Three Benefits of Fostering a Multicultural Church
- Written by: Ben Clements
Three Benefits of Fostering a Multicultural Church
Benjamin Clements Assistant Curate Deep Creek Anglican Church
If you were to ponder three or four words that describe your church or ministry, would 'multicultural' be one of them? Christians can hold a variety of views around multicultural ministry.
Perhaps you are curious about multicultural churches but aren't sure what the benefits might be. Or perhaps you've been considering pursuing a more multicultural community in your church but aren't sure how to communicate it biblically or pragmatically with others. In this article, we will consider three benefits of fostering a multicultural church.
What is a 'multicultural' church?
Before we discuss the benefits of fostering a multicultural church, it's important to consider what 'multicultural' is. Demarcations of race and ethnicity are certainly major categories which constitute a person's culture, but so are lesser considered differences, such as generational age groups, differences in income, profession, education, and gender. While it's always beneficial to consider multicultural in the broadest sense of the term, we will give particular focus to demarcations of race and ethnicity in this article.
Book Review: Changing Lanes, Crossing Cultures
- Written by: Mark Simon
Changing Lanes, Crossing Cultures: Equipping Christians and churches for ministry in a culturally diverse society
By Andrew Schachtel, Choon-Hwa Lim and Michael K Wilson
Sydney: Great Western Press, 2016
Reviewed By Mark Simon, Lecturer In New Testament And Research Associate, Ridley College, Melbourne
Changing Lanes, Crossing Cultures is a timely and practical book for individuals and churches wishing to begin or enhance an existing cross-cultural gospel ministry within Australia. Using the analogy of good driving habits, the book seeks to outline the why, what, how, and when of reaching ethnic minorities with the gospel. The book is structured in 6 modules which are designed for study by a church leadership group such as a parish council, or a local missions task-group. The modules are (in turn):
- The biblical motivation for ministry across cultures; ‘the why’
- Ministry in an ethnically diverse society; ‘the why’
- Dealing with hindrances to ministry across cultures; ‘the what’
- Increasing your cultural intelligence and skills; ‘the how’
- The importance of leadership and management for ministry across cultures; ‘the how’ and
- Where to from here? ‘the how and when.’
Module 1 covers some of the same territory broached in Ben Clements’ article in this volume of Essentials; that is, biblical and pragmatic motivations for cross-cultural ministry.
Module 2 details the increasingly multi-ethnic nature of Australian society: over a quarter of Australia’s population come from approximately 200 different overseas countries. It elaborates how different immigrants might express their ethnicity from isolation to assimilation.
For me, modules 3 and 4 were the most practical, since they equipped me as a church leader to tackle the default ethnocentrism of my own church. Simply naming the illegitimate hindrances to ministry to ethnically-diverse communities is liberating. The book identifies the following ones: no burden for the lost; over-dependence on social factors and feeling comfortable within one’s own people group; ethnic difference; ethnocentrism and racism; painful history; lack of gospel-driven leadership; preserving church culture; confusion of gospel and culture; cultural barriers; cultural distance; lack of community; spiritual opposition. Having identified these illegitimate barriers, the book encourages us with a reflection on Peter’s cross-cultural awakening in Acts 10, and then tabulating possible solutions for each one (pages 82-86). The book is worth its price for these pages alone!
Module 4 continues by dealing with the nuts and bolts of improving cultural intelligence. It introduces six lenses through which cultural difference can be understood. This chapter also encourages all Christians to take the time to observe, listen, and learn from the ethnic groups around us. Lastly, it points out that practising hospitality is a sure-fire way to develop relationships with minority ethnic contacts, and to grow in cultural intelligence.
Modules 5 and 6 round out the book with material on the cultural dimensions of leadership, and some ways of planning to launch or enhance ministries to ethnic minorities in our own communities. Most Australian churches now periodically engage in some form of mission action planning or strategic planning for ministry. Incorporating study of this book in the next round of your church’s planning cycle would help to ensure you are not neglecting this burgeoning harvest field so close at hand to many of our churches today.
