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This dissertation examines the practices and theology that enable multicultural churches to maintain unity across cultures, while at the same time engaging effectively in mission and experiencing growth. Although the United States is increasingly a culturally diverse nation, only a small percentage of churches are culturally diverse. Although there have been brief forays into multicultural ministry at various times in the history of the nation, such ventures usually were short lived. Recent years, however, have seen the emergence of a number of strong, dynamic multicultural churches. The goal of this dissertation has been to explore the dynamics behind these churches. Chapter 1 of this dissertation explores briefly the historical and social background that makes the topic of multicultural ministry timely and relevant. It examines responses to cultural diversity in society and in the church. Chapter 2, “Theoretical Framework and Research Methodology” introduces the theory that guided the research for the dissertation. The central guiding theory was Berger and Luckmann’s well-known work, The Social Construction of Reality, which enabled research to pursue the question of how multicultural churches are constructing an alternative perception and experience of reality wherein the idea of the church as a multicultural family of believers becomes plausible in thought and realized in practice. Chapter 3 “Biblical and Theological Foundations for Multicultural Churches” traces the Old Testament outworking of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that he and his lineage would be a blessing to the nations. Working in the New Testament Scriptures, the chapter observes a dynamic tension between passages emphasizing that reconciliation and unity have already been accomplished in Christ, and those that instruct believers to pursue unity and reconciliation. Observations about contemporary theological reflection on these concerns are also included. Chapter 4, “Practices and Theology of Multicultural Churches” explores what multicultural churches are doing and teaching to maintain unity. Chapter 5, “The Role of Pastoral Leadership in Multicultural Churches” examines the understandings and practices whereby pastors help their membership to accept and embrace as a plausible reality the church as a multicultural fellowship. Chapter 6, “Growth in Multicultural Churches” seeks to answer how churches with culturally diverse memberships are growing. Chapter 7, “Intercultural Sensitivity in Multicultural Churches’‘ presents the results of the Intercultural Development Inventory which was administered to pastors and members of the churches that participated in the study. Chapter 8, “Summary of Findings” outlines the major discoveries of the research project and offers suggestions for further research.



Publication Date

January 2006


Asbury Theological Seminary


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xii, 363 leaves ; 28 cm. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 336-363). Old URL:



Meeting the Challenge of Diversity: Ministry and Mission in a Multicultural Milieu