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October 29, 2015

3 Signposts for a Multi-Ethnic Church

By Daniel Im

Q&A Webinars are a monthly segment for Plus Members. This is where you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions to the leading experts in church planting, multisite, and multiplication. Q&A webinars are your unique opportunity to ask your questions to these thought leaders. For this month’s segment, Ed and I talk to Derwin Gray, the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church—a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and missional community church—about planting and leading a multi-ethnic church. Watch the full segment here.

Transcending Homogeneity—Transformation Church

*Plus Members can watch this entire 50 minute Q&A webinar by logging in and clicking here.

What do Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, and Kanye West have in common? And I’m not referring to their money, glitz and glamor, fancy clothes, huge houses, and personal trainers. They, through their music and artistry, have torn down barriers between race and ethnicity. In short, they have transcended homogeneity. However, while these artists and others have had success in drawing a multi-ethnic community to their shows and music, churches (particularly in North America), by and large, remain mostly homogenous. Thus what these artists appear to do effortlessly well, seems to be a struggle for the North American church.

For Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church and author of The HD Leader, the struggle for the church to be multi-ethnic has become an area of holy discontent. And in the latest New Churches webinar for Plus Members, Derwin addresses this topic and more, and also applies it to the realm of church planting.

The topic of a multi-ethnic church gripped Derwin and his wife,Vicki, years ago as they came to Christ during his tenure as a professional football player. Having come to faith in Christ and assimilating into a local church, Derwin was struck by the homogeneity of the congregation. He felt as though there was a disconnect between the message that God loved everyone and congregational homogeneity. As a result of his experience and, more importantly, the theological tenet that the gospel unifies [or at least is suppose to] in diversity, Derwin’s heart was gripped with gospel passion to pursue the planting of a multi-ethnic church.

Like Derwin, many today are concerned with the homogeneity of the North American church and desire to work towards the intentional planting and building of multi-ethnic churches. According to Derwin, in order to arrive at the planting and building of authentic, lasting, and effective multi-ethnic churches there are many signposts we must follow. Here are a few that he mentioned:

Signpost #1: Embrace Gospel-Centered Theology rather than Disciplined Pragmatism.

Disciplined pragmatism manifests itself in the “what” churches can do to become multi-ethnic. The diversity of leadership and music styles are practical tools church plants can employ to help create a multi-ethnic environment. However, if a church only focuses on the “what” without addressing and teaching people the “why,” the multi-ethnic church will be built upon a shaky foundation. To avoid doing so, churches should derive their passion for multi-ethnicity from the gospel. For Derwin and Transformation Church, the theological starting point of the multi-ethnic church is the gospel—that Jesus is the king who died, was buried, and rose again conquering death, forgiving sin, and making all things new—which brings unity in diversity.

Signpost #2: Rely on Authentic Relationships rather than Token Marketing.

Derwin pointedly states, “Don’t try to plant a multi-ethnic church if you do not practice an authentic multi-ethnic life.” In other words, don’t go out and try to find your “token” African American, Korean, or Latino so that you can check it off your list that you are multi-ethnic. But rather pray and ask God to show you brothers and sisters with whom you can pour your life into through authentic relationships. Derwin encourages planters to stop recruiting people for your launch team, but rather go out and start a friendship. If people care more about planting or creating a multi-ethnic church for the sake of the title, rather than caring about the multi-ethnic brother or sister, they miss the heart behind the gospel. The reality is that many want a multi-ethnic church without creating multi-ethnic deep authentic relationships. You cannot have an authentic, lasting, and effective multi-ethnic church without the cross-pollination of multi-ethnic relationships.

Signpost #3: Create a Culture of Grace rather than one of Ethnocentrism (or Pride).

“Grace makes us unoffendable.” Believing that the cross leveled the playing field between races, genders, and ethnicities leads one to approach diverse brothers or sisters with humility and grace. As a result, grace-filled brothers and sisters aren’t easily offended when they hear a different style of music, listen to a different type of preacher, or submit to a different kind of methodological practice. Creating a culture of grace rather than one of ethnocentrism (pride) prompts believers to “[give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:20–21).

In closing, when it comes to planting, building, and leading a multi-ethnic church, leaders must realize the church has something far greater, more potent, more [emotionally] moving, and more transformative than artists such as Kanye, Bieber, and Timberlake. The church has the very reconciling, redemptive, transformative, unifying, and omnipotent presence of Christ working in and through her to create a beautiful, harmonic, electrifying, and rhythmic song to which all ethnicities, genders, generations, economic statuses, cultures, and races want to dance. So while Kanye’s “Jesus Walks” may reach a diverse community, it’s only the churches that walk with Jesus and share Him who can truly experience the transcendence of homogeneity.

There were other signposts and rich information Derwin discussed as it relates to planting and leading a multi-ethnic church. You can view the video in its entirety here. This video is part of Plus Membership, so to get full access to it, and much more, I encourage you to become a Plus Member. Click here to see all the benefits of becoming a Plus Member.

10 Tweetables from the Webinar:

  • Transformation Church plays music that minorities feel and that Caucasians know.
  • Hip Hop has been more effective than the church at creating a multi-ethnic community.
  • The biblical and theological starting point of the multi-ethnic church is the gospel.
  • Don’t try to plant a multi-ethnic church if you do not practice an authentic multi-ethnic life.
  • Theological inbreeding produces deformity.
  • Grace makes us ‘unoffendable.’
  • Instead of recruiting multi-ethnic people for your launch team, go out and start a friendship with multi-ethnic people.
  • An elephant in the room is that it’s easier for white guys to raise more money for church planting than it is for minorities.
  • Sociological answers will never solve theological problems.
  • Appointing multi-ethnic leaders in a multi-ethnic church isn’t affirmative action but biblical wisdom (see Acts 6).


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Lead Pastor of Beulah Alliance Church, a multiplying multisite church focused on reaching 1% of Edmonton for Christ. His latest book is You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies about Work, Life, and Love. He is also the author of No Silver Bullets and co-author of Planting Missional Churches. He co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, as well as the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Because of their love for the local church, after pioneering and leading the church multiplication initiative for LifeWay, Daniel and his wife, Christina, moved back to Canada with their three children. For more information, visit danielim.com and follow him on social media @danielsangi.


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