Book Review: God of All things
- Written by: Stephen Hale
God of All things: Rediscovering the sacred in an everyday worldBy Andrew Wilson - Teaching Pastor at Kings Church London and Author
Reviewed By Stephen Hale, Chair EFAC Global and Australia
God of All things is a wonderful book and I commend it to you. Wilson seeks to explore the reality that our world is full of things. Each of those things point to the creator who put it all together. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ Psalm 24.1
The book comprises a short introduction and conclusion and in between 30 short chapters split between the Old and New Testaments. Each chapter looks at one thing – dust, earthquakes, pigs, livestock, tools, horns, sex, salt, rain, trumpets, viruses etc etc.
It is a fascinating book. Each of the short chapters talks about the object/thing and captures how they are referenced in Scripture and also how they are described in contemporary science. Along the way there are lots of wonderful insights. As Wilson says, they may well lift one’s sight to reflect on the place of each of these objects in our world and what they point us to. He makes links like these:
- Dust: the image of God
- Horns: the salvation of God
- Donkeys: the peace of God
- Water: the life of God
- Viruses: the problem of God
- Cities: the kingdom of God
We live at a time when many people have given up on God and believe that science has all the answers. The fascinating and awe-inspiring wonders of the created world are inspiring in themselves, not because of what they point to. My wife teaches both Christian studies and science in an Anglican school and says that most of her students are essentially materialists, even if they have never heard of the term.
I chose to read the book as a chapter each day, given that most of the 30 chapters are around 5 or 6 pages. I found the book to be genuinely inspiring as well as fresh and interesting. Each chapter contained surprising revelations from either creation or Scripture. In Romans 1 Paul says that creation reveals God’s invisible power and divine nature. C S Lewis talks about following sunbeams back to the sun so that we enjoy not just the object of goodness but the source of the good. As Wilson says, ‘Creation preaches to us. The things of God reveal the God of things.’ (page 3).
I really enjoyed God of All things and found it refreshing and original. I’ve given it to a few people who also loved it.
Bible Study - Psalm 96
- Written by: Len Firth
In the summer, after the Christmas season, I have noted that many churches turn to preach from the Psalms. A number of factors may influence this choice. Psalms are often seen as stand-alone units, so useful in a season when members may be coming and going, away from church for reasons of rest and recreation or mission and ministry. CMS Summer Schools, SU Beach Missions and the like are some excellent reasons why people may not be on church on a particular Sunday. This can make preaching problematic, if each seeks to build on and connect with those which have gone before. Preaching a series of psalms may avoid this. Visiting or occasional preachers may more readily accept an invitation if they have a Psalm sermon or two in their preaching kitbag. However one problem with this approach is that the psalms are removed from their canonical context. This serves to denature important developmental themes, such as the interplay between lament and trust. See for example the placement of Psalm 23 affirming the Lord as protector provider, immediately following Psalm 22’s lament ‘My God, my God why have you abandoned me?’ It also ignores the arrangement of the Psalter into five books. So I want to consider Psalm 96 first of all in its canonical context.
Psalm 96 is one of a group of “the Lord reigns” or “Kingship of Yahweh” psalms which occur early in Book IV of the Psalter. These have been seen by some scholars as enthronement psalms. The evidence for this as a psalm category is not strong, but most of this particular psalm is used (reused?) in 1 Chronicles 16 to accompany the celebration of the ark being taken into Jerusalem. Kidner observed, ‘The symbolism of the march, in which God crowned his victories by planting his throne in the enemy’s former citadel, is matched by the theme of the psalm.’ (Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 16, TOTC (Downers Grove: IVP, 1975), 379.)
Another characteristic of the psalm in its canonical context is the more universal view, beyond the community of God’s OT people, Israel and Judah. This psalm belongs with a group (92-101) which explicitly refer to singing and call on people(s) to worship the Lord (Yhwh).
It can aid our interpretation to also consider this psalm from the perspective of its use in the worship of God’s people, both from its use before and after the coming of Jesus the Christ. Often Psalms used liturgically can be read antiphonally, and if we consider the first three verses, the psalm reads like a conversation of mutual encouragement. Paul seems to have something like this in mind when he urges Christians to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19). The first part of these Psalm verse, has a comparable and developing response in the second half.
- Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
- Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
- Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous deeds among all peoples.
The verses begin with a series of imperatives, and urging to sing and worship the Lord (Yhwh). Note the thrice repeated Yhwh, the specific Name of the revealed God of Israel. There is a development in the verses. God’s people are not just urging each other on in song and words of worship and praise, but further into proclamation and declaration among the nations and all peoples (Christians could use the language of evangelism and mission). This wider view was actually implicitly present in verse 1 where all the earth was called to sing to the Lord.
