A monocultural church is wholly different than a multicultural one. In a multiethnic, multicultural church, knitted relationships are the glue that keeps the congregation united. When you drill down, you will learn the preaching style in a monocultural ministry caters to one type of audience. It’s not like that in the multicultural setting. In fact, if you’re going to thrive in the racially diverse church you must adopt the perspective Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early church fathers taught. ”In his view Christ is the invisible supreme head, the one great universal bishop of all the churches scattered over the earth. The human bishop is the centre of unity for the single congregation, and stands in it as the vicar of Christ and even of God.”

Ignatius recognized the difficulty we human beings have to achieve unity in the local and universal church. Therefore, he urged the believer to align themselves with their local pastor (also known as vicar in some branches of the church) as he aligned himself with Jesus-the shepherd of the whole church. Assuming the local pastor is multicultural in his ministry, as Jesus taught us to be, we in turn would have a multicultural worldview.

In other words, when you are really teaching God’s unadulterated word, it should not have a dogmatic slant. Whether a nationalistic, denominational, cultural, or racial slant, it shouldn’t veer off biblical tracks. You should be able to preach the same essential message in Europe, South America, or Asia. You must be able to speak to the whole world from your pulpit. Peter didn’t understand he had to forge a personal path, rather than conducting himself based on peer pressure or the party line mantra of a few monocultural Jews.

The monocultural church is largely different than the multicultural one. Just observe the worship and you’ll see a clear difference. Monocultural worship only considers its monocultural audience and their musical palate. Whereas in the multiethnic church, a wide genre of music must be considered and used to serve its broader constituency. The biggest difference between the two types of churches is when misunderstandings occur. In the monocultural church, interpersonal conflicts are never viewed as a racial or cultural issue, just a personality clash. It’s not like that in the multiethnic fellowship.

Misunderstandings and interpersonal conflicts can be viewed as being a racial or cultural issue and not just a dynamic of a personality clash. And honestly, this creates a whole other set of problems. In the multiethnic church, we have to really know how to search for the real problem because immature people label everything as being racial when oftentimes it has little or nothing to do with the real issue.

Peter’s behavior was unconsciously moving the Antioch congregation to a monocultural church model and that was not who they were or wanted to be. Paul stopped it dead in its tracks. He wanted everyone who called the Antioch church their spiritual home to feel a genuine sense of belonging and acceptance. It was Peter who had to change. Peter had to decide whether or not he would become an authentic reconciler. To do that, Paul’s confrontation had to touch on Peter’s personal walk versus what his misguided peers wanted.

Walking it out

Living as an authentic reconciler requires taking a firm stance in favor of diversity, privately and publicly. You have to take a personal path over peer pressure. This is exactly what Billy Graham had to do during his 1997 crusade when his privately held value that all people are important to God and, accordingly, must be important to him was challenged. Cognizant of the large Hispanic and Catholic population living in and around the San Antonio region, Graham intentionally held a huge outreach targeting their community. He formed a strategic alliance with Archbishop Patrick Flores, a Mexican-American priest who served as the highest-ranking Catholic clergyman in Texas. Together, they taped radio spots in English and Spanish, encouraging people to attend the crusade to develop a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

But Billy Graham’s commitment to evangelize across cultural lines unnerved some people who did not share the same passion. Some fundamentalists even criticized his cross-cultural approach by posting fliers in downtown San Antonio featuring Graham in a clerical collar with the caption ”Reject Billy Graham-He’s Too Catholic.” Despite the opposition’s efforts, the four-day crusade drew a crowd of some 247,500 people. For the first time in its then three-year history, the Alamo dome was filled nightly.

Dr. Graham shared his position on the need to be intentionally cross-cultural when he said in his opening sermon, ”The Devil has separated us, and a crusade like this is used of God to bring people of all denominations together….We need one another.” Thousands of Latinos made decisions for Christ. The crusade’s success in penetrating the Latino community can be attributed to one man’s unwavering commitment to living cross-culturally, even in the face of naysayers. You must do the same. This is what Paul was challenging Peter to do. Peter had to learn how to live above the fear and allure of peer pressure.

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[1] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, MI, 1910), 146.

[1]. Jim Jones, “Crusade: Latino Catholics Boost Graham Crusade Attendance,” Christianity Today, May 19, 1997, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1997/may19/7t6051.html.

[1]. Jim Jones.

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About The Author

David Ireland is the lead pastor of Christ Church, a multi-site multiracial congregation in New Jersey. Ireland serves as a diversity consultant to the NBA and also leads chapel services for the New York Giants, New York Jets, and the U.S. Pentagon. He has written over twenty books and appeared on The Dr. Phil Show, CBS Evening News, and The 700 Club. He began his career in civil engineering with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering (Farleigh Dickinson University) and a graduate degree in civil engineering (Stevens Institute of Technology). Later he attended seminary, earning a master’s degree in theology (Alliance Theological Seminary) and a doctorate in organizational leadership (Regent University). He and his wife Marlinda married in 1984 and have two daughters.

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