This month, I’m taking a three-week intensive version of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Most of the participants in the class are undergraduate students, part of a group that is giving students an understanding of what God is doing around the world. Taking Perspectives is part of their program. Virtually all the students in this group are white.
Mind you, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. However, what it has created is a dynamic that I’m not accustomed to in racially diverse Southern California. I am finding myself very self-conscious being Asian-American. It’s not a very diverse room.
And as I was daydreaming in class, it made me think about why ethnic-specific churches exist in America. Let me preface this: In this post am not promoting nor condemning their existence, I am simply exploring the reasons for their existence.
First, ethnic-specific churches exist because of languages. As waves of people have come from overseas to this country, they group together in order to speak their mother tongue and worship in a familiar fashion. Whether this worship is in Korean, Spanish, Mandarin, or Hindi, it is a wish to worship in common language that brings people to such churches. Language is the prevailing means of expression–it is the key identification for a culture and/or ethnicity. The language factor will always exist as long as immigration exists in America.
Second, ethnic-specific churches exist because of culture. Every person sees the world, especially God, through the lens of culture. Culture draws people together–it is our accustomed way of speaking, celebrating, discussing, and approaching life. Every group or geographical region has a culture. Even within Americans, we see culture differs in different parts of the country. Culture affects the way we see God. Culture also helps us worship. For many of us who are involved in ethnic-specific ministries, the comfort level we experience being with others who share our culture helps us to be free to worship God. We can experience and share our worship with others who see through the same lenses. Ethnic-specific churches, or culture-specific churches such as Evergreen SGV exist because people are finding a place to belong, many of them encountering Christ for the first time.
More on this topic later. The next post may prove to be more controversial.