Intentional Diversity: Intercultural
“God has not called the church to ‘diversity.’ God has called the church to oneness. I have no better solution than the gospel of Jesus Christ for this….”
Earlier this year I read the above words in an article by Dr. Korie Little Edwards, a professor of sociology who has been researching “multiracial congregations” for over twenty years. The article, titled “The Multiethnic Church Movement Hasn’t Lived up to Its Promise”, challenges churches to move beyond the appearance of unity into the practice of unity – engaging real issues and relationships, and inviting every person “to come to the table with their gifts and skills as leaders and contributors to advance the Good News of Christ.”
This aligns with what’s on my heart when I say that I believe the Lord wants to cultivate in us Intentional Diversity:
As an Intergenerational, Intercultural, and Interpersonal family we are to cultivate interactions between these generations, cultures, and individuals — actively recognizing and receiving the gifts given through these relationships.
For a church that’s as small as we are, we have a unique depth and breadth of diversity. This gives us the unique opportunity to do the hard, beautiful work of living the very unity that our nation yearns—and needs—to see demonstrated in our society. Four generations of people nurturing, teaching, and learning from each other; multitudinous personalities choosing to give and receive the gifts of Colossian 3:9-17; and, yes, a range of cultures listening to, challenging, leading, and forming each other, exhibiting the reality of Ephesians 2:14-22:
For Jesus himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace…. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God….”
Living intentionally as an intercultural family pushes us beyond Sunday morning worship into regular, cross-cultural relationships within Immanuel which invite us to see and live differently as a result of our interactions. This means taking the risk of knowing and being known by each other in new ways; telling and hearing stories we have not yet shared; seeking, offering, and receiving gifts unique to each other’s cultural backgrounds. I long for us to explore how we can live together in these ways.
We could begin by sharing a meal together—not just to taste the food of another culture (although that can be delicious fun!), but to ask questions that carry us beyond the surface appreciation of differences and similarities into the deeper understanding of each other’s experience as a person formed by her/his unique culture. What is it like to live as a _____________ in this country, this county, this church? How has being a follower of Jesus shaped that experience? Listening well to the answers could help re-form our hearts.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday at Beville.
Your pastor in Christ,