Connecting Churches to Demonstrate the Racial Unity of the Body of Christ
We love sharing the stories of immigrant ministry heroes! We’re pleased to award this year’s SuperConnector of the Year award (which includes a $100 Target gift card in addition to the certificates all SuperConnectors receive) to Pastor Matthew Cephus for his work in connecting Royal Family and Gloria Dei Lutheran Churches of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It’s a powerful witness for Christ when churches of different ethnicities conduct joint ministries. When Pastor Cephus’ African congregation and fellow Pastor Martin Cornes’ Anglo congregation co-hosted a Community Outreach and Fun Day on the church lawn, they demonstrated the racial unity of the Body of Christ.
Rappers and pastors alternated on the portable stage parked in front of the church, rocking the neighborhood through the afternoon and early evening hours. Children ambled joyfully between an inflatable bounce house, sack races, horseshoes and an abundance of food. Members of both churches chatted freely as they wandered between shaded seating, food tables, children’s game zones and an open dance area in front of the portable stage. Volunteers donned bright purple and blue T-shirts with slogans like “Take it to the Streets” and “God is good”. Africans and Americans together welcomed all who stopped by.
The synergy between these two highly diverse groups was evident. Beyond the obvious ethnic differences, these are two churches of very different age groups. Gloria Dei is a church of empty nesters that no longer has children’s or youth ministries. Royal Family is a church of young families with lots of children. Even though these two congregations have only shared a building for 6 months, barriers of race, age and new relationships didn’t prevent both sides from developing a high-quality, highly relational event.
A particular asset to their partnership is that Pastor Martin Cornes is a Brit of Indian descent. An immigrant himself, he understands the experiences faced by newcomers to America. This enables him to wisely and gently nudge his Anglo congregation to desire meaningful engagement with their new African friends. Monocultural pastors who lack Martin’s edge would be wise to seek cross-cultural insights from missionaries and other trusted sources.
Aging congregations are becoming increasingly common in America. If the sole vision is to keep their existing worship service viable, they may overlook the fact that Christian immigrants typically bring with them spiritual vitality, youth, a high birth rate, unshakable confidence in the supernatural, and theological and moral conservatism. It’s in the best interests of the Kingdom of God in America for congregations to encourage the flourishing of immigrant worship. Congregations that resist sweeping changes to their existing worship services might be more open to re-visioning their churches as coalitions of several ministries focused on the diverse expressions of Christianity in their neighborhoods.