Cultural Diversity in the Church
Irving Bible Church has been intentional about becoming a multi-ethnic and culturally diverse church that reflects God’s vision for his kingdom. In this episode of Moving Mountains, Pastor Jeremiah shares how one of the ways they began this journey was by starting conversations around race and ethnicity, so they could learn and grow together—these discussions were not always easy, but so worth it!
Creating a Multi-Ethnic Movement
Jeremiah sees the need for the Church to create a space with real diversity. He believes people come from all walks of life, all different cultures, and it’s up to the Church to constantly adapt how they interact with those different cultures and experiences. Jeremiah asks, “Does our church meet the needs of this culture?” as Irving Bible Church works to adjust and meet the needs of the community that God placed them in.
For Jeremiah, Church is a place where people are cared for, where they can learn about God, and share questions about their faith. At IBC, church leadership has established its mission to, “become a multi-ethnic movement of missionary disciples who are formed in the way of Jesus for the sake of the world.”
But becoming a multi-ethnic movement of missionary disciples doesn’t happen overnight. For Jeremiah and his congregation, it’s been a journey of learning and being intentional. He admitted that he needed to learn that some people don’t experience life the way he does as a white man, and shared his heartache after discovering how his friends endured very different challenges. Jeremiah said, “There is a lot in my life that I need to change, and I’m still growing. Our church is still growing in terms of understanding how to be a multi-ethnic church.”
As he learned, he wanted his church to learn too. So Jeremiah and other leaders within the church created space for members and guests from other cultures to step into leadership positions. They were empowered, shared their personal experiences, and felt safe doing so. Jeremiah also advises that other churches going down the path of becoming more diverse need to be prepared. Churches will face a lot of hard conversations, learning, studying, and hard work. But on that journey, there will also be moments of joy and times to celebrate.
Teaching Inclusivity & Generosity
Creating a diverse and inclusive church comes down to two things for Jeremiah: learning and heart.
One area that Jeremiah leaned into, as his church learned how to be more diverse, was how to create a safe space. It was important that everyone, whether they had a different cultural background or a different skin tone, knew that this was a church where they could be themselves. His goal is that everyone knows and has the opportunity to join in on leadership, express their culture, and not feel shame.
Jeremiah challenged people throughout this learning process to ask, “Where is my heart?” The heart ties everything together, and for Jeremiah, everyone’s hearts should be modeled after God’s. The heart and generosity of God inspired Jeremiah to make changes in his own life. “Whether it’s my time, my energy, or my finances,” Jeremiah said, he was called to, “give up those things to help meet the needs of others and care for others.”
For Jeremiah and Irving Bible Church, it’s important to bring ethnic groups together in their building. The multi-ethnic worship IBC is creating is just a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Jeremiah said, “Heaven is going to be full of people from all different backgrounds and we want to see a little bit of that here in our church.” In Texas, IBC reflects the love of God on Earth, like it will be in heaven.
When the church is intentional about diversity, a safe place is created where church members can easily invite anyone from their community to be a part of the fellowship. If you want to discover more about creating a diverse and multi-ethnic movement, listen to the entire interview with Jeremiah. And for additional resources about these questions, go to irvingbible.org/becoming becoming to access their video series.
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