The Nations in our Backyard
The words of the Great Commission are written on the underside of every Pentecostal’s heart. But what will we as the Church do when the nations come to us?
As immigration increases and business and education continue to attract a diverse crowd into the States, the Church is being called to rise to the occasion. As I spoke with Dr. Phil Rasmussen on the subject, he gave testament to this new aspect of ministry saying, “missions are no longer overseas, missions are at our front door.”
Domestic cross-cultural ministry is shifting from a niche calling to a necessary part of every church. In the same way that technology used to be one sector but became a part of every field, so cross-cultural opportunities are beginning to spring up in nearly every church. Just as the Church had to shift to incorporate technology well, so we as the Church are called to shift toward the richness of serving diverse peoples.
Having a multicultural church is not just about combating racism, but also involves struggling through different cultural perspectives and theologies. It’s about learning how to live alongside a different culture and how to communicate God’s Word well to people of varying origins.
The other day I was talking with a fellow Northwest student who grew up in an Indian household. She was telling me about a cultural difference she experienced in youth group while learning about Jesus. She said one Wednesday night her Caucasian youth pastor was making analogies between how our parents show us love and how God shows us love. He was describing parents showing love predominantly through speech. Since saying the words “I love you” are not as common in many Asian households (but instead are shown more through action), my friend started to believe that her parents didn’t love her.
Naturally, the way the pastor described God’s (and parents’) love was not errant, it just wasn’t as holistic as it could be. Ministering cross-culturally means conveying the gospel three-dimensionally so a diverse community can see how the gospel speaks to the values, fears, and shortcomings of their cultures.
Jayson Georges outlines this approach artfully in his book 3D Gospel. Though guilt/innocence cultures, shame/honor cultures, and fear/power cultures have the same need for Jesus, they seem to receive the gospel in different ways. While we surely minister well to those in guilt/innocence cultures (primarily of Western background). How wonderful would it be if we reached a traditional Asian household with the truth that Jesus took our shame to restore our honor? Or if we impacted the suspicious Turkish family with the superior spiritual power that God has over darkness?
In preparation for this post, I was looking for churches in our area that engage well with the different cultures represented in our communities. I came across Evergreen Church in Bothell. Executive Pastor Caleb Dick told me, “If we are reaching our community, [the Church] will look like our community.” Pastor Caleb went on to tell me lead Pastor Phil’ McCallum’s vision for a church that reached the South Asian Hindu community in their city.
Evergreen intentionally engages with this people group in their area through being particularly present in the community of Bothell. They annually put on a celebration for Holi (a symbolic Hindu celebration in the Spring). This holiday in Hindu culture is symbolic of good’s triumph over evil. Evergreen contextualizes this holiday to show their Hindu neighbors the only one who conquered evil, Jesus. So, while celebrating culture and having fellowship at this event, Evergreen also intentionally speaks on Christ’s triumph over evil on the cross (as this holiday is conveniently close to Easter).
Evergreen even engages with this population in simple ways. If you live in the greater Seattle area, you’ve likely seen their enormous light show around Christmas time. They use this to convey Jesus as the light of the world--an impactful point for Hindu neighbors who are well-aware of darkness.
But some of the most simple pastoral advice that Pastor Phil gives according to Pastor Caleb is just to be friends with people different than you. Then our theology on and off the stage will begin to speak to the varying needs of the diverse congregation. Then the passion for this minority made in God’s image will grow.
So, what do we do when the nations are at our doorstep?
We can be aware of the people groups and different religions in our communities. We can have insightful conversations with those of another race, religion, or country of origin as we grow in relationship. We can think about how to continually convey a holistic gospel with multiple cultural points of view included. We can start planning specific outreach for the lost sheep of our cities. And then we’ll see how mightily God works as he moves among the nations in our neighborhoods.