I've had a difficult time putting my finger on it until now, but I've struggled with the tone of the multicultural church movement in the US. It's not because I think local churches should be segregated; I certainly don't (more on that in a moment). Instead, it's because of the arrogance I've seen on the part of a some pushing this movement within the Church .
Let me explain.
The arguments for a multiculturural church body are good. Heaven will be populated by every tribe, tongue, and nation; therefore, it wouldn't hurt to practice now as a shadow of the things to come. Another argument pushes that the gospel bridges racial and socio-economic divides. This is true. If we are indeed united around Christ, then slave and master can worship together, as can Jews and Greeks, circumcised and uncircumcised. Another argument says the local church body should reflect the local community. That sounds good, right. (But is it?) And finally, there are arguments that work against segregation driven by sin, such as racism or other factors.
These are well-meaning arguments, but they don't play out well in our current scope of thinking.
Often, church leaders desire to have non-english speaking members join the local church as a way to move toward diversity. But if diversity is this important, why are these leaders not encouraging their church members to leave and join churches that hold services in other languages? Do English speakers want to to worship in Mandarin, Spanish, or Arabic spoken services ever week? (I mean, in the name of multiculturalism?) I don't see this happening much. So why would we expect other non-English speaking people to do that in English speaking churches? Might it be that God has called people in many languages to minister in languages people can understand? Might Acts 2 still be playing out today by way of God's call on men and women who speak or learn the languages God desires them to reach?
What about a diversity of skin color in church? I live in Utah. There are many places that have but one skin color within the community. Is it reasonable to think the local church in that community would look any different? But in communities where there is a racial variety (like the specific area of Salt Lake where I live) the gospel should, and must bridge racial divides. That being said, why are church leaders not encouraging the majority population to flood into local churches of minority races? Why is the minority race expected to bridge the divide? And why are little local churches reaching Somali refugees not expected to bring in Tongans and Irish and Japanese people too? Why is the multicultural church typically only argued one direction? (But please don't hear that I think we should promote racial or language segregation. That is sinful.)
I believe the gospel bridges our differences and we become united around Christ, which is also why I believe the gospel is the determining factor what our local churches should look like. When we target specific races of people instead of doing our best to target lost people, we get segregated churches and segregated hearts (even if we target a race other than our own). But when we go after lostness in any and every place we find it in the community, God's transforming power determines who is in the local church, worshiping the Lord together in community.
Furthermore, all of the arguments about multicultural church are really good, just as soon as we make them about God's Church and not the local church. The Church (big "C," universal Church) is God's plan to reach every tribe, tongue, and nation. In that plan, one local church might reach Spanish speaking people in a community and God might be using another local church to reach the Sudanese, but they are both God's Church, bridging the divide with the gospel. Some local churches might have many skin colors and languages represented because lostness is being broken across all of these differences, while another local church might be seeing fruit within one people group, but that does not mean God's Church is not diverse. His Church, all over the globe, is very diverse.
As a pastor in a somewhat diverse area of Salt Lake, I want to see my community redeemed by the power of the gospel, across all races, cultures, and languages. I'm thankful for the diversity at the church where I pastor, but the common factor is English. I'm not apposed to other languages, I just don't preach well in them. And if a non-English family should come to worship with us (which has happened on more than one occasion) I want to connect them to one of God's Churches in our community where they can be best equipped, which likely means one that speaks their language. That's the beauty of God's Church! I want to see every tribe and tongue in my community worshiping the Lord, but I realize I am not capable of reaching them all. Not even close. I can hardly reach English speakers. So it would be unwise for me to view multiculturalism in the microcosm of one local church, when God is doing so much more, with so many more, in his Church.
Maybe it's time we stop thinking in our perspective and start seeing the Multicultural Church through God's perspective.