There Is No Other Host But God
And We Are All Guests at God's Table
Welcome to my newsletter, “Global Witness, Globally Reimagined,” where I dream here about mission in a postcolonial world. Every week, I share one thought that has spoken to me in the week, a resource I trust will be helpful to you, and three exciting quotes about mission. I pray one of these will energise you in the coming week.
1. Thought I Can’t Shake Off
I am persuaded that the gospel comes to us with a multicultural imperative. The vitality of the worldwide Body of Christ depends on the mutual exchange between its parts (Eph. 4). All parts must receive from other parts. All parts must give some things to other parts. No part is self-sufficient. And, of course, no part belongs in the body without a gift. No member of the Body can say to another, “I do not need you” (1 Cor. 12:21). In a nutshell, there is neither first-class nor second-class members in the Body of Christ. But how does this work in practice? One way to think about this is that in Christ, God has drawn us together to the heavenly table where God alone is host and we are all guests. The table metaphor makes it possible to think about all of us bringing and sharing our authentic cultural foods in God’s presence. To taste the gifts of another part of the Body—of brothers and sisters from another part of the world—all you need to do is look around the table. This works well when we successfully curb the urge to dominate and assimilate one another into our ways of doing things but, instead, embrace diversity for what it is, a gift from God. Given the global dynamics of our segregated existence, the challenge is whether we can actually all be guests at God’s table. This needs a great deal of self-emptying for all of us, a letting-go of our power and entitlement (Phil. 2). There is no need for those at the edges to parrot what the powerful and influential among us are saying and doing in order to be accepted. An older and wiser friend of mine, a white American man, led a multicultural congregation that was a safe space for asylum seekers in St Paul, Minnesota. When I visited him, he told me, “In this church, we are all foreigners.” The key to his theological conviction was that Christ decentres us all so he can be our one and only Centre.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
This conversation which features select church leaders of Morningstar Fellowship in Canada helps us think more practically about becoming faithful witnesses to the multicultural imperative of the gospel. Here, as the contributors reflect on their church’s journey towards multiculturalism, they reveal that it all starts with the leadership first making the conscious decision to open up the congregation to reflect the multicultural reality of both its setting and of the worldwide kingdom of God. Of course, they add that becoming a multicultural church could be a “hassle” and is fraught with “all kinds of barriers, but it is the right thing to do.” They highlight that the multicultural sojourn of their church has largely been successful because they do not attempt to “suppress individual cultures” but emphasise the unity—not uniformity—in Christ. In addition, every group in the church has the space to express themselves and they understand that “there is a richness in our diversity, but that does not overpower our unity or vice versa.” This is the sort of idea that should inform our mission and churches.
3. Quotes I am Pondering
This means that mutuality in mission demands new skills and attitudes so that we touch all aspects of the lives of people, that is, the social, economic, and political dimensions, as well as the religious and cultural. — Carrol Houle
Instead of each denomination working in its own corner, there is need for joint action to promote health and healing. Since churches journey with individuals “from the womb to the tomb,” they are well placed to collaborate in promoting the wholeness of life for all. — Ezra Chitando
Part of the reason [we] struggle is because of the history between immigrant and national churches. We look at their churches and say we do not know what is happening, but they look at our churches and say the same thing about us. We need to break down the barriers, but at a deeper level than just pastor to pastor. How many immigrant Christians and church leaders do we have as personal friends? — Evert van de Poll and Joanne Appleton
I pray that you have a missionally faithful week.