After reading Derwin Gray’s blog called “#Ferguson: Why we need more multi-ethnic churches” I was impacted, emotionally, theologically and through a flood of memories. I couldn’t help but reflect on the youth ministry that reached my family for Jesus growing up. It was as diverse as any youth ministry I have ever seen. It was diverse on every level: racially, socio-economically and even types of teenagers (freaks, geeks, jocks, etc.)
Although it was located in the pasty-white city of Arvada, Colorado, a northwest suburb of Denver, many of my youth leaders and student leaders had last names that ended with “ez” (Sanchez, Martinez, etc.) Many of us, including myself, did not come from Arvada. We were “Northsiders” and “Westsiders” from the racially diverse edges of urban Denver. Both North and West Denver had high Latino concentrations. My Mexican friends and mentors at this church even gave me the honorary title of “Stierez” because of my Northsider roots.
The youth group I was raised in reached beyond its borders into Denver’s very own “Samaria” and transformed my entire thuggish family for Jesus. It reached the Sanchez and Martinez brothers and sisters (many of whom became key leaders in the ministry) and these families reached many, many more teenagers for Jesus.
Derwin Gray proposed more multi-ethnic churches as a solution to racial violence in cities like #Ferguson and I fully agree. But how? Evangelism and youth ministry can be a huge part of the solution in my experience!
Youth leaders who equip their teenagers to reach beyond their social borders at their own schools with the gospel can set the pace for the entire church. As teenagers of all backgrounds are transformed by the gospel, brought into the youth group and discipled these teenagers can even reach more diverse types of teenagers for Jesus.
Soon the youth group can look more like the church at Antioch (integrated) than the church at Jerusalem (non-integrated.) Soon the youth ministry can set the pace for the entire church.
When we do this the Sunday school song that tells us “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight” becomes more than an unattainable pipe dream. It becomes a reality.
That’s what I witnessed growing up. Native Americans, Asians, African-Americans, Hispanic and, yes, white kids, all reached out with the good news of Jesus. And it set the pace for the entire church.
Why not let evangelism be the driving force for integrating your youth ministry and your church? It’s what sparked integration in the church at Antioch. It’s what sparked integration in my youth group growing up.
If you’re serious about becoming a multi-ethnic ministry you need to get serious about evangelism. If you’re not serious about becoming a multi-ethnic ministry you need to re-read the book of Acts.