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“Making Multiethnic Churches Celebrates Christ's Melodious Message”

Ramesh C. Reddy

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Incorporated (2021)

Author: Dr. Derwin L. Gray

 ISBN:  9781400230488

No. Pages: 240

Audible Listening: 7 hrs 3 minutes


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 leaning church.

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, TLB)


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 wife Chandraleela 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.

The transition 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 too.

Why did we not?


The number one reason we did not leave was because of Pastor Hugo and Heather. 

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 Chandra 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.


When 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 Mike & 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 elsewhere.

Why are we at our church now even after 14 years when no significant major changes can be seen to become a multiethnic church?

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)




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 multiethnicity.


"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 Bible was 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 left. 

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 perspective.


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 people here.


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 family.

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 multiethnic church.


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 ‘Building a 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 African-American church. 


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 to practice. 

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 in 7 hours and 3 minutes.

Express Your View


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