Becoming an intercultural church
By Shireen Chua, OMF New Zealand
The cultural diversity within our churches and communities has been growing. When we think of cultural diversity, we often assume it to mean ethnic diversity. However, cultural diversity is much more than that. As the world becomes more culturally diverse, our cultural identity goes beyond what’s visible; to the hidden values, worldviews and beliefs that each one of us has learned in all the different environments and contexts of our lives.
These differences provide a rich tapestry, and when woven together they reflect the church God is growing and one that we see in His word. He is drawing people from every culture to come and worship Him. With such cultural diversity comes not only the visible parts of culture, but creativity, new perspectives and deeper understanding of each other and of God. Such differences can also lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations, which can lead to disagreements and conflict. To discover the richness of different perspectives and ways of seeing the world requires each one of us to embark on a journey of discovery.
This begins with the profound realization that our identity in Christ is central to embracing the different perspectives, values and ways of others. We need God’s humility, grace and wisdom to ‘walk in each other’s shoes’ on this journey of discovery to understand, see, know and love each other deeply and fully. This is at the heart of the intercultural journey. The church has a monumental opportunity to bear witness to a watching world of the unity in diversity that we have in Christ. ‘By our love for each other, they will know we are Christians’. We have a journey ahead to discover each other deeper and the journey takes time, commitment and a growing interest in others. There will be roadblocks and challenges, but there will also be the richness of deeper understanding and deeper relationship.
So, who’s with me on becoming an intercultural church?