One of the things we’ve been talking about here is how to plant and pastor churches in urban, diverse areas. This has included the question “Should we target specific ethnic or social groups” and plant churches exclusively or primarily aimed at them. You can see my thoughts on this here and here.
We’ve had an email response from one person, @Litabny and they’ve agreed that I can share their comments and my response (below). By the way, we appreciate comments via our contact form and do try to respond by email.
Thoughts on the HUP article
i) There is a critique of the term diversity (from secular social theorists, which I think actually reflects what we would see as the effects of sin on the world) – in that it covers up what is going on at ground level – ie you can have lots of people of different colours but what are the relations between them and who makes the decisions and who controls the resources? This in my experience is relevant to m/ethnic churches, as I have seen over the years majority churches who talk about diversity and put pictures of different sorts of people in their publicity, treat minorities poorly by showing favouritism to their majority members with status and they remain outsiders.
ii) A point about your 3 aims for Bearwood – diversity in attendance, membership, leadership – what about the relationships between Christians – the qualitive aspect – how much ‘one anothering’ goes on between people who are different OR so do people gravitate to their own – in my experience in m/eth churches (and work places) ppl generally continue patterns of social relations from outside – that includes racism/classism (this is born out in a number of studies). In my experience, small groups have not impacted on this. One big test is marriage … if you think people get on wait till one of their children wants to marry a Christian not traditionally married by their people
iii) The big lesson for me of the HUP is something that in certain contexts could be used helpfully (I agree with you there is faulty theological reasoning with it) – but it is not neutral and can be used to reinforce societal and individual sin – please see Divided by Faith – Emerson and Smith. From what I have read of McGraven, I don’t think he envisioned it being used to prop up racist attitudes in white US churches. The big challenge for us here is how models of church planting / pastoring developed for particular demographics in the UK can do the same ….
and my response….
Those are very helpful comments and do push the thinking a bit further.
I think your questions about how people are treated and about relationships and your question about whether that is included in the three aims I stated boils down to how we think of the body and what we mean by membership.
So, when I talk about the church membership reflecting the ethnic diversity around us, I don’t just mean that there are people joining as church member and added to the roll call. Rather, membership should mean that people are actively and intentionally involved in the whole life of the church, accountable to the leaders and to one another, sharing in each other’s lives, using their gifts and helping to make decisions together.
How are we doing at that? Well again it’s work in progress but there are some real encouragements. It does get messy at times and there are frustrations but I think the key thing we are saying is that when those challenges arise, we won’t duck them, nor will we lose patience. We also have to be careful and alert to the potential for decisions and actions to be misunderstood. Again, patience is vital.
Oh -and it means that preachers and teachers have to take time to exegete their congregation and their own hearts as well as the Word. Preach to the people gathered, be aware of their situation. At times I think our application has needed to play catch up because we are used to applying into homogenous contexts.