As pastor of Redeemer Church in Mason, Ohio, Marc Champagne accepted the challenge not only of planting a church, but also of reaching the nations with the Gospel. In this ethnically diverse suburb of Cincinnati, one which reflects multiple cultural sensibilities, Champagne encountered issues and layers of complexity he never expectes.
Currently 26 percent of Mason’s population is nonwhite, an increase from a mere 1 to 2 percent just 10 years ago. Most of that minority population comprises Indian, Chinese, and other Asian ethnicities. One of Redeemer Church’s goals is to be intentional about cultivating a congregation that reflects the dynamic of its community. “For us,” said Champagne, “it’s multiethnic.”
About three years ago, Champagne connected with two other area pastors whose congregations were also ethnically and economically diverse. They began meeting every other month to discuss best practices, theological underpinnings, and what it looks like to reach across cultural barriers within their communities.
That series of conversations quickly grew beyond Champagne’s expectations. This fall, he will be partnering with the Mosaix Cincy Network to host the One New Humanity Conference in Cincinnati. The conference will be held Sept. 9, 2014, opening with a plenary session at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The conference title reflects the words of Ephesians 2:15 in which Paul writes of Christ abolishing the law of commandments to create in himself one new man in place of the two, and so make peace.
Too often, Champagne acknowledges, the world has hijacked the conversation about ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation. “Just mentioning the words,” he said, “can tend to send shivers up people’s spines. They carry such political and sociological baggage.”
When talking about a church that’s ethnically diverse, it’s important to be sure we are not following the voices of anything or anyone except the words of Scripture itself.
However, because the concept of reconciliation is biblical, Champagne believes this is a conversation the church can’t ignore. “It’s important for the church to redeem the conversation. When talking about a church that’s ethnically diverse, it’s important to be sure we are not following the voices of anything or anyone except the words of Scripture itself.”
Champagne holds that there are sound missiological and ecclesiological arguments calling the church to join this conversation. He notes that those preparing for the foreign mission field are required to undergo substantial study and training to engage the culture with the Gospel. In addition, a segregated church does not represent an accurate picture of what is already going on in heaven.
While some might suggest that the church’s goal ought to be colorblindness, Champagne disagrees. “Colorblind denies how God has created us as individual and unique. Without recognizing the ways we are different, we diminish the greater reality that, despite our differences, in Christ we all have the same inheritance in Abraham. The reality of us being one in Christ is a real reality.”
According to Champagne, after 2,000 years the church continues to wrestle with a central issue in the New Testament as the Gospel expanded to non-Jews. “The question Peter, Paul, and everyone else was trying to figure out was, ‘Is everyone really included?’ ”
Champagne believes the church needs to be paying attention to changing demographics within the U.S. where, by 2042, whites likely will represent less than 50 percent of the population.
“God is shifting the demographics of our nation,” he said. “Is your church nimble enough that, if God changed the demographics of your city, your church would be willing and able to meet that new reality? Will the church be able to take the Gospel where He leads?”