The kingdom of Heaven will be filled with people of every color, creed and culture. Replicating that in an earthly congregation, however, is more difficult. In fact, in Marco Güete’s experience, many have tried, but few succeed.
A native of Colombia, Güete is associate conference minister for Western District Conference and based in Dallas, Texas, a state with a burgeoning immigrant population – and great church-growth potential.
While Güete said faith in Jesus Christ can unite all believers, they are frequently divided by tensions rooted in culture. “If there are two cultural groups in the same congregation during the fellowship time, people of the same group get together and talk in their own language,” Güete said. “It’s not that they want to offend the other culture, but it’s very natural.
“It’s hard for the different cultures to understand other cultures.”
One reason is language. Church-goers want to worship God in their own tongue, but it is difficult to incorporate multiple languages into one service. “Can we imagine a church having Sunday school classes in five or six languages,” Güete asked. “Can we imagine the secretary at the church office responding to the phone and e-mail in those number of languages?”
Difficulties can even arise when the groups have separate congregations but meet in the same facility owned by one of them. Disagreements over schedule, space and finances often drive away one of the groups.
“Usually the newcomer leaves,” Güete said. “Then everybody is happy.”
Western District has found a solution to that problem. It owns the building in the Dallas area where two congregations meet – one a group of Hispanic immigrants who worship in Spanish, the other also Hispanic but English-speaking. So both congregations have equal power.
Güete said the problems of multiculturalism aren’t limited to relations between Anglos and Hispanics or between whites and blacks. Even in a group of Africans, members are drawn to other members from the same country or culture.
“This multicultural ideal church could happen with the help of God, since for God nothing is impossible,” Güete said.
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