A Church of Many Colors (and Multiple Cultures)
Though the term multiethnic church is often used today, researchers prefer the term “multicultural,” because culture is a more accurate way to describe people who share similar behaviors, ideas, fashion, literature, music, etc. Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert defined culture as people who join together because of “shared patterns of behavior, ideas and products.”
- Behaviors are the way we act,
- Ideas are the way we think, and
- Products are the things we create such as fashion, literature, music, etc.
Therefore, people of a culture can tell who is in their group and who is out of their group by the way they talk, the way they think and the way they act.
Ethnicity is a type of culture, often based on biological connections to a geographic area of origin, such as Sri Lankans (from the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka), Yemenis (from the Republic of Yemen) or Chinese (from the People’s Republic of China). But the term ethnicity is very imprecise, because there may be dozens of different ethnic groups that hail from the same area of origin (and thus the term ethnicity is not without controversy ). For instance, China has 50+ recognized ethnic groups but they all originate from the same country. While all are Chinese, so too are all 50+ different cultures. Since ethnicity is so imprecise, culture is usually preferred.
Multicultural or Multiethnic Church?
So, what should we call a church that reaches multiple groups of people? And what should we call a neighborhood that has Guatemalan Hispanics, Mexican Hispanics, aging Lutherans and a growing base of young Anglo professional? The accurate answer is a multicultural neighborhood. And, such a mosaic of cultures should give rise to a multicultural church. Below are examples of groups that have been identified as justifiable cultures …