Multicultural Discipleship

DISCIPLESHIP IN A MULTICULTURAL CONGREGATION

 

ABSTRACT

This work is a reflection on congregational multiculturalism by the pastor of The Way STL, a congregation in the St. Louis, MO metro area. After a three-year study of the congregation and scholarly research on the topic, I wish to  share what I have learned and suggest a way forward for being church in the US, where the ethnic and racial makeup is changing, thus also reshaping cultural dynamics.

THE CONGREGATION

Cultural Demographics

The Way STL is a small church plant in South St. Louis County, Missouri. The church was legally constituted in October, 2017 and the first worship service of the initial trial phase was held in February, 2018. The official launch was on October 13, 2018 with 17 core participants, including the pastor. (There were also guests present). Over the course of our brief existence, the congregation has learned to fully embrace its diversity and is still growing into its multiculturalism. The original core was an assortment of the following cultural identities: African American, Indian immigrant, white US Americans, and African immigrants. At the time of the writing of this blog, The Way’s composition has changed a little, but its diversity remains. The new cultural makeup of the congregation includes from the US: one African American, 8 whites; from Africa: one Cameroonian, One South Sudanese, One Nigerian, two Zimbabweans, three DR Congolese, three Liberians, and four Ghanaians; and from Central America: one Mexican.

DISCIPLESHIP IN A MULTICULTURAL CONGREGATION

The Way STL in worship

The study was born out of a desire to discern how I could best help my people become spiritually mature disciples. I have discerned that having a consistent prayer life and regular bible study are the principle benchmarks of discipleship. It may appear that these two practices are primarily individualistic, and they are to a degree, but in actuality, the study has led me to conclude that they must be learned in a communal setting before they can be practiced outside of it. So, part of what I did was to implement prayer and bible study meetings outside of weekly worship. This coupled with readings and regular conversations with people helped me understand that people sometimes pray and interpret the Bible in pretty different ways based of the many cultural underpinnings that have formed their worldview. The result was a redesign of our liturgy to focus on Prayer, Praise and Proclamation. The first two are meant to encourage people to pray in word and song the best way they know how while also exposing them to new ways of doing the same. The preaching has also shifted from the discursive to being more expository, meaning that I don’t assume people know the context of the text nor that they understand the cultural nuances within. 

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