“What’s wrong with having a 2d generation Korean-American church that targets other English-speaking Korean-Americans?”
I’ve been thinking about this question since entering seminary 4 years ago. With a few months of seminary left, this question has become more urgent. From the start, everyone’s expectation has been that I as a 2d generation Korean-American would graduate and become a pastor of an EM at a Korean-American church. It’s been a given.
Of course, in an ideal world, we’d have multicultural churches. But the reality is, people (including Christians) feel more comfortable associating with their own ethnic groups. That’s partly why Asians now constitute 70% of the Harvard Christian Fellowship and 90% of Yale’s Campus Crusade for Christ, and why there has been the corresponding phenomenon of “white flight”.
Why try and go against this natural tendency of people? In fact, why not actually use that innate desire of people to be part of their own ethnic community to get especially the unchurched “in the door” so that they can hear the gospel? Aren’t we supposed to “become all things to all people so that we might save some” (1 Cor 9:22)? Isn’t it better to have a Korean church that is effectively appealing to unchurched Koreans than to have a multicultural church which is not as attractive to those unchurched Koreans? In any case, why should we strive to become multicultural today when that will only become a full reality in the Last Day? These are hard questions with good responses from all sides.
In my first year of seminary, I wrote an article titled “The Third Race” on similar questions which was published in our school journal. Looking back three years now, I think most of my premises were right on, and I thank God for writing it because it sparked some important discussions. If anything has changed, it is that I now have more biblical and theological grounds for what I had written. For example, a few months ago I wrote a final paper on multicultural churches. Here’s some biblical examples I used to show why God favors multicultural churches over monocultural ones:
1. Genesis 1’s nine-fold repetition of the phrase “of every kind”; such diversity was pronounced by God as “good”;
2. Abraham and Sarah’s exemplary multicultural ministry to “bless all the families of the earth” (Gen 12:1-3);
3. God’s desire for citizens and foreigners to share power and treat each other with equal dignity (Lev 19:33-34);
4. God’s desire expressed by Jeremiah for God’s people to become integrated in and improve the lives of the foreign communities they were living in (Jer 29:4-8);
5. Jesus’ mission for his disciples to be a “light to the nations” and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18);
6. Jesus’ own inclusive community consisting of the outcasts and marginalized of society (Lk 15:2) and that reached out to culturally hostile groups like the Samaritans (Jn 4:1);
7. Jesus forcibly cleared away the money lenders from the space at the Temple which was originally reserved for Gentile worshippers (Matt 21:12) because the church was meant to be “a house of prayers for all peoples” (Is 56:6-8).
8. Peter was rebuked by Paul for “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” when Peter separated from table fellowship on the basis of race (Gal 2:14).
9. God’s desire expressed by Peter for the church to show no partiality or exclusivity based on race (Acts 10:34-36);
10. God’s bestowal upon Christians a new racial identity as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet 2:9);
11. The kingdom of God which is already here (Matt 12:28) though not yet consummated is such that “there is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
12. Christ has given the church the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18);
13. Christ prayed that the church may be one so that the world may believe in him (John 17:21)
14. The inauguration of Christ’s church manifest in the Pentecost miracle of peoples from many nations united by the Spirit in worship together (Acts 2) previews the consummation of the church’s mission as shown by John’s revelation of the community in heaven comprised “from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages” (Rev 7:9-12).