Our world has become very diverse and is becoming more diverse as people move around more easily and quickly than in previous years. In recent years, the topic of multiculturalism and multicultural teams has become popular and many books and articles have been published.
But for Christian missions, working cross-culturally has been part of the game right from the beginning.
The story of the early church is all about crossing boundaries. The book of Acts narrates the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, fulfilling Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8.
Like ripples caused by a stone dropped into a pool of water, the witness of Jesus’ followers extends to new people groups in ever-widening geographical areas. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers this movement from beginning to end.
The first signs of the cross-cultural gospel appear on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the miracle of people from all nations hearing the Good News in their own language.
This event indicates that the gospel is not confined to any single nation or tongue. It can address all people in their own ‘heart language’, which is a foundational pillar for the church in mission.
The story of Peter and Cornelius paves the way for a mission to Gentiles (Acts 10). We see an actual example of that mission in the church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). This is the first multicultural church, where Jewish and Gentile Christians worship, and apparently, share meals together — a big issue in their cultural world!
How interesting to note that the first multicultural church was also the first missionary sending church! Under the guidance of the Spirit, they sent out Paul and Barnabas on the first ‘overseas’ mission to Gentiles as well as Jews (Acts 13:1-3).
Mission today does not remain the activity of lone Christians, but is the calling of the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.
A beautiful picture of the people of God in the end times is seen in Revelation 7:9: “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.”
God’s people are multi-ethnic, multiracial and multicultural. To reach the entire world for Jesus, Biblical diversity is required. A diverse team is better equipped to reach people in diverse contexts; it also models the gospel’s relevance for people of every culture.
Duane Elmer, author of many books on cross-cultural ministry, describes obvious benefits to multicultural teams. When God created the world, he pronounced it good. This proclamation allows us to celebrate the diversity of God’s creation in cultures.
Therefore, although there are challenges, the benefits are great.
SIM’s Faithful Witness scheme is a pioneering mission to share the good news of Jesus with those who have never heard it. The initiative seeks to place teams of multicultural and multi-skilled workers in communities across the world where there is no church and virtually no Christian witness. Find out more.