“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NRSV)
If I agree and I do that the gifts described in Ephesians 4:11 emphasize living outside the church’s internal life. I must accept responsibility for my gifting. If gifted as an apostle I acknowledge that God sends me. If gifted as a prophet I boldly and unapologetically proclaim the will of God. As an Evangelist, I spread the good news, as a pastor I minister to and protect the congregation, or as a teacher, I serve as an instructor of the Christian life. And with that acceptance, I must be sure that I carry out my work in such a way that I am equipping other followers of Christ for the work of the ministry. Responsible for building up the global church, until all of us, come to the unity of the faith. These gifts whichever I possess open up the opportunity to move the body of Christ to a place of united-ness, emphasizing a continual, dynamic relatedness of diverse peoples – to work toward moving the whole congregation toward intercultural life.
There are verbal and written desires for the worship on Sunday to reflect the residents of countless communities. For our communities of faith to become more culturally diverse. Does the average faith community understand the implications of such a racial shift? Does average faith community know that this move is about becoming an agent of racial reconciliation and authentic diversity? Are whole congregations willing to move toward intercultural life? And how would this cross-cultural life be authentic not just visible in the community?
Such a shift requires an ongoing commitment to diversity in worship and understanding that other people’s experience and response to Spirit in worship may be different and uncomfortable. Congregations must be willing to discuss openly the pain of racism that persists in America. There must be acknowledgment that the ever-changing nature of the church, relationships and contexts; calls for real engagement and mutuality; and pays attention to narratives of large and small similarities and differences (Branson & Martinez, 2011), and ultimately takes action steps to bridge the divide, which will prayerful propel us to authentic community.
If intercultural life is to be authentic whether apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher each must perform responsibilities in such a way that the congregation understands these implications and benefits. As a congregation, people of faith must hear and validate the narratives of every individual’s ethnic heritage and those of the surrounding cultures in our community to understand better our identity and our responsibility in the world (Branson & Martinez, 2011).
While leading the migration toward social reconciliation across cultural barriers the focus is not solely on demographic data but encompasses discerning and moving toward unique ways of unity and diversity. Congregations should look at the diversity that exists, while not evident at first glance. Cultural diversity within a community of faith can first be found within the unique heritage of those that gather together. Many Anglo-congregations have members, regular attendees, and casual seekers from Europe, Asia, South American, Africa, and the Caribbean. However, these influences play silently in the background to a Euro/Caucasian American experience. The challenge that we face and are working overcome is to allow these influences to be a visible part of our experiences together.
While there is no clear map toward goals of intercultural life, attitudes and convictions must continue drive the congregation toward completing the work necessary to understand our uniqueness, celebrate our diversity and stay the course toward becoming a multiethnic church, allowing our various ethnic and cultural backgrounds come together to form an authentic congregation (Branson & Martinez, 2011).
Branson, M. L., & Martinez, J. F. (2011). Churches Cultures & Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.