Today, I’m excited to welcome two friends of mine to the blog for a conversation on the need for multi-ethnic congregations.

Derwin Gray is a defensive back who played safety for five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and one season with the Carolina Panthers. He now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the founding and Lead Pastor of Transformation Church in Indian Land, South Carolina.

Juan Sanchez is pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, and one of the advisory council members and writers for The Gospel Project.

Trevin Wax: Welcome to the blog, guys. First off, why even have this conversation about multi-ethnic churches? Why is this important?

Juan Sanchez: The glory of God. A few weeks ago, I laid the biblical-theological foundation for multi-ethnic churches over at Ed Stetzer’s blog. In essence, through Christ God is gathering a multi-ethnic assembly that will dwell in His presence for all eternity, under His rule, for His glory and our joy. God is greatly glorified as wise when we witness this multi-ethnic assembly being manifested in local congregations and functioning as one (Eph. 4). So, ultimately, this conversation is about the glory of God in Christ.

Derwin Gray: Absolutely, and the gospel paints a glorious picture of humanity reconciled to God through Jesus and to each other! Jesus said “make disciples of all nations (ethnos),” or different ethnic groups. The gospel demands that if different ethnic groups are around the local church, as missionaries, we should be intentional in reaching them. And the multi-ethnic church displays the “mystery of Christ” and the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:4-6,10-13).

Juan Sanchez: I think this conversation is important for another reason too. Due to various cultural factors, many churches were fairly segregated and remain so to this day. However, the church growth homogeneous unit principle (see Tim Chester’s helpful explanation) seems to have legitimized monoculturalism for the sake of evangelism. (I’m not fully knowledgeable about this history, so feel free to help me if I am missing the mark.) As a result, many churches remain fairly segregated for both cultural and evangelistic reasons.

I think that as our culture and economy have become more global and as international travel has become easier, we are realizing more and more that the body of Christ is diverse but that through Christ we have more in common with our Christian brethren throughout the world than with our unbelieving blood kin. Then we ask ourselves when we return from mission trips, if we have such a unity with brothers from different cultures and ethnicities in another country, why can’t we experience this same unity at home?

Trevin Wax: Do you think the homogeneity principle led to church growth but at the cost of multi-ethnic congregations? 

Derwin Gray: Great question. First, let’s define Dr. Donald McGarvan’s Homogeneous Unit Principle (HUP). In essence, HUP teaches that people come to faith faster when people are of the same ethnic and socio-economic background. HUP has worked pragmatically and fits very well in our consumer Christianity context. But it has not nor will it ever produce local churches that reflect the ethnic diversity of what the new heavens and earth will look like. Pastors and leaders, our goal should not be pragmatism but God’s glory.

The HUP has become the standard ministry model of church planting and the church in general. However, in his eBook Should Pastors Reject or Accept the Homogeneous Unit Principle? Mark DeYmaz quotes Dr. McGavran as saying, “There is a danger that congregations…become exclusive, arrogant, and racist. That danger must be resolutely combated.” McGavran saw the danger of HUP when it was not used correctly.