First, before reviewing ‘Building a Multiethnic Church’ by
African-American Pastor, Dr. Derwin Gray, we are going to share our own
experiences being in a specific ethnic church and a multiethnic
What hour is the most segregated hour in the world?
Sadly, it is the hour of worship.
It feels really good to worship with brothers and sisters
who look like you, love the songs you do, and believe the Bible is
the inspirational, infallible, indestructible Word of God from
Genesis to Revelation.
So, what do we do?
We look for churches or fellowships that cater to our wants.
Is that biblical though?
What about Revelation 7:9?
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from all
nations and provinces and languages, standing in front of the throne
and before the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their
hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes
from our God upon the throne, and from the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9,
Sadly, we wanted to worship with our own kind, who love the
songs we do and believe in the Bible as we do. This is not a bad
thing but it is not also the Lord’s desire to segregate ourselves if
we have an opportunity to be multiethnic. Sometimes it is not
possible due to different reasons. We use those reasons for excuses
to worship with those who look like us, love the songs we do, and
believe in the Bible as we do.
Our family has been no different.
When my precious
came to the U.S.A, she had only worshiped in Telugu, Hindi, and
Malayalam but she was willing to forgo all that to worship with me
at Oakland International Fellowship
(OIF) in English.
was not easy for her so we decided to go to a Telugu Christian Fellowship (TCF)
whenever we could on Saturdays. It was such an awesome experience.
We got to worship with other Indian Telugu Christians and have
fellowship Indian dinner once a month. We would have preferred it to
be every week.
However, we never left Oakland International Fellowship (OIF)
because our former Pastor Hugo at the time wanted us to start a ministry for
international students to hang out on Saturdays to play games, eat
home-made Indian food, and know the love of Christ. When
we started this ministry we could not go to TCF anymore because they
fell on the same night.
Saturdays were the best time for us because we felt we were
among our own kind for the most part. It felt really good. We called
it International Game Night (IGN) which could have easily been seen
as Indian Game Night because the majority of students that came were
Indian. We did it twice a month for almost 7 years. We felt like we were part of an Indian community
playing games with them, eating Indian food with them, sharing the Word of God
with them, and sharing the
love of Christ with them.
Even though we were the only Indian family in church, we
held out the hope that more Indian families will join. Sadly, a lot
of Indian families would go to an Indian church than come to OIF.So many times we wanted to go and stay in an Indian church
Why did we not?
The number one reason we did not leave was because of
We could see
their heart for multiethnic ministry at the time. When we had
worship, it was not just English songs anymore. When Heather heard
sing, she encouraged Chandra
to join the worship team.
The worship team reminded me of the Urbana Missions Conference because it reminded me of Revelation 7:9.
Our former worship coordinator Kristen Lippert never shied away from
introducing songs from other cultures.
When it came to the food, our former pastor made sure even
if there were a minority of congregation members who did not eat the
majority food, he and his wife took initiative to provide the food
for the minority too if they did not eat the majority food. We felt
touched by the people, the worship, the food, etc.
Pastor Hugo had me take demographics
every Sunday to see how we were doing with multi ethnicity.
The leadership team at the time was extremely
intentional about multiethnic ministry which was music to our years.
Who could not see the heart of Edwin & Marie for multiethnic ministry?
They were as involved as Pastor Hugo and Heather with us.
We were so blessed to continue IGN with Pastor Bucknell, Pastor Josh & Courtney, Pastor Mike & Jeanne,
campus minister Jesse & Emily, Johannes, Bobby, and Dan after Pastor Hugo, Heather, Edwin, and Marie left.
We saw glimpses of what a multiethnic
church looks like when we had American families, a Brazilian family,
Chinese families, a Singaporean family, a British/Taiwanese family,
etc worship with us in the same small group as Pastor Josh & Courtney led the
small group after Elder Calvin & Elise
went to help another group.
Pastor Hugo and his family left to
pastor another church, their desire for the nations did not subside.
Their vision seemed to pass to Pastor
Jeanne who organized an iron chef
international competition and taco night among other things.
We continued this ministry for 7
years even after Pastor Hugo
left for another church and Pastor Josh
took over. Every Sunday, we would hope that OIF would become a
multi-ethnic church where at least 20% of the congregation are not
of the majority race, the worship songs were not just one language,
the food was not just from one culture, etc.
We realized even though the pastors have a vision for
multiethnic churches if the leadership team and the congregation is
not completely on board it will be challenging.
We wished Pastor Hugo, Pastor Bucknell,
and Pastor Josh
would remain at our church as pastors but the Lord called them
Why are we at our church now even after 14 years when no
significant major changes can be seen to become a multiethnic
It is because change always starts with being small. A
minority can never become a majority if the minority members keep
leaving. It is not even about being a majority but at least 20% of
the majority being multiethnic from minority races. It starts with
us and F.A.I.T.H.
Why do I use F.A.I.T.H?
F stands for FAITHFULNESS..
