Friday, July 5, 2013

Real Diversity

As I mentioned in my last "Song for Sunday" post I spent the end of last week at the Massachusetts Baptist Multicultural Ministries' Intercultural Conference and Multicultural Festival.

I also mentioned in that post we had been reminded there that real diversity is hard. The U.S. is on the way to having no majority ethnic in the fairly near future. The American Baptist Churches USA is already at that point.. We count people of multiple races, cultures and ethnicities in our churches, ministries and missions program. We hope to set an example for the future U.S. and be a beacon of how to manage diversity well.

But it's not easy.

So at this conference, we worshipped and ate together. We enjoyed music and dance from each others'  cultures. We witnessed a beautiful multi-church believer's baptism service, with six candidates making a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. And we talked.

We talked about how to get along, how to share ministry, how to overcome barriers.

Language of course is one barrier. Within the US, English will eventually be the "lingua franca" that will allow us to communicate with each other to a point, but new immigrants and refugees will often need their native languages at first. Also, many people new to English will wish to, and should,  worship in their "heart languages."

Still their is much we can do together, especially outside the doors of the church. We don't need to have the same first language to serve together.

Another barrier is -- well, cultural differences. Sure they are rich and we want to celebrate them, but they can also lead to misunderstandings. Fear of making a misstep, being misunderstood or causing insult unintentionally will sometimes -- often-- keep us from interacting with another culture. At my table at the "Conversation CafĂ©" we discussed the need to be willing to take risks and engage with a new group. We also talked about the receiving group needing to be willing to offer grace -- something Christians should be good at.

One speaker talked about what she considers to be the main ingredient for successful multicultural ministry -- maturity. We all need to be willing to step back, especially when we feel we have been hurt. We need to ask ourselves, was that meant to be hurtful or does that action or phrase mean something else in their culture? Are they trying to be difficult or do they just have a different way of doing things, a different view of time or a different method of conversing?

Here's the thing: we aren't trying to make everyone the same. We don't want  a melting pot, we want a tapestry with various cultures maintaining their unique identities even while we are being woven into a whole. So we need to interact with each other on that basis.

And we can. I know we can. Besides, it'll be good practice for Heaven where:

".... I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb[Jesus]. " 
                                                                                                    ~Revelation to John 7:9

God's kingdom will be and already is multicultural.

What has been your experience worshiping, serving and interacting with other cultures?


  1. I totally agree about not wanting a melting pot, other epople cultures, beliefs and experiences make them fascinating.
    It can be the same with leaving a comment on a blog or leaving a tweet, it can be interpreted in a way you never intended it to be.
    Sadly religion causes a lot of grief across the globe, and your conference sounds like it was very interesting.

    1. Yes, tweeting, commenting, texting, emailing .... so much easier to misinterpret than face to face communication!

  2. Beautiful statement: We don't want a melting pot, we want a tapestry with various cultures maintaining their unique identities even while we are being woven into a whole. Very well put - only by entering into dialogue and be willing to navigate the differences between cultures will we ever make progress and truly become a tapestry.