Any approach to “Multi-Congregational” ministry will require a proper understanding of the nature of the “Church”. The Church of Jesus Christ is the gathering of people who have responded to the invitation of Jesus to repent of sin and receive His forgiveness. A people who are serious about a holy relationship with God, and people who seek to “live out” that holiness in practical ways. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 3 v 26-28: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
Now of course that early church was indeed made up of Jews and Greeks, slave and free, male and female…..one could physically identify these groups, they were there in all of their distinguishing glory. No amount of preaching on unity and equality could bring about unity and equality, and while Paul uses the term “all” to emphasize togetherness, it is based on the fact that we have been “baptized into Christ and have clothed ourselves with Christ.” Multi Cultural and Multi-Congregational Ministry requires us to fully understand that we are all multi cultural. We cannot say “they” are multi cultural and “we” are not. We must understand this new challenge in the context of “us”.
To operate as “us” will require……A God given desire and a concerted effort on the part of every pastor, every board and congregation to make the multi cultural and multi congregational concept a reality whenever it is deemed appropriate.
To operate as “us” will require…open dialogue, conflict management, and a close working relationship between all parties.
To operate as “us” will require a conviction in the heart that this is what God expects.
And last, but certainly not least….to operate as “us” will require much prayer.
Dr. Josse Owens describes the “inclusive” church as follows….
We are a body of people who come from every walk of life…from every country and territory…called to be Kingdom builders for our Lord and Savior. We are a collection of people who come in all sizes, styles and backgrounds, shades, mindsets, baggage, and colors to do the work that He has called us to do on this earth. (Deuteronomy 10 v 12-19)
In conclusion, by definition we are an exclusive gathering, in that, only those who are saved can belong to it. However, by “baptism” we are an inclusive gathering, in that, those who are saved can not only belong to it, but have equal access to all that it offers. This is the nature of the Church whether it is to Galatians in the 1st century or to Nazarenes in the 21st Century.
by Ian Fitzpatrick