God is the one who established diversity. Galatians 3:28 reminds us that “…there is no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female, no slave nor free. We are all one in Christ Jesus.” According to James Breckenridge and Lillian Breckenridge, “In the quest to recognize and to appreciate diversity of ethnic groups, care must be taken to avoid ethnic labeling and stereotyping.”1
But what are the demands of the Kingdom of God in relation to ethnic diversity? The following elements are needed if we are to work together for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
1. A focus on Christ. He is our inspiration and example. He died on the cross for all our iniquities. His ministry was powerful and his compassion and love for different kinds of people was evident. In the account of the Samaritan woman, Jesus does not reject her because of her nationality; instead, he speaks with her and meets her specific need. Jesus reveals himself as Messiah and everything changes (John 4:1-26). When we focus on Christ, we can complete the task regardless of the obstacles and challenges. It is not about us, but about working together to bless people who still need to hear the message of salvation.
2. A sense of interdependent work. To work with people from other cultures requires developing a sense of community. We need each other, and what every person on the team does affects everybody else. Thus, values are important when it comes to team work. The substitute to mistrust and paternalism in the relationship between people from different cultures is not independence and self-sufficiency—it is interdependence. And interdependence “comes with a deeper understanding of unity in Christ.”2 Why are we working together? What is the main reason? These questions are essential because they help us to learn from each other.
3. Mutual submission. Jesus gave us his example by submitting himself to the will of his Father. Paul also exhorts us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Submission requires us to be humble and respect each other. This kind of submission is based upon our love for God and for each other. Unbelievers will notice when we are exercising mutual submission and accountability. This is for the benefit of the growth of the kingdom.
4. A kingdom purpose. Many of the challenges and friction that come with dealing with diverse people on our teams can be alleviated by remembering that everything we do together will advance God’s kingdom. “One of the challenges we may face is to be driven by personal interest rather than kingdom principles.”3 We are part of God’s kingdom and God has entrusted to us a marvelous commission. We can strengthen each other knowing that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
5. Flexibility. Frustration and resistance arise when team members are not willing to be flexible. This is a humbling process that allows us to grow and understand different perspectives. There needs to be a common ground that facilitates the communication and dynamics within the group. Working with Majority World missionaries requires being flexible. For instance, the sense of time is different in every culture. We cannot assume that everybody will react in the same manner we do.
My hope is that as we continue to interact with those of other ethnic backgrounds, we will increasingly see God grow his kingdom around the world.
1. Breckenridge, James and Lillian Breckenridge. 1995. What Color Is Your God? Multicultural Education in the Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: Baker Academic, 89.
2. Nissen, Johannes. 1997. “Unity and Diversity: Biblical Models for Partnership.” Mission Studies 14: 1-2: 140.
3. Cuartas, Victor H. 2009. “Implicaciones Éticas y los Desafíos de los Negocios Como Misión en los Países de Acceso Creativo.” Global Missiology in Spanish (July). Accessed 15 February 2010 under “Settings” at http://www.globalmissiology.org/espanol/.