Building a multi-cultural church

Linda Geevanathan shared this as a seminar at Unreached21. You can watch the full talk here or listen to it here.

Building a multi-cultural church

We want to be people and churches that reach the unreached and to be honest, generally, we no longer need to go abroad to find unreached people groups.  If we desire reaching the unreached then we must start where we are.  

How good are you at building with people from different backgrounds in your local church?  When my family became Christians back in the mid 90’s in Australia it was a huge culture shock and shift.  We went from being at the heart of the Sri Lankan community to joining a local church of around 200 people, where we were one of two ethnic minority families.  Over the two years we attended that church, we did not receive one invitation for a meal, a cup of tea or anything.  Despite going weekly to church and youth group our relationships never went beyond meetings.  

Perhaps the onus was on my family, but as the ones stepping into unknown territory there were so many barriers for us to overcome to know how to build well and deep with people who were so culturally different from us.  The question is are we ready to reach the unreached on our doorstep if we can’t build more than superficially with those from a different culture to ours within the church?

There are many reasons why we may choose not to build cross-culturally.  As we are generally different from one another; it’s not always comfortable, it is not convenient, fear of the unknown can stop us and in some cases, we may not have the opportunity to.  However, there is a calling, on us the church, to build cross- culturally, which may be costly but is enriching.  Building friendships across cultures, be it ethnic or social is part of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth.

So although there are many barriers to building cross-culturally there are many reasons to count the cost and be intentional about building a multi-cultural church with different people groups.  

  1. It’s biblical- God himself is three persons in one.  His intention was to create us different and diverse and we see this reaching its climax in Revelations where different people groups will worship God for all eternity (Rev 7:9-10)
  2. It is enriching and a blessing.  Listening to, learning from and experiencing things from other cultures is a blessing.  It may put us out of our comfort zones but often the experience is well worth the initial discomfort.  
  3. It’s an experience that we can learn and grow from
  4. It opens us up to different ways of doing things.

You can choose to make building cross-cultural friendships an area of adventure and joy, and an opportunity to grow in your faith.

How do we start?

1. Begin where you are. Who can you be intentional about building with in your church community? If it’s not something modelled well in your church, then you can catalyse this change.

2. Don’t presume that your experience of church is the same as others. Like my family back in Darwin, Australia, there are many who may not always find the church community a welcoming one.

3. Listen to the stories and experiences of others as well as sharing your own. This helps us to build connection and to grow in understanding

Linda Geevanathan has lived in several countries around the world including Singapore, Australia and Nigeria, but she spent the first years of her life here in Luton. She loves travelling and spending time with her family and friends. Linda is an experienced teacher who still teaches in Luton. She has served on a number of different teams both at school and within the church and brings considerable leadership gifting to Hope Church. She also brings oversight and support to various leaders in the church.