What’s the most challenging aspect of being in community with other believers?
We’re all wrestling with a dual identity—of being in Christ and yet still prone to sin. This means we have high expectations but still let each other down. I was once the pastor of a predominately white church in a multicultural area, and we worked hard to make our church diverse. However, some members of the congregation took me aside to say they liked their church as it had been before. I was frustrated because they didn’t grasp what the community of God is about—that His intention is for every tribe, nation, and tongue to gather together around the throne. But even as I got frustrated, I recognized there are things God is working on in me, things I haven’t fully come to terms with. The same is true for all of us. That’s why I have to have patience with others who are “behind” me in certain areas—and perhaps “ahead” of me in others.
—Dr. Krish Kandiah, founding director of Home for Good and author of Faitheism: Why Christians and Atheists Have More in Common Than You Think
When I moved to Duluth, Georgia, in 2010 I discovered my new city is one of the most diverse in America. My neighbors are from Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, China, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. Yet, none of those people groups were present in my congregation. It meant we had to “do church” differently than ever before.
Nine years later, our church has members from 46 different countries. However, crossing cultural barriers is not without challenges. That is why we have begun CROSS classes—cross-cultural, cross-generational meetings at the foot of the cross. These groups are not intended to impart information, but rather to give a genuine forum for open dialogue and learning how to walk and worship together. Creating community is messy but worth the effort.
—Mark Hearn, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Duluth and author of Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry
Paul describes Christian community as a body with many different, interdependent members. When one part is honored, the whole body rejoices. When one suffers, all suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). This is challenging both because we’re averse to suffering and because—particularly in an individualistic culture divided along racial and socioeconomic lines—many Christians are simply not in relationship with those who are suffering. We lack relational proximity.
To intentionally go to places we do not normally go—other countries, parts of our cities, churches worshipping in other languages—and to really know believers in circumstances different than our own is awkward and risky. Not only is that where we can practice compassion (literally, suffering with); it’s also where we rejoice with and learn from the diverse community that is Christ’s body.
—Matthew Soerens, U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief, National Coordinator for Evangelical Immigration Table, and author of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis
I used to think a kind of beauty existed in homogeneity—in the people around me thinking and believing and even looking similar to me. But like a snake that sheds its skin, I slough off layers of archaic belief, one day at a time. Even as my journey is one of seeing and celebrating diversity in the world around me, it’s also a journey of laying down my power and using my privilege to elevate the voices of those I’ve silenced in the past. I’ll admit sometimes this is easier said than done. Because sometimes I wish not for those worn and dusty beliefs to return, but for everyone in my community to see, celebrate, and lay down their power, too. As such, the most challenging aspect of community remains the same: We’re not all on the same page—yet.
—Cara Meredith, speaker and author of The Color of Life: A Journey Toward Love and Racial Justice
Illustration by MUTI