The Multiethnic Church

Many church trends have come and gone.  The Christian church in all of its forms has ebbed and flowed between many different worship styles and many different liturgical movements.  Most of these movements have been a reflection of culture.  The Christian church should be sensitive to the culture without losing its identity.  But like Indian reading the Bible in the Telugu language, the church needs to communicate in a way the culture can understand and accept.

In his work The American Church in Crisis, David T. Olsen found many reasons for the declining effectiveness of the orthodox (mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical) American Christian church.  He also identified many ways in which the orthodox American Christian church can effectively engage the culture.  One of the most important ways is an emphasis on a multiethnic dynamic.[1]  Because America is a diverse nation with many ethnic identities, it is vital that the church reflects the multiethnic nature of the culture.  To outsider standing and looking at the American Christian church, it doesn’t make any sense that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week.  Saturday afternoons we are all gathered together as one multiethnic group to cheer on our favorite college football team.  But the next day Christians drift away into monochromatic congregations.

However, there is a growing trend of intentionally multiethnic churches.  One of the leaders in this movement is Derwin Gray.  Gray came to faith when he was a professional football player.  Never having any church experience, he was stunned that churches were primarily segregated on Sunday morning.  In 2010, he was part of a group that started Transformation Church (TC) in Indian Land, South Carolina.  In the heart of the segregated Bible Belt, TC has become a model of the intentionally multiethnic church.

031633: The High-Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multi-ethnic World The High-Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multi-ethnic World

By Derwin L. Gray / Thomas Nelson

The High-Definition Leader is an invitation of grace for churches and their leaders to grasp the ancient call of the early New Testament Church that crossed ethnic and socioeconomic barriers to create heavenly colonies of love, reconciliation, and unity on earth. In it, Derwin Gray shows you the theology and practices that will help you build a mission-shaped, multi-ethnic church.

In his book The High Definition Church: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World, Gray provides a biblical defense of the necessity of the American Church becoming intentionally multiethnic.  Gray states “Jesus’ church is not a weekend event; it’s not a destination.  The church is the identity of God’s people.”[2]  Part of being one people is being a holy nation or people group.  Gray further states:

“God told Abraham that he would make a great nation from him.  This new multicolored nation was brought into being through the finished work of Jesus.  And this nation was set apart belonging to God and existing for God’s purpose on the earth.  This holy nation is a global family of diversity, and whenever possible, the gospel mandates that it is a local family of diversity.  After Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, a new group of humans populated the earth – a multiethnic, blood-bought, blood-covered people called the church, God’s new, holy nation.”[3]


If what Derwin Gray states is valid, that the local church has an obligation to be a multiethnic reflection of God’s nation, then that means there is an opportunity to align with the culture.  The American culture values the multiethnic gathering and rejects ethnic segregation.  When a mandate for the church aligns with cultural value, it is a fantastic opportunity to bring the Gospel to those who would otherwise reject the message due to preconceived notions of ethnic segregation.

[1] David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), under “56%,” Kindle.

[2] Derwin L. Gray, The High-Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 119.

[3] Ibid, 123.

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