Tag Archives: leadership

Intercultural unity, good for church health

Intercultural unity — when people of different cultures fellowship deeply together in unity — is good for the health of the Christian community. Let me share some of my thinking:

  • Intercultural unity can expose unhealthy ways in which our culture can become one and the same with our faith — as if there is no other valid way of worship that pleases God other than our way.
  • Intercultural unity can expose ethnocentrism, a cultural arrogance that assumes our way is the right way.
  • Intercultural unity can expose syncretism, the merging of absolute truth with optional cultural practices.

This is what the Jerusalem Council (in Acts 15) accomplished. The Jewish leaders, under direction of the Holy Spirit an at the uncomfortable assistance of those ministering to Gentiles, realized that their customs were not essential for pleasing God.

When you think of all that the Jewish leaders laid down at the foot of the cross, and what little they retained, you have to admire their sacrificial obedience. But what a benefit for the kingdom of God! Their gracious conclusion (Acts 15:28-29) unleashed exponential growth among the Gentiles for centuries to come.

jerusalem councilBut the tipping point had to come. The weight of Gentile acceptance of the gospel had to, at some point, overpower culturally Jewish dominance of the Way. So it was to their credit that the pillars of the Jerusalem church saw the inevitability of change and cooperated with the Spirit’s new wine skins.

Such changes have continually happened ever since, and in our day the rising tide of immigration is pressuring the dominant church to yield. If leaders will take a lesson from Peter and James, we will see what the Spirit is doing in our generation, one in which no ethnic group will hold a majority, one in which people from all nations now call the U.S. home.festival

Like the founding Jewish apostles, we can view this as an opportunity to be seized. Rather than retrenching in the fortress of cultural Christianity, we can take an honest look at our syncretism and take gradual but courageous steps to pare down the things that are “essential” and welcome into the fold a broad spectrum of expressions of following Jesus.





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Diaspora Consultation in South Carolina

I was privileged to speak recently at a Diaspora Mission Consultation in Columbia, South Carolina.  “What in the world is that?”  The idea was to encourage unity among Christians across cultural and denominational lines. For what purpose?  To encourage all of us to reach out beyond our own cultural groups to share the love of Christ with all others.

It was a great time, and included stories from different ethnic communities about how God is at work.  It is a great encouragement to see the breadth of the body of Christ, and be reminded that God is at work among all the nations of the earth, including those whom He is bringing here to America.

diaspora group

Mehari Korcho, who gathered the planning team that organized the event, will serve as our intern staff this year. It is a privilege to have him on our staff. Mehari challenged leaders to repent of only looking after their own group, based on his own journey in which God led him to repent of only ministering to Ethiopians. What a strong word for us today!

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