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Missional and Multiethnic: Are You Ready for the Future of the Church?

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My wife Vicki, the co-founder of Transformation Church, and I were invited to Norway by the Baptist Union of Norway. I preached and lectured at the Norwegian School of Theology and Leadership in Oslo & Stavanger, Norway, to academics, a global representation of pastors, and denominational leaders. I preached 13 messages in four days, with jet lag!

The Holy Spirit empowered me; the prayers of Transformation Church, and my wife’s shouts of “Amen” from the front row, carried me. My assignment was to give a comprehensive, gospel-shaped understanding of missional, multiethnic churches and the best practices that build and cultivate missional multiethnic churches. Sveinung Vaagen, a leader in the Baptist Union wrote:

Derwin was the main speaker in two different events in two different cities, and I think his teaching works as a spark among leaders in our country that lights a fire for multiethnic congregations based on God’s word. This was the first time in Norway anyone did systematic and theologically thorough teaching based on the Bible’s message about God’s multi-ethnic people. I want to see a large movement of multiethnic congregations that bear witness to Jesus and change the whole society in Norway and Scandinavia. Derwin gave us hope this is possible.

Why Was I Invited to Norway?

Norway is a wealthy, oil rich, secular country. We were in Norway for a week, and we only saw one homeless person. Like much of the Western world, born-again followers of Jesus are rapidly declining. However, in God’s sovereignty, migrants of color from Iran, Africa, and Asia are coming to Norway with a vibrant, beautiful, evangelical faith.

Norwegian church leaders like my friends in the Baptist Union, Sveinung Vaagen and Bente Sandtorp, and Gabriel Stephens, a Nigerian New Testament scholar and pastor, recognize the future of the church in Norway is a colorful, missional multiethnic church. Like the rest of Europe, “You cannot be talking about dynamic gospel work in Europe and not think of migrant and diaspora Christ-ians as a key element of what you think and do…They are becoming central to European theology, wrestling with issues around Christian social ethics, migration issues, and the mission of the church at large.”1

Just as the Norwegian church leaders recognize that the future of the Norwegian church is migrant and multiethnic, it’s time for American church leaders to recognize the same reality. This is not a time to fear, but a time to embrace how Jesus is building his transcultural church.

Jesus invites his people into his redemptive story when he commands his followers to go make disciples of every ethnicity (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). In God’s sovereignty, every nation, tribe and tongue is coming to the West, including to America. These image bearers of God are coming to America with work ethic, dreams, talents, love, and a bold evangelical faith that can give life to the Church in America.

The Future Is the Past

The first century Roman world of the Apostle Paul was like America: Great wealth and great military power ruled in a large country of ethnic diversity and religious pluralism. It was in this volatile and culturally and religiously diverse context that the Apostle wrote these words to the multiethnic churches in Ephesus (modern day Turkey):

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death (Ephesians 2:14-16 NLT).