Cru desires to reach every person with the gospel of Jesus Christ, in ways that reflect God and honor people.  We in Cru and Epic Movement recognize that we will not realize this vision (Revelation 7:9) unless we (1) become a more effective multi-ethnic ministry, and (2) continue to build effective contextualized ministries focused on specific ethnic contexts.

shutterstock_255369049This is not an “official document,” but an attempt to begin to develop some common understanding and language as we engage these topics together in Epic and Cru.  None of us has this all figured out, so we seek a posture of humility and learning together as a community of God.

“Multi-ethnic Ministry”: An ethnically diverse environment where there is:

1) Intentional representation & honoring of each culture.  Each ethnicity and its unique identity and values are acknowledged, honored and represented in the power structures of the ministry.

2) A posture of humble learning and serving in every leader and team.  It isn’t a perfect environment, but there is a learning and serving environment (Philippians 2:1-8) that has infiltrated every organizational level of the ministry,

3) so people have a voice and avenue of communication when there are ethnic or cultural misunderstandings.

Multi-ethnic ministry is not…

  • Filling a room without changing the program or content.  It’s not just gathering diverse people without an effort to learn, honor, and empower.
  • One meeting once a semester.  It’s not just having “culture day” every so often, but it’s a regular influence on how we think and who’s on our team.
  • One ethnic person represents all.  It’s not just settling for the ethnic person who comes to our meetings to speak for all of their culture.  It’s not just settling for the ethnic person who’s easiest for us to relate to, but seeking out representatives who are in close touch with their ethnic communities, and building relationships with them.

“Contextualized Ethnic Ministry”: Contextualized ethnic ministry happens as…

A community comes to understand the gospel in culturally-relevant and meaningful ways, without losing the truth and integrity of Jesus’ message and mission (I Corinthians 9:19-23).   This involves:

1) New, relevant approaches and strategies.  The context in which a movement is being planted determines the needed approaches and methods, not just using strategies that are familiar.

2) Freedom and space to develop indigenous leaders.  For contextualized ethnic ministry to be strong and healthy, there may be a degree of “separate space” needed to grow and develop leaders “from within.”  These are often leaders who are in closest touch with their ethnic communities, but might not have otherwise joined a white or multiethnic movement of Cru.

Contextualized ethnic ministry is not…

  • A culture club or comfort zone.  It’s not just a complacent place where ethnic learning happens, but it’s a spiritual movement to make Jesus known within a culture.

  • “Segregated.”  It’s not a place that forces division, or doesn’t desire connection with other communities.  Contextualized ethnic ministry simply desires freedom to develop a distinct identity, so it can bring all it has to the world and mission of Jesus.

“Ethnic Minority Experience”: We each have a culture, but we’re not all on “equal” ground!

1) Yes, every person has a culture, and every ministry is contextualized (whether intentionally or not).  Each of us has a unique experience of life based on our family heritage and culture, skin color, the community in which we were raised, etc.  We each have unique stories that influence us, and in that way we have something in common.

2) But there is a huge difference between the Caucasian (majority) and ethnic minority experience.  Ethnic minorities have a couple of additional layers that add complexity.

  • First, they are bicultural — they have two cultures they have to navigate (i.e. Latino and American, Japanese and American, etc.) instead of one.  They are deeply tied to the cultural ways of their families and communities, while also trying to fit in to America.

  • Second, they live the minority experience when it comes to power and status.  This can include things like discrimination and marginalization (i.e. being overlooked or excluded), which are realities that have a painful history for ethnic cultures within America.

Because of these two layers, ethnic minorities see their experience as separate and/or different from the majority culture, even though they are often expected to function in the majority way of life with enough competence to not only survive, but to succeed.

Ethnic minority experience is not…

  • The same as the majority culture experience!  That doesn’t mean Caucasians don’t have identity crises or painful struggles — they do.  But it’s not tied in the same way to ethnic status, which is a very specific experience.

  • Just a numbers game!  Being a “minority” has to do with power, privilege, and status — not the sheer percentage of ethnic minorities in America.