Return to filtered list

Building a multi-ethnic ministry:
part 1

April 17, 2016

Building a multi-ethnic ministry has become a hot topic in the church. Everyone wants one, but for most it’s a dream not a reality.

Being an African-American myself, I’m almost always asked, “Tony, I want to diversify my ministry, but how do I reach African-Americans?” The foundation of that question reveals a sad truth: most church leaders have a racially focused approach instead of a Christ-centered perspective.

The goal of this article is to reveal the undiscovered truth for white ministers trying to reach B.L.A.C.K. students for Jesus.

BELIEVE God’s Word

“Set goals so big that unless God helps you you will be a miserable failure.” Bill Bright

One of the most important aspects of the Christian life is faith. I’m not talking about a mental exercise of imagining mystical things we think up in our minds. I’m referring to Biblical faith, believing and acting on the promises of God. Faith produces action, rooted in what God said in His word. If you’re going to reach African-Americans (AA) for Christ, then you need to cling to the promises of God.

I suggest developing a personal “Promise List” and “Trust God List”. The Promise List needs to consist of verses from the Bible. Quotes from pastors and authors are great but fall short of being divine. The Trust God list is things you are expecting God to do according to His promises. These need to be specific and time-limited.

When you develop these lists start studying, memorizing, meditating, and teaching yourself to believe them. How do you know you believe? When you start producing fruit!

Promises List

Mark 16:15-18
Romans 10:14-15
Matthew 4:19
Romans 1:16
Matthew 28:18
Joshua 1:9
2 Chronicles 7:14
Matthew 28:18

Trust God List  (Psalm 127:1)

Ministry: Reach # AA’s
Personally: Share with # AA’s
I will develope #AA’s into strong leaders
Build Gospel relationships with #AA’s
# AA Discipleship groups
Go to the AA hang out spot # times weekly
Pray # times weekly for AA’s
# AA’s come to Christ through your Campus Ministry

LIFE on life in love

“Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them.”  Robert E. Coleman

You will need to target and intentionally commit to building relationships with AA students. We see Jesus call his disciples to follow Him. He didn’t just preach the word of God but he called them into His life. They traveled, slept, ate, and lived together for three years. If you want to reach African-Americans, you have to do life with them.

Invite them to meet your family, have them over for dinner, or take a road trip. As you do life, invite them into it. Soul winning is built on the process of engaging in an intimate relationship. We, as college ministers, must never forget that there is “no impact without contact”.

When I say contact I’m talking about their hearts. The more time you spend with someone, the deeper and more intentional your conversations will get. As we reach out and pursue relationships with AA students, we should always strive to nurture and develop connection, which will organically lead to genuine bonds. Life on life in love shows exactly this—the more I know you the more I love you despite any and all flaws.

AWARENESS of culture

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” 1 Cor. 9:19

Let me say this first: All African-Americans aren’t the same. Race is a myth but culture is a reality. God’s Word resolves this issue. There is only one race of people; this is clear in Genesis 3:20:

“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.”

Christian ministers need to do away with the concept of race. As a white minister, know that every black person you meet has his or her unique culture. Culture is a learned pattern of behaviors; you’re not born with a culture. These behaviors are imparted by surrounding families, teachers, friends, and many others. For instance, a black guy born and raised in Beverly Hills is going to be very different from a black guy in Brooklyn. Therefore, in order to reach African-Americans for Christ, one needs to build deep culture-transcending relationships. Every relationship is built on the three T’s: Time, Talk, and Touch. The more time you spend, the more conversations you will have, and more encounters will happen, resulting in deeper relationships.

As you build trust begin asking questions. Jesus also transcended culture when He conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well, and with Zacchaeus the tax collector at his house. Jesus surpassed cultural norms and was not above spending time with people from different cultures than His.

CULTIVATE a prayer lifestyle

“Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.” E.M. Bounds

Prayer is the real work of ministry! If you want to reach an African-American for Christ, the first step is to pray! I am not talking about a quickie “God bless my black friend” prayer, but a life devoted to prayer. Look at Jesus as he hung on the cross; he took time to pray for those who were murdering Him. He prayed,

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34.

Do you have a heart to pray for the AA’s like Jesus did? If not, then don’t expect great things from God in your ministry. I beg you to spend time with God through prayer and the Word and plead to Him to transform your heart. God uses people who humble themselves, and pray and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. Martin Luther said:

“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”

Every great movement in church history began with countless prayers, so pray for a revival in your own heart that would be so contagious it spreads into the African-American students in your life.

KNOW your role

“Soul winners are not soul winners because of what they know, but because of who they know, and how well they know Him, and how much they long for others to know Him.” — Dawson Trotman

In order to reach African-American students for Christ, you must examine yourself to see if you are experiencing the “Messiah Complex.” If you find yourself guilty, confess and repent! Otherwise, it will destroy you and your campus ministry. The best advice I received about ministry was “I am not the Lord”. My seminary teacher had me repeat it over and over and over again. If AA college students on your campus are going to be reached for Christ then it’s going to be because of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the harvest.

The Messiah Complex always starts with good intentions, when we want to see a person receive help so much that we take on the role of God. I hear often “YOU are the solution, go reach the campus.” However, it should be “You are Jesus’ workmanship! Walk into the good works already prepared for you.” I urge you to understand your role, which is very simple – be faithfully obedient to God.


A person who believes God’s word, devotes himself or herself to prayer, values God’s creativity in cultures, lives wholeheartedly with people, understands that Christ is Lord and that he or she is just the workman will reach AA for Christ! Oh, I forgot to mention that ANY person who lives out these principles will be able to reach all tribes and tongues, not just blacks. I pray that your end goal isn’t to reach African-Americans on your campus, but that through your faithful laboring, many will come to know the Lord. So that when the Lord comes, He would say to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant; nations were reached because you trusted Me.”

Continue reading Building a multi-ethnic ministry: part 2.