Mark Hearn on Transitioning a Monolithic Church to a Vibrant Multicultural Community
First Baptist Duluth really is a multi-cultural church. Currently it is composed of 42 different nationalities. There is music in different languages and people from all over the world worshipping together under one roof. When Mark first arrived at First Baptist in 2010, however, the church was the typical Anglo-Saxon monolithic church and not representative of the Duluth area. Duluth has quickly changed into a diverse and multi-cultural city, about 40 years ahead of the national average. First Baptist wanted their church to reflect the community where they were located, so they took on the task of changing the church’s culture in order to embrace a diverse congregation that reflected the diversity of the city. Mark is with us today to share what this process has looked like.
- Make crossing cultures a mission. // First Baptist is a very mission minded church, and so the first thing they decided to do was to be very intentional about their global missionary initiatives. They researched what were the largest unreached people groups locally, and they began to plant churches in those countries globally. Planting churches in these areas around the world allows for a unique opportunity for conversation with these people groups in your own city. You can share about your own travels to these countries, or mention that your church is sponsoring a church in their native area.
- Celebrate diversity. // The church began to look for ways they could celebrate alongside of the people from other nationalities. Mark explains that it’s the difference of ministry with versus ministry to. There are a lot of churches that do ministry to the people groups in their community, but don’t ask what could they do with the people. First Baptist Duluth began to recognize and celebrate special days, such as Indian Independence Day, East Asian New Year and Tres Reyes Magos (Three King’s Day), in its communities alongside the people of those cultures. These occasions allow the church members to celebrate together, learn more about the other cultures around them, and show deference and receptivity to other people groups.
- Use translators. // Language is the biggest barrier in crossing cultures, and so First Baptist wanted to do everything they could to eliminate that. As Mark notes, the local schools are made up of people from diverse groups and they are able to communicate across cultures, so how much more should the church do the same? First Baptist didn’t want different services in different languages meeting at different times, but rather everyone together in one place. One way they do that is by offering language bible study classes during the week, and then encouraging people to come together for weekly worship services in which they try to cross that language barrier. The weekend service offers headsets with live translation so the sermon can be experienced in one’s native language if needed. By hearing both the English sermon and their own language at the same time, it becomes a great tool for learning English. Don’t be afraid to start translation services without “enough” of a specific people group. For example, at first, the Korean translator at First Baptist was only translating to herself, but once the Korean community learned about this translation feature, their presence in the church began to grow.
- Reflect diversity in words and images. // Serving a multi-cultural congregation is a learning process. Mark often works with his translators to make sure that his sermons and humor interpret well and translate between cultures in a way that makes sense. As a result, he has tried to simplify some of his illustrations and avoid certain American phrases that might not connect with a diverse audience. Even the slides and photos used during services are reflective of the diversity in the church.
You can learn about First Baptist Duluth at their website www.duluthbaptist.org. Mark also shares more about First Baptists’s journey to becoming a multi-cultural church in his book Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry.
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Helpful Tech Tools // Mosaix Global Network
Influential Book // The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures by Jason Georges
Inspiring Leader // Dr. Billy Graham
What does he do for fun // Read, Run
Contact // Website: www.duluthbaptist.org