Why Develop Multicultural Church?
There are three key reasons for wanting to develop Farnham Vineyard as an increasingly multicultural church:
- Changing demographics
- Bringing God-given multi-ethnic perspectives ‘to the table’
- The biblical vision of God’s multicultural Kingdom
Developing Farnham Vineyard as a multicultural church is a key way of ministering cross-culturally in our local community, in the same way that our involvement in the Kenya Partnership is an important way of ministering cross-culturally, further afield. They actively complement each other.
The world around us has changed and is continuing to change. Migration is moving huge numbers of people around the globe. Based on the 2011 census, non-White British people represented 14% of the population in the UK – significantly increased from the earlier census in 2001. We can reasonably expect that the next census will show further moves in the direction of ethnic diversification.
The ‘centre of gravity’ of global Christianity has also changed. In 1950, 80% of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, with just 20% in the rest of the world. Today, over 60% of the world’s Christians live in Latin America, Asia and Africa, with less than 40% in the West. This means that the UK is now just as much a mission field as a mission sending nation.
The UK has also become increasingly secular. The NatCen’s 2016 British Social Attitudes survey reports that 53% of the British public self-identify as having ‘no religion’ – an increase from 31% in 1983, when the survey was inaugurated. At the same time, there has been a huge increase in Black Majority Churches and other non-White British churches here in the UK. Reports suggest, for example, that over 60% of people attending church in London in 2019 were Black African and Caribbean Christians, who only formed 14% of the capital’s population.
These demographic changes set the context for Vineyard churches in the UK & Ireland and offer an important opportunity – if not also a responsibility – for engagement with the many different ethnic groups that now form our local communities.
Bringing God-Given Ethnic Perspectives ‘to the Table’
God speaks to us all, as individuals, in unique ways, because we are his children and we have a loving relationship with him. As we share these individual experiences with each other, we learn more about him. In the same way, God also reveals different aspects of himself through different cultures. For example, African culture strongly reveals the importance of spirituality and communal responsibility, Middle Eastern culture tells us about how Jesus extensively uses dreams to reveal himself, and Asian culture emphasises the notion of ‘covenant’.
If we can find ways of enabling people from different ethnic backgrounds to bring their different cultural understandings of God ‘to the table’, we begin to build a bigger and better picture of the richness of God – much better than if we stay rooted within our separate ‘monocultural bubbles’. At the same time, if we show that we truly value the perspectives and customs of all ethnic groups in our churches, we are better placed to fully welcome everyone into our part of the Christian family. In doing this, we should not simply expect those from other ethnic backgrounds to assimilate into our current ways of doing things, but rather allow variety to progressively shape our approach. We should not aim either for a ‘blending’ of our different ethnic cultures; let’s rejoice instead in the ‘mosaic’ of cultures, where each culture forms a distinct and vibrant part of a wider mosaic picture, complementing every other part in building a richer picture of God and his Kingdom. Malawian writer and teacher, Dr Harvey Kwiyani, puts it so well:
“There are seven billion of us in the world today and no two people are exactly the same. Even the universe testifies: there are millions upon millions of species that God has created to exist together in harmony. Yet God invites people from all nations, tribes and tongues into God’s kingdom and does not demand that they abandon who they are in order to belong to the kingdom. They ought to be able to come into the kingdom bringing with them the flavours from their cultures to embellish this great fellowship of the Spirit that is the kingdom of God.”
The Biblical Vision of God’s Multicultural Kingdom
God’s intent for his multicultural Kingdom is beautifully described in Revelation 7:9:
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”
What an amazing picture this is. No separation here. No segregation here. No racial hierarchy here. Instead, all of God’s created sons and daughters are standing as one people before Jesus.
Social anthropologist and missionary, Aylward Shorter, writes:
“Becoming a truly multicultural church is not a question of resolving cultural differences, or ironing out diversities…..It is much more an orientation to the future, a call to convergence, than a resolution of past divergences.”
A key understanding of God’s heart for his people therefore is that he seeks not separation, but unity. He seeks a coming together of his people “from every nation, tribe, people and language”. If we, as his followers, are faithful to this vision – to this orientation – we have the possibility to offer a powerful model of hope and harmony to the increasingly multicultural communities in which Farnham Vineyard and other Vineyard churches across our nation find themselves.
Adedibu, Babatunde. Coat of Many Colours: The Origin, Growth, Distinctiveness and Contributions of Black Majority Churches to British Christianity. Blackpool: Wisdom Summit, 2012.
Johnson, Todd M., Kenneth R. Ross, and Sandra S.K. Lee. Atlas of Global Christianity, 1910-2010. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
Kwiyani, Harvey C. Multicultural Kingdom: Ethnic Diversity, Mission and the Church. London: SCM Press, 2020.
NatCen Social Research. “British Social Attitudes: Record Number of Brits with No Religion.” (September 04, 2017). https://natcen.ac.uk/news-media/press-releases/2017/september/british-social-attitudes-record-number-of-brits-with-no-religion.
Sanneh, Lamin O. Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity. Oxford Studies in World Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Shorter, Aylward. Towards a Theology of Inculturation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1989.
 Harvey C. Kwiyani, Multicultural Kingdom: Ethnic Diversity, Mission and the Church (London: SCM Press, 2020), 65.
 Lamin O. Sanneh, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity, Oxford Studies in World Christianity, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), xx.
 Todd M. Johnson, Kenneth R. Ross, and Sandra S.K. Lee, Atlas of Global Christianity, 1910-2010 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 50-59.
 NatCen Social Research, “British Social Attitudes: Record Number of Brits with No Religion,” (September 04, 2017). https://natcen.ac.uk/news-media/press-releases/2017/september/british-social-attitudes-record-number-of-brits-with-no-religion.
 Babatunde Adedibu, Coat of Many Colours: The Origin, Growth, Distinctiveness and Contributions of Black Majority Churches to British Christianity (Blackpool: Wisdom Summit, 2012), 47-49.
 Kwiyani, Multicultural Kingdom, 13-14.
 Kwiyani, Multicultural Kingdom, 5.
 Aylward Shorter, Towards a Theology of Inculturation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1989), 29.