One church, many
Scott Temple has
served as director of Intercultural Ministries of the Assemblies
of God since April 2003. Prior to becoming director of Intercultural
Ministries, Temple was senior pastor of Park Crest Assembly
of God in Springfield, Mo., for five years. He recently spoke
with Staff Writer Isaac Olivarez about diversity in the church.
PE: Many people
think Intercultural Ministries only deals with various ethnic
groups. It’s much more than that, isn’t it?
Intercultural Ministries focuses on bringing the gospel to distinct
people groups. For instance, the Deaf culture in the United
States is a distinct people group. American Sign Language is
the third-most used language in this country behind English
and Spanish, yet only about 5 percent of people who speak this
language go to church.
PE: How is Intercultural
Ministries working to create an environment of diversity within
The Book of Revelation reveals that worship in heaven is fully
diverse — all tribes, tongues and ethnicities. Jesus told
us to pray that God’s will is done on earth as it’s
done in heaven. Part of our responsibility is to set forth that
vision and goal for our churches. The fastest-growing population
in the United States is foreign-born immigrants. Nearly 35 million
people living in the United States were born overseas. We thank
God for our 400 U.S. Missions missionaries, but we need more
because the work is great. As our churches open their arms to
new immigrants, the demographics of our churches change.
PE: Why is it
important to have diversity in the church?
It’s the will of God. Our members and especially our children
are increasingly seeing diversity throughout their communities
in workplaces, neighborhoods and schools. If they don’t
see the demographics in the church change, they will conclude
the church is becoming irrelevant.
PE: What are some
ways local churches can increase diversity?
We must first have our theology right and be convinced by God’s
Word that diversity is God’s will. Out of that conviction
will come an atmosphere of openness and welcome, and then diversity
will happen on its own. If people feel welcome, they will come.
We have to be intentional in our prayer and in our outreach.
That’s the vision, the commitment that every Assemblies
of God church needs to have. In a climate of changing demographics,
if the demographics of our churches don’t change as well,
the church will eventually wither and die.
PE: What is on
the horizon for Intercultural Ministries this year that will
spur multicultural growth in the A/G?
We recently formed the Samoan Assemblies of God Fellowship with
nearly 70 congregations. Two years ago there were only four
ethnic fellowship groups. Now there are 13. Last year we formed
the African Fellowship with 70 delegates who were born in different
countries throughout Africa. They formed the fellowship to strategically
target recent African immigrants for evangelism and church planting
and as an organization that welcomes the missionaries the African
nations want to send to the United States. This is missions
come full circle, and is proof the work our missionaries did
in nations like Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania was effective.
PE: What can each
person do to be more open to diversity and help foster that
spirit within our local churches?
find a way to be part of the solution. The church is God’s
antidote for racism in the United States. It’s still a
big problem. We still have great opportunities.
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