Annette Mondragon pastors with her husband Javier at Many Nations Church of the Nazarene in Fort Wayne, IN. They have led this inner-city, multi-ethnic, bilingual congregation in Fort Wayne since 2007 which includes Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center. They were featured preachers at our Fall Hugh C. Benner Preacher’s Conference.

CPL: Tell us about how Many Nations got start? You were originally tasked with creating an Hispanic congregation right?

Yes, the initial plan was to plant a Spanish speaking Hispanic church but we soon realized that the community where the church building was located was ethnically diverse. Believing that the church should be a place where anyone can come and feel welcome to worship and hear the message of Christ, we intentionally moved forward to create an environment that would not exclude anyone from coming because of culture, language, or race.

CPL: What advice can you give to churches who are trying to do what you do?

My first suggestion would be to really evaluate why you want to do it. Examine your own heart and why you desire to pursue a multi-ethnic church. Don't do it because it's a trend or to see church growth. Do it because it's biblical and you hear God calling you to do it. It's not an easy path and it will be unsuccessful and painful if God hasn't called you to it. Second: it starts with leadership. Examine your leadership team. Are they prepared to pursue the challenges and changes that come with pursuing a multi-ethnic church? (This means seeking out and accepting diversity on your leadership team because they are the ones who will bring change and different ways of thinking and working things out to the table.)

CPL: How can we honor different cultures well in our churches? In worship and in other settings? (In other words, how do we move beyond translation to true integration in our churches?)

1. Include other musical genres/styles of worship music and have your song lyrics translated on the screen for non fluent English speakers.

2. Quote preachers/scholars/authors of diverse ethnicities.

3. Think about your communion, baptisms, and altar calls. Are these explained or do you assume that all your audience has a Nazarene background and the same understanding of what these mean as you do?

4. Elements of your service can be done in another language or an ethnically preferred Bible translation (consider reading scripture from the KJV or in Spanish, for example). Have someone say a prayer in another language.

5. Don't assume you are the one bringing the gospel to "them" (meaning people of other ethnicities). They might have a well of spiritual riches to share with you to help you grow in your walk with God.

6. Celebrate the diversity. Have fun as you get to know new cultures and ethnicities. The goal isn't to all end up looking and sounding the same but to celebrate how we are all fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our quite creative Creator. Most importantly, do life together. Being multiethnic does not mean one hour a week on Sunday; it means living life with those who are diverse and can enrich our life as we seek God together. Learn to listen, sit down, talk, and hear their stories. Listen not to judge but with the goal of understanding. Don't assume you know someone else's culture and background. When you know them well you will learn how they view, hear, and respond to God. That will equip you better to serve and minister to each other.

CPL: What books and other resources do you recommend to pastors who wish to read more widely in theological and pastoral studies?

I'd challenge my pastoral colleagues to think about what books are on their personal library shelf. Ask: Is there any diversity in the authors that you read? Are you educated on various issues that affect your diverse community? While there are mounds of recommendations, I would make these initial suggestions:

Welcoming the Stranger, Matthew Soerens & Jenny Hwang Yang

Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, Mark DeYmaz

A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry, Dr. John Fuder & Noel Castellanos

CPL: The shifting demographics of a lot of the neighborhoods where our churches are located are a cause of anxiety for some but hope for others. Tell us about your hope for the future of your church and the Church.

Our hope is that our church and THE Church becomes a better representation of the kingdom of God here on earth. We want to fulfill Jesus' prayer in John 17:20-23 – to be brought to compete unity so that the world would know that God sent his son and that he has loved us. Confining ministry to our four walls serves only our best interests. But our parish is our community, our neighbors, those who are not like us. It's only as we serve and minister to all around us that can truly pray "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven".

My personal prayer for THE Church is that as my young children grow up in the rich heritage of the Church of the Nazarene they will see shades of skin and various languages reflected in the leadership of the church and feel they belong, are seen and are valued for what they can offer to God's kingdom.