As an Indian family we could leave thinking the majority
will always be the majority and there is no hope for the minority to
bring change. This is where faithfulness comes
in. We can do our part to inspire change instead of leaving as we
depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us.
"But when the Holy Spirit controls our
lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and
self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.
(Galatians 5:22-23, TLB)
A stands for AVAILABILITY.
Also, if we want the church to be multiethnic we need to do
our part in making ourselves available for people of different
ethnicities to hang out with us for games, food, worship, etc.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I
send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
(Isaiah 6:8, NIV)
I stands for INTENTIONALITY.
Moreover, if we want the church to be multiethnic, we need
to faithfully make ourselves available to intentionally play
games from different peoples cultures, cook and bring food from
different cultures, or join the worship team to excite change to be
a multiethnic worship team in its makeup and worship.
We have to remember that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
(Galatians 3:28, NIV)
T stands for TRUTH.
Furthermore, if we want the church to be multiethnic, we
need to faithfully make ourselves available to intentionally speak
the Truth in love promoting and teaching an Evangelical theology of
Scripture without compromising to get diverse crowds. If the Truth
of Scripture is not paramount then no matter how diverse our
congregation is even in its multiethnicity or programs, it is
useless. We should never compromise the Truth of Scripture for
"Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all
times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is
the Head of his body, the Church. Under his direction, the whole
body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special
way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and
growing and full of love." (Ephesians 4:15-16, TLB)
"The whole Biblewas given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to
teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our
lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is
God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped
to do good to everyone." (2 Timothy 3:16-17, TLB)
As the years went by, as much as we
wanted to always see a multiethnic congregation, the main reason we
have stayed at OIF is because of Pastor
Hugo’s, Pastor Bucknell's, Pastor Josh's, Pastor Ridge's, Pastor
Mike's and Pastor Jesse's
preaching that is solidly biblical even after Pastor Hugo
We looked for multiethnic churches and found few but their
theology was not solidly Evangelical. The sermons need to move us to
action in our daily living from an Evangelical, biblical
H stands for HOPE.
If we want the church to be multiethnic we need to
faithfully make ourselves available no matter how uncomfortable we
feel as a minority or majority to intentionally inspire change as we
speak the Truth from God's Word hoping the Lord will draw the right
What gives us hope to stay is the
high recommendation the outgoing Pastor
Josh has given for incoming Pastor Jesse who
he has worked closely with and the time we got to spend with Pastor Jesse's
What excites me
is that both of us worked for
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship - USA
which is part of International
Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).
Both of us at different times staffed a multi-ethnic chapter and
emphasized inductive Bible study even as we attended Urbana Missions Conference.
So, we are really excited that Pastor Jesse
will be the new pastor with his family even though we will
tremendously miss Pastor Josh
and his family. We don’t know if OIF will become multi-ethnic but we
are holding on to hope to see a glimpse of Revelation 7:9.
For that to happen, it takes F.A.I.T.H depending on the Lord
Jesus as we pray and study God’s Word including books on building a
If you are looking for a church to
build a multiethnic congregation, will you come join our family at
Oakland International Fellowship (OIF) to reach the nations with the
Gospel of Jesus Christ as we strive to grow deeper in faith,
stronger as a community, and making a greater impact in the
surrounding areas. It starts with each one of us having a vision and
moving forward as we do it in faith, hope, and love.
"What is faith? It is the confidence
assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the
certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we
cannot see it up ahead." (Hebrews 11:1, TLB)
To that end, I recently finished a book called
Multiethnic Church’ by Dr. Derwin L. Gray.
It really touched me that Gray, an African
American pastor was very intentional about building a
multi-ethnic church when he could have just pastored an
In his book, Gray shares his
own journey towards how he came to build a multiethnic church.
Throughout the book, you will learn that if he can build a
multiethnic church, anyone with that passion can build it if they
are seeking the Lord.
The key is depending on the Lord and
having intentionality. Anyone who wants to build a multiethnic
church should read this book but mostly those that do not care for
multiethnic churches should read it more.
You will not be
disappointed by reading it as Gray
takes us through the Book of Ephesians, sharing different
experiences, and reminds us that it is God’s heart for multiethnic
churches. My hope is that every pastor and leadership team of
churches will pick up this book and read it, putting the knowledge
Building multi-ethnic churches is not just theoretical but
very practical. We don’t have to wait for heaven for that to happen
because it can happen here. Yes it can!
One of the main things that is emphasized throughout the
book is getting out of our comfort zones.
This book will excite you and make you realize how possible
it is. It will also make you realize what a difference just one person can
make when the Lord is on their side.
Gray reminds his readers that when his
mom was facing pressure to abort him, she resisted it and let him be
born. Now, with the Lord’s help what an impact he is making for the
Kingdom of God.
In conclusion, ‘Building a Multiethnic Church’ is a 240 page book with
practical steps, including a study guide, to work through it
individually or corporately as you reflect on the Book of Ephesians
too from the Bible so you can take action.
You can also listen to it on
audible.com in 7 hours and 3 minutes.