Nikki Lerner serves as the Worship Ministry Director at Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, MD. Being married interracially, having a diverse church experience in both homogeneous and multicultural churches, as well living the life of a relational bridge-builder has afforded Nikki a unique perspective and voice on the subject of multicultural worship and ministry, racial reconciliation, and God’s love for all people.
One of my very favorite aspects of what I have been called to do at Bridgeway Community Church where I serve is meeting people from all walks of life. Having the privilege of leading in a multicultural environment has been so good for my heart. It has challenged me, changed me, and given me perspective on life and Jesus that I truly believe I would not have if I were in a mono-cultural environment.
I have learned so much in the time that I have related with the people of Bridgeway. Over the last 10+ years, I have learned to respect the histories of my elderly African American brothers and sisters. I have learned how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Spanish, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, and ASL. I have learned to take my shoes off when entering the home of my Korean friends. I have learned to greet my Hispanic brothers and sisters with a hug and a kiss to the air. I have learned to bow and show great respect during a greeting to Korean people who are older than me. I have learned that my White brothers and sisters just need space to enter the conversation regarding race without fear of being called a racist.
Over the course of the last year, I have learned that my friend Clara, an older Indian woman, was a part of an arranged marriage that lasted over 40 years until her husband died. I learned that this cultural decision was not “weird”, but wonderful. I have learned that my friend Calvin speaks Dutch and looks for ways to connect to his ancestry and I have learned that my friend Ed, a white man in his 60s, comes alive when he hears old hymns.
Building relationships with a diverse group of people is foundational for anyone who desires to be effective as a multicultural worship leader. Why? Because our work is about people and it because it allows us to follow in the footsteps of our perfect leader, Jesus Christ. And, if you plan to lead and influence people who are ethnically, generationally, and culturally different than you, then you need to be ready to engage them. And not just so that you can check it off of your list or fulfill your job description, but because you realize that you need them just as much as they need you. Relationships are one of your greatest assets as a leader. They will enlighten you, challenge you, test you, and bless you. You cannot lead humbly nor effectively without them.
If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us. Relationships. They are messy, right? More than likely, if we are honest, we love them and hate them…relationships. Relationships require humility and vulnerability. Relationships call us to sacrifice and open us up to potential pain. Relationships beckon us to love and be loved by Christ and one another. It is through relationship that Jesus reveals Himself. It is through relationship that Jesus transforms us and connects us to our brothers and sisters that he has placed in our spheres of influence.