The next three verses give reasons for singing, worship and declaration. The Lord is great, worthy, and to be feared in contrast to all other rival ‘gods’. It is the Lord who is creator of the heavens. Use of the heavens may help users of this psalm to see the wider scope of God as Lord of all who are under the heavens. He also created the land but this would possibly narrow our view, a more human and particular perspective.
Verse seven begins to call on all the families of nations to join in this great corporate recognition of the Lord’s glory and strength. The vision is of all peoples flowing to the Lord’s sanctuary (temple?), bringing offerings in worship and recognition of God’s glory and holiness.
Who is being addressed in verse 10 is open to interpretation. Is it God’s people, or the nations / all the earth? I lean to thinking this psalm is calling on all peoples to be affirming to one another that the Lord is reigning. The rationale for the call is the solidity of the created world and God’s equitable judgment of the peoples. These are reasons which apply more broadly than with Israel and Judah of the OT or the church of the NT era and beyond until the Lord’s return. It is verse 10 which unites this psalm with others nearby as a “Lord reigns” psalm.
The final verses of the psalm are a continuing call to worship, but now the call goes out beyond all humanity. Every aspect of creation: heavens, earth, sea, fields and all living things they contain, the trees of the bush are called to worship, in fact ‘Let all creation rejoice before the Lord.’ God coming as judge is the reason appended to this final call to worship the Lord.
As Christians we read this psalm through the lens of Christ and his coming. It is the salvation brought by Jesus’ death and resurrection, which we proclaim and which is our reason for worship and gospel proclamation. Jesus’ return, his coming as Lord and righteous judge, is our ultimate perspective. When we use this psalm, we should call on one another, the whole world, and indeed all peoples, to acknowledge the one true God and saviour. We are called to worship this God and to declare his greatness and glory in mission. This call and the mission of God’s people goes beyond our own local gathering and looks to all that God has made resounding in the worship and celebration of God.
Len Firth is Lecturer in Professional Supervision for Ridley College; Pastoral Supervisor and Ministry Coach; Associate Minister St John’s West Brunswick. Former Archdeacon for Multi-cultural Ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.
Interview with Ben Wong
- Written by: Mark Simon
Interview with Ben Wong - Chinese Ministry Coordinator in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Mark Simon speaks with Rev. Canon. Ben Lui Wong, Chinese Ministry Coordinator, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, and Senior Minister, St. Timothy’s Bulleen and St Mark’s Templestowe Anglican Churches.
Mark: How did you become a Christian?
Ben: I was born in China, grew up in Hong Kong, then came to Melbourne for study. It was here I met Ivy, who later became my wife. She was a Christian, and in the early years of marriage, I just dropped her off at church but never went in. One day a woman specifically came to me and invited me in. During that first service I attended, a very strong voice came to my mind saying, ‘you will be like that person on the stage speaking to others.’ The minister encouraged me to get to know Jesus before taking steps to become a preacher! So I joined a course, and came to put my faith in Jesus, and 8 or 9 years later, I did become ‘that person’ proclaiming the gospel to others.
Mark: Have you always had a cross-cultural ministry, or did you grow into it?
Ben: When I first graduated from Bible College, I thought I would primarily use Cantonese and Mandarin, and reach native speakers of those languages in Melbourne. But when I became a Youth Minister in the Chinese congregation I needed to relate to Australian-born Chinese kids, who were using English as much as Chinese. So my vision widened. Now I am the minister of a multi-site church with English, Cantonese, and Mandarin services. If God had shown me that too early, I might have run away from it.
Mark: Do you think Chinese or other immigrants in Australia are more open to the gospel at the moment than Anglo-Australians? Why might that be?
Editorial - Autumn 2022
- Written by: Mark Simon
Essentials - Autumn 2022
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
Essentials Summer2021 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Spring 2021 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Winter 2021 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Summer 2020 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Spring 2020 pdf (1MB)
Essentials Winter 2020 pdf (1MB)
Essentials Autumn 2020 pdf (4MB)
Essentials Summer 2019 pdf (8MB)
Essentials Spring 2019 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Winter 2019 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Autumn 2019 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Summer 2018 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Spring 2018 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Winter 2018 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Autumn 2018 pdf (5MB)