More and more church leaders today are exploring what it means to be part of the intercultural church. As it turns out, there are many ways for us to strive towards a true representation of the diverse kingdom of God.

So how do we define what it means to be an intercultural church? Well, quite simply put, it is the uniting of different cultures, backgrounds and languages through the uniting of diverse Christian communities. Although the UK is often referred to as multi-cultural Britain’ there seems to be a significant number of churches that do not reflect this reality.

Segregated or just separated?

The UK has a history of racial injustice that runs deep. The conversations that I have had with my late Jamaican grandparents about the treatment they received upon arrival into the UK church is enough to make you feel angry, confused and disappointed. They, like many of their counterparts who arrived in the 1960s, longed for a community that they could join, connect with and later become a part of. Their desire to become a part of a community that aligned with their beliefs was met with anything but the warmth of a place they could call home. As the stories of racial discrimination faced by my grandparents and so many came to light over the years, the message was clear: those who were different did not belong in the family of God here in the UK

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household... (Ephesians 2:19)"

As the church, our role is to be a home away from home. Whether we are welcoming a new student who is living 10 miles or 10,000 miles away from home or the refugee who has travelled across seas with their family. We have a God-given duty of care to welcome and adopt those who are in search of a new or additional family and when we accept Christ into our lives, we accept His people into His household and all other names and titles are stripped away.

Idea Hope 2023 Smiling friends at the picnic stock photo

Reconciliation of a divided church

I can recall having a conversation with my friend about her experiences with being Black whilst on a predominately White church leadership course and the countless times she was subject to racial discrimination through seemingly light-hearted jokes. She best described these experiences as feeling hurt and betrayed. For us to really unite as an intercultural body of Christ, we must be willing to set aside our own racial and cultural biases, listen, and learn from one another.

Although there is an increased number of cultures and ethnicities coming together in worship, many churches still do not represent the diversity of the community they serve in. I believe the remnants of a once segregated UK church over 60 years ago has left generational scars and wounds that are still in need of reparation and reconciliation.

The international God

The first time I came to understand the beauty of an intercultural scene of worship as depicted in Revelations, was the moment my perspective changed.

"...from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9)"

A few years ago, I attended an international youth conference in Prague. It was one thing to hear the voices of over a thousand from more than 20 nations worshipping together; it was another to watch people leave their seats, their family and friends and their in-ear translation devices to pray and join hands in worship with their Christian brothers and sisters, despite the obvious language barrier. Although I didn’t understand every word prayed over me, the translation of the love, embrace and encouragement I received through the power of the Holy Spirit was enough.

After this experience, I realised that everything I had learnt about God up until that point had been based on my own Caribbean-British perspective of God. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving God through your own cultural lens, learning to see the beauty in our differences and beyond our own cultural perspective is key to intercultural unity. To know our God is an international God and Father to all nations who need Him shows the vastness of His great love for us all.

Celebrating one another’s cultures

Intercultural unity is more than just meeting together under one roof, it is about building intentional relationships within the family of God and loving and honouring one another above ourselves – but what does that mean?

We can truly honour others through learning to respect and take an interest in what makes each culture unique. When we choose to weave the practices of one culture into our own church practices, that’s when we begin to truly see one another.

"Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Philippians 2:4)"

It’s in the beautiful moments when we explore another culture’s musical expressions through Latin style worship in Spanish, Nigerian worship in Yoruba or Indian melodies in Hindi; or the moment we decide to host our weekly small group meetings at a Sri Lankan, Thai or Polish restaurant. We make a difference when we make the conscious decision to do so, so that we can dive deeper into the stories and backgrounds of our diverse family of God. It is then, in those moments, that we can truly honour one another above ourselves.

"Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:9)"

Prayer for unity

Father, as the future of the intercultural church continues to advance, let our prayer be one of healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and unity. Lord, would you bless those who are at the forefront, pioneering, teaching, encouraging, resourcing and planting intercultural churches for your glory. Let us not be like the world in our pursuit for diversity but more like you in how we celebrate one another through honour and love. Let your will be done. Amen.

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