by Byron Pellecer, Associate Conference Minister (Texas-based)
Sometimes, it seems like the more sophisticated and scientifically advanced we become, the less we believe that God is at work through demonstrations of power, love and grace, and to top it off, the more distant from each other we become.
It should be the other way around! We were created as social beings and not as human silos. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in personal spaces too, but I believe and care more deeply about human relationships. However, in order to connect, build and nurture such relationships, I am challenged to take a risk of abandoning my mono-culture confinement in order to meet those who are around me, especially people who might look and live different than my cultural and religious traditions.
Each one of us brings to the table a life journey with a unique set of gifts and experiences that are needed in our society, churches, denomination and educational institutions.
Instead of embracing such wealth of cultural expressions, our society insists on rejecting them whether emotionally, verbally or sometimes even with physical violence. This xenophobic environment has to stop. Expressing and experiencing cultural differences should not be a reason to be distant from each other. Instead, our cultural differences should be a reason to feast together.
Whether we like it or not, in our local and global contexts, cultural diversity is becoming a more common reality that, if you ask me, should be a lifestyle.
The Church is not immune to this cultural diversity/reality because the face of the Church and that of area conferences and denominations has changed and it will continue to experience change. Hence, cultural diversity should not be a class lecture or a theme for a round-table discussion only.
Perhaps church planting is a good example of the cultural diversity inclusion approach shaped by a kingdom perspective. Moreover, I think that this century and this world is in dire need of experiencing God’s love, grace, service and salvation. In the United States, we are not so different; we are all in need of God.
Some people believe that the Church as such, is in decline. Since the Church, as a sign of the kingdom, is a divine project, I believe the Church can be revitalized in so many ways. I believe that evangelism and church planting, which are spirit-filled, peacemaking, Gospel-driven and Christ-centric, play a big role as a starting point in this invigorating endeavor.
I still believe that people are longing to experience God in fresh ways. This was true when Jesus spoke, shared and taught about the kingdom of God. It was true too when the first Christian community was formed and began to share the gospel with their respective communities. It is true today. The gospel of Jesus is for everyone, if we, as churches and as individuals, still believe that Jesus is the way. Because God is mission, the church has a mission …God’s mission, that is.
Now, if Jesus matters to us, then we should consider sharing Jesus with as many people as possible in whatever way available. Scripture vividly attests that God has been in mission since humanity departed from his presence, will and purpose.
Therefore, evangelism and church planting is a risky business. It makes us rethink our commitment to the great commission in its totality. To be committed to the great commission is to be committed to the kingdom of God. It is through, evangelism and church planting, just to name a couple of ways that we respond to God’s calling and commission, to go out and make disciples.