Have you ever looked around church on a Sunday morning and noticed a room full of people who look exactly like you?
Same age and stage of life.
Same level of wealth and privilege.
Same political views.
Same skin colour.
Maybe it’s human nature, maybe it’s circumstance, or maybe it’s a mark of our society. Whatever the reason, our church families often represent silos of New Zealand culture—separate bodies that are self-contained and content.
As New Zealand culture shifts we are noticing changes. The impact of cheaper air travel, globalisation and the ongoing migration crisis have brought the nations to our communities. Our increasingly secular society means the New Zealand Church is looking to our brothers and sisters in the global church for solidarity, support and encouragement.
The everyday, local, down-the-road, New Zealand church is becoming increasingly multicultural and diverse.
A multicultural Church is not a recent invention or idea. All the way back in Genesis, God promises Abraham that, “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” The big picture of this blessing is ultimately realised in Jesus Christ.
How did God achieve this?
Through the death and resurrection of his Son. Ephesians 2:13-14 reminds us that at the cross the racial hostility and racial barriers between Jew and Gentile have been destroyed and that we—as people from all ethnicities—are able to be one in Christ through his blood shed on the cross.
The resurrected Jesus reminds the disciples of his authority and power and gives them a commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In the Book of Acts we see the growth of the Church to include both Jews and Gentiles—God’s vision for his people is global, multi-national and unified in Christ. Indeed, significant chunks of the New Testament letters focus on how Christians ought to make this special unity work out practically as they seek to serve God, grow in godliness, love one another and persevere in the faith.
God’s promise powerfully culminates in the picture of the great multitude described in Revelation 7:
“After this 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. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
But we’re not there yet.
So how do we ‘do’ church in a way which reflects this multicultural picture? How do we love one another when we’re different from one another?
Over the next few weeks our blog will feature stories from churches who are intentionally thinking through what it means to be a multicultural body of Christ and seeking to engage with these questions. They're all different and face unique challenges, but I hope you'll be as encouraged as I was to hear of the ways they are prayerfully stepping out where God leads.
CCCNZ Communications Manager