Multicultural ministry begins with a simple, clearly articulate vision, Chestnut — former pastor of East Liberty Church in Pittsburgh now retired in Santa Fe, N.M. — said. “Follow ‘KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid.’ You should be able to write down your vision so that those running by can read it.”
“The multicultural vision is true. It is coming to pass. It will be fulfilled. Despite obstacles, our future is assured. It is God’s plan,” he insisted.
Recognizing this certainty of God’s desire for a multicultural church and world, the second key to successful multicultural outreach is congregations that extend hospitality as “gospel stewards,” Chestnut said. “We have to trust that the more the treasure of God’s love is shared, the more love there will be to share, he said.
The third key is congregational commitment to transformation that can be defined as “dying to live.” It’s a theological maxim that’s easier said than done.
“Things are changing all the time, and I’m okay with that, except for the part that makes my palms sweat,” said Anita Milne, pastor of the First Church of Plainsboro, N.J. “I think the way to deal with change is that we have to acknowledge it’s nerve-wracking.”
Another workshop participant commented, “Way too often we let our congregations act like spoiled children. We think they can’t handle the full truth of the Gospel. We have to tell them that it’s only when we die to ourselves that we can live.”
While resistance is real, conflict can be a sign that God is doing new things, a theme that surfaced repeatedly at the conference.
Embracing newness in living one’s faith journey is the fourth key, Chestnut said. Stories abound of God’s people being called to leave the familiar and to journey into “risk-taking, experimentation, trust, and creativity.”
“Bringing what you have and honoring the past, but not living in bondage to it, is part of what we have to help the people hold on to so they can move into the future,” said Raymond Anglin, pastor of the Ascension Peace Church in Lauderhill, Fla.
The fifth key to multicultural ministry, Chestnut said, is to claim God’s plan for the fullness of time. “God calls us to be agents of the glorious vision. Have fire in the belly for it, with contagious enthusiasm,” he urged.
Practical advice to keep multicultural ministry vision alive and growing includes, Chestnut concluded:
* “Preach it, teach it, incarnate it, proclaim it to yourselves and the world!”
* “Keep it front and center in church life and publications. Make it sing!”
* Develop a strategic plan that embodies it in all facets of church life; and
* Make sure it really happens.
Erin Cox-Holmes is associate general presbyter for Kiskiminetas Presbytery and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.