The theme of the recent regional conference for ministers and leaders that Pauline and I attended in Cheltenham last month was ‘one new humanity’ – a phrase taken from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:15), where he writes about Jewish and Gentile believers becoming united in their shared faith in Jesus.
The keynote speakers, Dr Kang-San Tan, who is General Director of BMS World Mission, and his wife Laun Tan, shared their experience of churches around the world. They observed – indeed, warned – that all too often, churches become in some way monocultural. Even though they may include people from many ethnic backgrounds, they still manage to be from the same socio-economic class, or attract people of similar ages and generally be filled with people who are all very comfortable with each other. In other words, they begin to resemble clubs of people just like themselves – comfortable places where you are not challenged too much by the differing opinions and experiences of your neighbour because they are very likely to agree with everything you already think. We were challenged to see this sort of gathering as being very different from God’s desire to create a new humanity, where Jew and Gentile came together, ate together, debated together and became something new – a diverse culture, united but not uniform.
The problem with being monocultural in this way is that it leads to a ‘consumer church’ attitude, in which we look for what our church can offer us, instead of a servant-hearted attitude in which we look for what God can give our church through our unique gifting and calling. As Pauline reminded us last Sunday, no calling is too unimportant to be taken seriously, and no service we can offer is too minor to give God pleasure, or too unimportant for the life of his church.
From his worldwide experience with BMS and his reading of the early church’s experience in the New Testament, Kang-San Tan observes that Christianity expands by crossing cultural boundaries, but shrinks when it becomes monocultural. I wonder what cultural boundaries God is calling us to cross at this time? Those between young and old? Rich and poor? Male and female? British and overseas? Brexiteer and remainer? The list goes on… so I pray that we will develop a culture that shows God’s love by our acceptance of and love for each other, whoever we are.
With my love and prayers