Leading a multicultural church is a new book by Malcolm Patten, minister of Blackhorse Baptist Church. We caught up with him to hear more...
Tell us what the book is about
The book is intended to support pastors and leaders of multicultural churches. It is in two parts.
The first part explores the multicultural dimensions of scripture, for example: How ethnically diverse were the people of Israel? How did the principle of assimilation into the people of God in the Old Testament become a principle of integration in the New Testament, where people were able to retain their own cultural identity as followers of Jesus? I also look at political theories of multiculturalism, and the theory on reducing prejudice proposed by social psychologist Gordon Allport.
The second part is much more practical, drawing on the theoretical foundations of the first part, but applying them in the area of worship, pastoral care, leadership and mission. There are many illustrations of good practice (and some bad!)
Why did you write the book and what inspired you to write it?
I came to London from the North-East of England in 1989 to train for Baptist ministry. I was immediately struck by the diversity of the city. When I began ministry in my student placement, I was keen to see people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds not just making up the congregation, but actually shaping the way we did church. I wanted to see them empowered to play a full part in church life, from the leadership down.
I think the other thing we have to grasp is the fact that from 2010, according to UN figures, more than half the people of the world now live in cities, and this figure is expected to increase to 70% by 2050. Cities by their very nature are multicultural places. I recently visited Dushanbe (capital city of Tajikistan), Skopje (capital city of Macedonia), and Yaounde (capital city of Cameroon), and in each city apartment blocks were going up all around because of the influx of people, just like in the cities of the UK. So developing multicultural churches in cities all around the world is fast becoming one of the front lines of world mission today.
How has your experience of leading multicultural churches informed the book?
To a great extent the book shares my personal journey as a pastor, but I think there are many principles and learning points I discovered along the way that will be helpful and applicable for others in their situation. The principles and insights in the book have been tested and proved along the way, and there are plenty of practical examples. For instance, the difficulty of appointing new leaders from different ethnic backgrounds if the current leaders are only looking amongst their friends and their own cultural group - the book tackles common issues such as this.
What lessons can leaders learn from the book?
The book will help you to think through in a more coherent and biblical way the significance of being a multicultural church. It will also help in very practical ways to discover how to reduce prejudice, develop understanding and unity amongst diverse teams and strengthen your church's pastoral care, worship, vision and mission.
What are the challenges in leading a multicultural church?
There are many. It is hard work, particularly if you need to overcome language barriers. It is also slow work - it is much easier gathering people together who do things in a similar way, but in a multicultural church you are doing things the long way round. It can feel like you are trying to please everybody ,but end up pleasing nobody. But when things fall into place, multicultural churches are the most beautiful of places and a foretaste of heaven.
Buy your copy today: Leading a Multicultural Church: Free Delivery at Eden.co.uk