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By Matthew Watson
We are now a few weeks removed from our Every Nation Every Tribe series wherein we took our church calling to become more multicultural while practicing racial reconciliation and overlaid it on our core commitments of worship, community, and justice.
Weeks removed, I find myself processing the things we learned together and the hard, yet beautiful conversations I had with so many of you. There remains much more to be said and heard. One idea that’s been in my heart is the way multicultural worship and multicultural discipleship can rightly impact and inform our spiritual formation. I’ve outlined a few ways below.
By engaging in different forms of worship and positioning ourselves in multicultural spaces of discipleship, our understanding of God has the possibility of being expanded. It is right for us to imagine God like us because Jesus became a human. Yet, if I only ever imagine God as one just like and only like me, then our understanding of God will remain far too small. Multicultural worship and discipleship afford an opportunity for us to understand God in ways that the homogenous context simply cannot account. We have
When our understanding of God is expanded, refined and enriched, so too is our Christ-like conformity. An expanded experience of multicultural worship and discipleship offers the beautiful and painful possibility of having our cultural idols exposed. We often cannot see the misshapen form our discipleship has taken when our discipleship has only happened in a homogenous environment. Multicultural discipleship provides the opportunity for our conformity to Christ to become mindful of cultural idols and cultural sin, while also affording us a richer experience of what it means to follow Jesus.
Any effort to become a multicultural church must be led by the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that brought forward the first multicultural church in Jerusalem at Pentecost and in Antioch. It must be that same Spirit now. As disciples embedded in a multicultural church, we have the opportunity to see how the Spirit works in the lives of those from different backgrounds and cultures. In a homogenous cultural setting, the work of the Spirit might often take place in that culture’s setting. However, when placed in a multicultural community of faith, we are invited to share and also surrender the ways that the Spirit speaks to us individually, as an act of stewardship. We must also recognize that the Spirit communicates in ways that may be foreign to us. As we see, hear and experience the work of the Spirit in different cultural forms within our faith community, there is a growth in trust and delight in the work of the Holy Spirit that we would have lost if we had remained in a less diverse church setting.
In each section, I’ve tried to be intentional with my wording, using words like, “opportunity” and “possibility”. Just being a part of a multicultural church doesn’t automatically mean that one’s understanding of God, conformity to Christ or trust of the Holy Spirit will be impacted. Many of us have grown up in churches and are aware that there are those who can be in church every Sunday and still not see spiritual growth. That same tragic phenomenon can happen in our midst as well.
However, if we will submit to the work of the Spirit in our midst, then we will find ourselves in better-suited positions to faithfully proclaim the story of God. Our gospel proclamation can become more nuanced, more sensitive and more approachable to those in our city because it has been informed by multicultural worship and discipleship spaces. We will have been able to hear the gospel preached back to us from those in our faith community who are from an incredibly diverse set of cultural and experiential backgrounds. That will shape the way we tell the story to our incredibly diverse city and
As we continue to live in light of our calling as followers of Jesus, and as we strive to continually become a church that embodies a tapestry of cultures, ethnicities, and classes, I pray that we will continue to return to the ‘why’ of this glorious effort. Living into a multicultural future isn’t easy, especially when the conversations are hard and culture seems more misfit than comfortable, I want us to remember that this work is shaping for our souls, needed by the world and a faithful reflection of the glory of God.
Gloria In Excelsis Deo.
 I use the phrase ‘multicultural discipleship’ and ‘multicultural spaces for discipleship’ in an attempt to highlight the point that discipleship act that takes place when we worship and when we study the Bible together in the midst of a multicultural faith community. Though not covered directly in our series, it was certainly covered in our series indirectly through our 3 core values.