The Challenge of Multiculturalism for the American Church

June 6, 2007

This paper titled The Challenge of Multiculturalism for the American Church provides a still timely call for the American church, even though it was published about a decade ago (the paper was written by Dr. Malcolm Webber):

Parochialism means “viewing the world solely through one’s own eyes and perspective. A person with a parochial perspective neither recognizes other people’s different ways of living and working nor appreciates that such differences have serious consequences”. The American church suffers from parochialism. The cultural values of the United States underlie and have fundamentally framed many of our current models of church structure and leadership. This approach, while yielding valuable models and theories regarding Americans in American churches is, however, quite inadequate for a church landscape that is becoming increasingly multicultural. Moreover, little research yet exists explaining the specific ways in which American-based church organization and leadership theories must be altered to become applicable in a ministry context that is rapidly changing.

The author demonstrates in this paper the implicit parochialism of many current models and theories of organizational leadership in America, while asserting the need – both demographically and scripturally – for models that intentionally embrace the increasingly multicultural scope of Christian ministry in this country. After a discussion of the benefits and challenges of multiculturalism, the author defines culture and values, and deals with the issues of cultural convergence and assimilation.

… Much that is promoted in current American church growth and leadership models has been largely “imported” from American secular theories of management and organization, and suffers the same encumbrance of being shaped by and for the American culture. This approach, while yielding valuable models and theories regarding Americans in American churches is, however, quite inadequate for a church landscape that is becoming increasingly multicultural in scope and mission.

The author proceeds to explain cultures and the necessary adjustments for organizational leadership, and lists several specific examples of an organization’s impact on cultural values, in areas like power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism vs collectivism, masculinity and femininity. The paper ends with a number of recommendations. Read the entire paper and add a comment.

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