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Does it have to be multi-ethnic? (or ‘The importance of dumb white guys’)

by on April 18, 2011

Occurs to me we’ve had a lot of people subscribe to the blog recently, and it’s been a long time since we’ve explained what we’re on about. Our vision is to create a multi-ethnic congregation at Canterbury, which includes all the sorts of people who live around here. People sometimes ask us, why go multi-ethnic?

Let me give the pragmatic answer first. For the past generation the prevailing model for mission in Sydney was the opposite. Homogeneous units. Build affinity groups, based on language, ethnicity, culture, interests, profession etc. Chinese church. Student church. Young families church. When applied to the many cultures of the Georges River region, that means basically ethnic churches.

Homogeneous ministries have their place. There have been and continue to be good homogeneous ministries in Sydney. But a minute’s reflection will tell you this approach could never have worked for us as a big-picture mission strategy for the Georges River. We never had the ethnic leaders equipped to do mission amongst even one tenth of the ethnic groups. We never had enough mission workers to achieve deep penetration in any of the ethnic groups. The best we could hope for was a slight impact on a few groups, and total neglect for all the others. The depth of cultural diversity required to make the homogeneous approach work at a regional level is massive: we won’t be there any time soon. The maths was against us.

But the Anglican church has always had a structure that held the potential for reaching multi-ethnic Sydney: the parish system. In the parish system, the local church takes responsibility for reaching the people in their suburb. All the people, old or young, blue or white collar, Lebanese, African or – whoever. Whoever is there.

Of course this approach is not easy. It brings cross-cultural challenges. It means reaching out to people you’d really rather not know. Sometimes there are prejudices to be overcome on both sides. In Sydney we started backing off from the parish approach in the 1950s – about the time that non-anglos started ‘invading’ our turf. The ‘homogeneous unit principle’ began operating back then: our church was for people like us. By the 1980s we were articulating it as a deliberate strategy.

We reckon its time we took responsibility for reaching out to the newcomers God has brought to our city. For the people he’s brought to Canterbury. That means implementing a mission strategy that at least has a chance of reaching the people.

We’re going with the parish approach.  We ‘target’ whoever’s here. For us in Canterbury that means multi-ethnic.

We don’t know if we’re any good at this sort of mission. Probably we’re not. But we think it’s worth having a go.

Because if dumb white guys like us could learn to be effective across cultures, that would open up the whole region for gospel mission. Suddenly, there’d be plenty of mission man-power. Cause dumb white guys is what we’ve got plenty of around here. If you don’t need ethnic specialists to reach ethnic groups, then we can hope to have a serious impact on all the groups in this unreached region.

I can’t say for sure that what we’re doing will work. But taking a purely pragmatic view, the maths tells me it’s the only approach that offers us any hope of reclaiming this region for Jesus. So I’m hoping it does!

From → General

  1. Yes yes yes yes yes! Bring on the multi-ethnc church!!

    • Spoken like a true Greek!

      • I like to think it’s more to do with being Christian than being Greek 😛

      • There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 🙂
        Galatians 3:28

  2. Sam permalink

    Awesome vision! 🙂

    I think Psalm 117 sums this up nicely:

    Praise the Lord, ALL you nations;
    extol him, ALL you peoples.
    For great is his love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
    Praise the Lord.

    • A great mission psalm, thanks Sam. Thanks God!

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