The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review of All Are Welcome: Toward a Multi-Everything Church (Part 1)

By: Thomas F. Booher

I have decided to write chapter-by-chapter reviews of the book All Are Welcome: Toward a Multi-Everything Church, which is edited by Leon Brown. (Find parts two, three, four, and five of my review here).

Each chapter is written by a different author, not a few of whom are in the PCA, my own denomination. From the book's introduction we find that: 

"Within these pages you will hear from men and women, African Americans, an Indian American, a Hispanic, and those of mixed-ethnic heritage. Their insights are valuable. Their perspectives—like yours—have been shaped by their cultures, ethnic heritages, histories, and financial standings."

This book comes with endorsements from some real heavy hitters in the Reformed world, including Michael Horton, Derek Thomas, D. Clair Davis, and others. The exhortation from Horton and others is to let non-whites/ethnic minorities do more talking concerning racial reconciliation. Horton also adds that "racism is a systematic as well as personal sin. Repentance and reconciliation must be both as well." 

Perhaps I am already violating what Horton and others want by not merely listening but also responding and pointing out where I agree and disagree with this book, and giving my reasons why. I certainly believe that all should be allowed to speak on the issues of racism, multi-culturalism, and how our churches should be reaching out to the culture(s) around us. The introduction gives a reason for All Are Welcome's existence, namely that our nation is becoming increasingly multicultural and multi-ethnic. 

Put more provocatively, the introduction asks, "Will the makeup of our churches remain the same—segregated?1 If we are going to reach the nations at our doorstep, something has to change." 

I am eager to see what must change for us to reach the nations at our doorstep, and I believe some good and helpful things will be said. But my first concern is the idea that multiple ethnic groups and cultures means that there are multiple nations within the one nation of the United States. I am sure this will be discussed in more detail as we go along, but for now I just want to note that I am not persuaded that my whiteness or culture or upbringing makes me one particular nation, and my neighbor who is black and perhaps has a different cultural upbringing and family traditions is therefore of a different "nation" that I must reach out to specifically and in a fundamentally different way than how I would speak to my white neighbor across the street from me (who I suppose it will be argued is of the same "nation" as me since we are both white and presumably have similar cultural beliefs and upbringings). 

Further, I am not convinced that churches that are predominately white (or black, or Korean, etc.) and are planted in multi-ethnic towns are necessarily engaging in sin by virtue of being mostly mono-cultural. I do not think this necessarily indicates a failure to reach out to the so-called nations around them (thought certainly it could indicate something sinful at a systemic level). My church is predominately white, and we live in a town that has a sizeable portion of ethnic minorities represented. While I think our church could be more evangelistic in general, I do not think that our "whiteness" is due to racism or a failure to love people of all skin colors and cultures equally. There is a wonderful black family at my church that is part of a covenant group that I lead, and we are good friends, despite my being Presbyterian and their being Reformed Baptist (now isn't that something!). 

I teach at a Christian school whose student body is predominately black, and I have taught more students who are non-white than those that are white in my three years of teaching. Everyone gets along very well, or at least, the leading concerns in our school and church are not stemming from racism, cultural differences, etc. 

This is not to say that I do not think racism is a real issue, or that racism is non-existent. I know there is racism in Christian schools and churches, and I wouldn't say that racism at any and every level is utterly non-existent in the school I teach at or even at my church. That would be quite foolish given the sinfulness of man. I also do not believe that only white people are capable of racism, sinful discrimination, and bigotry. We all have much sin to repent of, and racism doesn't "privilege" one ethnic group or skin color over another. Anyone can be racist. 

The introduction says that while "multi-everything" is meant to be hyperbole, they do affirm that "our congregations should be welcoming to everyone, affirming the good of the various cultures expressed in one’s community, and seeking to implement those cultural distinctions in our church services. Is that biblical? Is that possible?"

Since they asked if this is biblical and possible, I'll offer an answer. I certainly agree that our congregations should be welcoming to everyone and should affirm the good within cultures. I am not so sure that we should be or are required to implement those cultural distinctions into our church services. I frankly do not see how one church and one church service could incorporate distinctives of three, four, or more cultures. I also must confess that I do not know what implementing these cultural distinctions into our church services would even look like. Should we have multiple services with different music styles (which would still likely lead to so-called segregation, each ethnic group attending its favorite cultural expression of worship)? Wouldn't mixing multiple cultural expressions create a hodgepodge that would lose the distinctives of all the cultures, creating something new that would result in something more like a platypus and less like a symphony? I doubt whether this is possible, and I also doubt whether such an effort, regardless of pure or impure motivation, is biblical. I simply do not see Scripture emphasizing this kind of melding in church services anywhere. I do see Scripture speaking about the glory of all nations (Rev. 21:23-24), but not that we should try to incorporate the good of each culture represented in our community into each of our worship services. 

I do wonder how this book will wrestle with the oneness we all have in Christ as Abraham's seed (Gal. 3:27-29) given the language and concern to be a "multi-everything" church. The second to last paragraph of the introduction offers this: 

While every contributor is united as an ethnic minority, we also are all unified by confessing that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are infallible and inerrant. We believe there is only one God, who exists in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and there is no salvation outside of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We value the local church, and we love all our brothers and sisters in the faith.

The closing paragraph hopes that "we would truly become a multi-everything church where all are welcome." I indeed hope and pray that our churches welcome all, and I believe that many by and large do. I am not sure yet how being "multi-everything" ties in with being welcoming to everyone. Must a church be multi-everything in order to truly be a church that loves and welcomes all peoples in a way that God would want us to love all peoples? We shall see. 

Next time, I'll begin discussing and examining chapter one, entitled The Most Segregated Hour: Roots and Remedies of an American Evangelical Problem.  

No comments:

Post a Comment