sons, p. 17-29
11Foster, Cyrus. Embracing diversity: Leadership in multicultural congregations, 1997. Bethesda, MD: Alban Institute, p.25-47
12Rhodes, Where the nations meet, 19
13Rhoads, Dirs. Mione. The challenge of diversity: The witness of Paul and the Gospels, 1996. Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, p.79-82
14Sudworth, Distinctly welcoming: Christian presence in a multifaith society, 25
15Payne, Strangers next door: Immigration, migration, and mission, 36
16Milne, Dynamic diversity: Bridging class, age, race and gender in the church, 19
17DeYoung, United by faith: The multiracial congregation as an answer to the problem of race, 27
18Branson and Martínez. Churches, cultures & leadership: A practical theology of congregations and ethnicities, 2011
19DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices, 29