Homogenous is Not a Dirty Word

As long as the term is used to describe who is most attracted to your church instead of describing how you are trying to keep someone out, then homogenous is not a dirty word!

We have seen great growth over recent decades in terms of people accepting people of other backgrounds. When it comes to race and ethnic background, multi-cultural is the culture. That’s a good thing.

However, we do well to observe that there is more homogeneity than people sometimes realize. For example, if you go to a contemporary church, the music is the same, the lighting is the same, the fog machine is the same, and there is coffee in the foyer. The preachers all shave exactly the same number of times per week — two. There is never a hymnal, a pipe organ, or a choir. Nothing wrong with it, mind you, but it is homogenously the same.  We’ve all seen “Produced Church” on YouTube.

I have been scouring my library for the book where I read the story; so I can’t cite the book or the writer. But the writer told of going to a church and they were telling him that he was wrong to affirm the homogenous church. They pointed out that their congregation was multi-racial and that their members came from varying countries, even. He walked them to the book table filled with volumes written by leading Christian thinkers and replied, “But you are an homogenous group; you are all intellectuals!” Peter Wagner described another church and its homogenizing factor:

“Rather than being a unit determined by racial, linguistic or class differences–all of which are fairly evident when they are present, it is determined by psychological factors–which may be invisible to the casual observer.” (C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, Regal, 1976)

Or take this interview with Bill Hybels on Church Leaders.com. He was asked about practical steps he would recommend to church planters:

Bill Hybels: I can think of two. The first is how to decide where to locate their church. When I talk with church planters, I always start by talking about vision. But quite quickly after the vision talk, I ask this question: “What demographic do you think calls the best out of you?” When you’re with a certain kind of people, do you get a sense of exuberance—that these are the kind of people I want to do life with?

Some church planters actually think that’s an illegal question. But let me give you an example. I was talking with a church planter who was on the verge of quitting. I knew his family background. These were very sophisticated people—grad school trained, excellent educational institutions and all that. And the church planting organization had put him in a blue collar, lower education level, semi-rural setting that was boring this guy to tears.

These were lovely people. It’s just that they didn’t call the best out of him. He would want to discuss complex subject matters and things that are going to shape the future of the world. But they were not willing to engage in those conversations—the kind that gave him a lot of life and excitement. So I said, “Before you quit and go back into the business world, why don’t you see if there’s another plant that can be done in an area with a demographic that you actually feel fairly excited about?” And he said, “I couldn’t ask for that because that would be arrogant.” I said, “I don’t know that you ought to feel like that’s so bad, because a certain environment is going to call the best out of you and in another environment you’re not going to feel like such a great fit.”

And I think “fit” is key. God can always overrule it and call you to do anything. But if you have a choice in the matter, why don’t you choose to locate where the demographics call the best out of you? I heard from him several years later. He had relocated. It was like talking to a different guy. And he said: “I wouldn’t have stayed in ministry in that setting. But this is the group I’m supposed to be with.”

Could someone honestly say that it’s OK for a church planter to relocate to the community that he is best suited to reach, but that it’s not OK for a church to consider relocating to a community where they might be more effective corporately?  Just because they don’t have a significant number of members with the apostolic gift of cross-cultural evangelism, they are not OK?

If a congregation reaches out to their community and can’t find a way to have a significant impact in some ethnic population or the other, are they really wrong if, as a matter of strategy, they start a new church to better reach that population? I mean, really, they are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours working with the planting pastor and the core group in reaching a people group, and that makes them racists?

And what about all the multi-racial, multi-national churches with no senior adults? Or cowboys? Or rednecks? Or blue collar workers?  Or PC users?  Yeah, what about those congregations where everyone uses Apple products?  (And I suppose, since there are so few of them as a percentage of the population, that Linux users would simply be an unreached people group.)  How inclusive are we when we factor in small towns?

And since a church can be only one kind of church at a time, will we have a blended culture?  That would mean we would keep parts of each culture and toss out some parts of each culture; will we risk insulting someone’s culture?  Will we ask new members to renounce those parts of the culture from which they came in order to be a member?  What happens when your company transfers you to another city?  Then, will you have to renounce the combined culture of Amalgamated Community Church in order to fit into the new culture at your new church?  I’m just saying this political correctness thing can become an idol.

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