A new book I am pleased to be a contributor.
Multicultural Sunday School-Evangelism is as old as the United States of America itself. The United States of America was founded upon the principles of religious liberty. The subject of multicultural evangelism is not limited to the efforts of blacks and whites in evangelistic opportunities only. When people are exposed to Jesus and His model of evangelism, it is difficult not to see an intentional model of evangelism from God Himself that reaches across racial, cultural, gender, and age boundary lines. The intercultural realignment so prevalent in North America today compels the follower of Jesus Christ to implement and model multicultural evangelistic efforts without reservation. Doing so through Sunday school is not the only way to reach people with the story of Jesus. But, the opportunity is presented to not only reach out but also to engage in dialogue with believers on what it really means to reach all nations as commanded in the Great Commission.
Let’s take a brief journey back to see the roots of some of the challenges that we are faced with in accomplishing this great task. With the growth of African slavery as it swept the thirteen colonies, slaves and masters found themselves in a peculiar situation when it came to being the Christian church. Black slave congregants and white congregants worshiped in the same facilities, but usually in different areas.
Ordinarily the back of the church or the balcony was reserved for slaves. Black slaves came to know Jesus Christ through their encounters with their slave masters, but they also grew in faith as well and reached out to other black slaves through secret worship services held in the brush arbors and in other places beyond the hearing distance of their masters. This is not to say that Christianity was not a part of the middle-passage. We have evidence that Christian influence in Africa goes at least as far back as Philip and the Ethiopian encounter, but I believe that the story of Christ in Africa goes back even further in scriptures that speak to Christ’s escape to Africa to avoid murder at the hands of King Herod.
In looking back to Christianity in America, in a sense two kinds of evangelism were taking place simultaneously. The white Christian slave owners were sometimes evangelizing their black slaves and black slaves were evangelizing one another. These two kinds of evangelism took place until the end of the American Civil War when black denominations appeared and soon became more prominent in the United States as well as the attempts at eradicating illiteracy.
Most multicultural church growth was hindered by a system of racial division that existed in America from the end of the Civil War in1865 until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1965. Few examples of truly multi-cultural congregations were to be found the two decades that followed. The truly multicultural church doesn’t appear until 1980s in the United States. Multicultural congregations are defined in this sense as those churches with a large percentage of congregants being made up of both black and white and other racial groups, having an ethnic senior pastor, and employing an intentional evangelistic ministry of reaching all peoples in their community. We are seeing more and more multicultural communities and the question is, “How are existing churches going to reach these new people groups that are not across the world but in our own backyards?”
Certainly, some churches are achieving diversity naturally, meaning they are not doing anything strategically to be multicultural. It is happening of its own volition. Still others have an intentional ministry of evangelism that reaches across racial divides. With the phenomenon of multicultural growth in the United States since 1965, there also comes the need for understanding how to reach this diversity of people with the gospel, as well as sustain this type of church growth.
The scripture compels believers to heed the call of God on their lives to reach across racial and cultural lines with the gospel of Jesus Christ. A multi-cultural approach to Sunday school evangelism can address both aspects of intercultural missions and American diversity issues. Intercultural ministry focuses upon one culture attempting to penetrate another culture with the gospel. Multicultural Sunday School Evangelism is the intentional effort to reach a multiplicity of racial groups living in one community. Discover who is in your community and determine to reach them whether or not they fit your own unique culture or your own comfort zone of ministry.
Steve Parr. (2013). Sunday School that Really Excels.