Living in America today means living in an ethnically and socially diverse nation. We are more aware than ever of the immigrants from around the world landing on American soil in search of jobs, family and freedom, still chasing the American Dream. At the same time, global travel is easier and cheaper than ever before. Now it is possible to visit far off countries and their fascinating cultures, whether for business or for pleasure. Our country, our workplaces, our vacations and even our homes are becoming cross-cultural melting pots filled with a vast array of unique sights and smells, beliefs and traditions. Being globally healthy has become part of our regular lives.
But what about your church? How culturally diverse is your body of believers? How much of your focus is placed on the world and its billions of people, all of whom are searching for love, compassion, dignity and a sense of self-worth?
Becoming a global or “missional” church will not come naturally. It won’t be easy. Bridging the gap between the cultures takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes planning. We want healthy global churches that are energized, fully functional and focused both inward and outward. Church leaders must invest the needed time to actively and intentionally lead their people in the direction God planned for and mandated us to go.
While it will not be easy, churches who want to become a healthy global church can use these three strategic steps when evaluating their “global health” and developing their own strategies for sharing God’s love and His Kingdom with all the peoples of earth today.
Make an intentional commitment to looking outward.
Focusing on the world has been God’s plan since the time of Jesus. The “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 gives clear guidelines to those wishing to heed God’s call to the nations. Starting in Jerusalem, then moving outward to Judea, Samaria and the uttermost ends of the earth, they were to take God’s Word to those who needed it most. Most of us do well at developing a strategy to reach our own Jerusalems. But what about Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth? We must create systems in our churches that make disciples who have an outward-looking orientation. Our people will have to be trained. They will need to be equipped. Their personal worldviews will have to be challenged and stretched.
Plus, this intentional commitment to looking outward will take sacrifice. What kind of sacrifice? Churches and their congregations must sacrifice their time, their comfort, their money and so much more in their attempt to globalize and build relationships with those of other countries both in our own neighborhood and abroad. Easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely.
Intentionally seek common ground.
Contrary to popular belief, simply because we are human beings living on this earth, we have so much in common with those of other cultures. Unfortunately, the differences oftentimes scream so loudly and are positioned so brightly before us that we are blinded to the ways in which we are alike. But look beyond the differences. Make an effort to learn both about and from other cultures. We have similarities in all walks of life: our family lives, our daily routines, the things that cause us pain, the things that cause us joy. A healthy global church takes the time to listen to and learn from other cultures, thereby uncovering a multitude of ways in which we are all walking the same road. As we interact with believers in other cultures, we’ll see clearly how Christ is present in those cultures, just as he is present in ours. With the love of Jesus bonding us together, we can revel in the common ground that will overshadow any of the differences that try to divide us.
Embrace the differences.
Although we want to intentionally focus on the common grounds, we can’t simply ignore the fact that our cultures are different. The differences are perhaps all that we can see when we first start looking outward. So while we are in the effort-packed trenches of building relationships and searching for common ground, healthy global churches embrace the differences that make our culture unique, seeing them as glorious creations of our Living God. We can embrace the way they talk, eat, rest and play. We can embrace the way they grieve, give and learn. A cultural consultant with whom I once worked used to say regarding cultures, “It’s not right or wrong. It’s just different.” When approaching the differences between cultures, removing a sense of morality from the traditions and beliefs can help build trust and understanding. An intentional desire to learn about the culture and all its norms and customs builds friendship and a mutual respect. Embracing the differences is the bridge that can bring us closer together.
Is your church a healthy global church? Are you taking the steps needed to heed Christ’s call to the nations? How much are you reaching out to those of other cultures, in your own neighborhood or around the world? A healthy global church has an intentional strategy to build God’s Kingdom on earth through loving His whole creation. Hopefully your church is well on its way to being a health international community of believers, both here and around the world.