Every Tribe, Nation and Language: Growing Multi-ethnic Churches (Press Release)

A day conference for church leaders of all Christian traditions who are seeking to integrate people from different ethnic backgrounds into the life and mission of their church.

 

Key note speakers will offer British and African perspectives about the challenge of growing multi-ethnic churches in the context of contemporary British society. Steve Hollinghurst will explore the impact on Christian mission of secularism, individualism and consumerism. Harvey Kwiyani will share insights as an African missionary and theologian who has lived in the West for many years. There will be opportunity to reflect in groups on the questions they raise. We will ask whether ethnically diverse congregations are counter-cultural?

 

After lunch Tani Omideyi will share his experience of growing a multi-ethnic church in the Anfield area of Liverpool and Gale Richards will help us respond together in a conversation with key note speakers about questions raised during group discussion.

 

This unique collaboration between Birmingham Churches Together, Queens Foundation and the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World will attract delegates from across the Christian traditions of Pentecostal, Anglican, Free Church and Catholic Churches.

 

The Conference organisers are excited by the prospect of a diverse group of Christian leaders gathering from across the midlands (and beyond) to explore together the challenge of growing multi-ethnic fellowships and sharing the Christian Gospel across ethnic and cultural boundaries. They hope the day will bring about new relationships between churches as partners in God’s mission.

To register and book your place follow this link Queen’s Foundation

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Tani Omideyi becomes first ethnic minority chair of Alliance board (Press Release)

(First released by the Evangelical Alliance on 22nd of March)

Dr Tani Omideyi has become the first ethnic minority chair of the Evangelical Alliance board, succeeding Rev Mike Talbot.

Tani and his wife Modupe started a house group in Liverpool in 1980, having moved there from Nigeria the year before. The house group was the foundation on which they formed Love & Joy Ministries Association of Charities, which includes Temple of Praise congregations.

He is also a director of Together for the Harvest – an Evangelical Alliance local evangelical fellowship (LEF) made up of evangelical churches in the Merseyside region. Tani is also ecumenical canon at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

Tani has become more involved with the work of the Evangelical Alliance over the years, having been a member of the Council since 2008 and then joined the board in September 2014 and being part of the Alliance’s One People Commission – a body of key national church leaders from across ethnic minorities.

“There are so many things I love about the Alliance,” Tani said. “Its strong drive for unity among evangelicals and the extent of the Alliance’s advocacy work is impressive. It’s remarkable that the Alliance has been able to retain its relevance and value for 170 years.”

Tani will bring to the role more than 30 years of overseeing congregations that include Africans, Europeans and Asians not only in the UK, but in other nations.

“I see this very much as a God appointment. As the first non-white person to take on the role, there will be perspectives I hope to bring to carrying out this awesome task. I’m also looking forward to working more closely with general director Steve Clifford, for whom I have the greatest respect. His leadership of the Alliance has been inspirational and mould-breaking.”

Speaking about the OPC, Tani added: “It’s been my dream for many years to be part of a national Church that is not referenced by the skin colour of those that worship in it, but rather by their love for Jesus Christ, our saviour. Thanks to the Alliance, it is fast becoming a reality. In the OPC, you see just that. I see it as a vision of what churches all over the UK will look like in the next 10-20 years.”

Rev Mike Talbot ended his tenure as chair of the Alliance board this month after eight years in post. With almost 30 years of ministry experience, he was the vicar of Emmanuel Church in Northwood for 14 years until his recent appointment as God for All evangelism enabler for the Diocese of Carlisle.

Speaking about his time as the Alliance board chair, Mike said: “It has been a privilege to serve as chair of the Board over the last eight years, and to see how God has been using the Alliance to strengthen and encourage the witness and impact of the Church across our nations. As I step back, with deep gratitude to God and to the team at the Alliance for all they are doing, I am delighted to hand on the chair to Tani, who is a wise, godly, experienced church leader, and well-placed to ensure that the work continues to flourish even more fruitfully in the years that lie ahead.

Alliance general director Steve Clifford said: “Mike Talbot has been an amazing gift to the Evangelical Alliance: a strong and committed chair of board, as well as a personal friend and wise counsellor. After several years in the role, we will be sad to see him go, but we are convinced God has put Tani in position for such a time as this.

“The face of the UK Church is changing, as we become an increasingly multicultural society, and at the Alliance we are passionate about reflecting that diversity in all its vibrancy. As well as Tani bringing a different cultural perspective, he also brings with him 30 years of experience in church and charity leadership. He symbolises a commitment to unity for mission and a passion for seeing local areas flourish. He’s absolutely the right person for the job and I’m looking forward to working with him more closely.”

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

First released on the 22nd of March by the Evangelical Alliance website

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. Dr Tani Omideyi and Steve Clifford are available for interview.
  2. The Board is the group of trustees of the Evangelical Alliance and is made up of up to 25 members of the Council, appointed at the Annual General Meeting. The Board meets five times a year to discuss the vision and direction of the Alliance and ensure that the affairs of the Alliance are conducted properly.

Biography: Tani Omideyi

Tani was born in Lagos Nigeria, came to the UK in 1979 to study Chemical Engineering at Aston University in Birmingham and later obtained a doctorate at the University of Salford.  He and his wife Modupe started a house group in Liverpool in 1980, the foundation of what is now Love & Joy Ministries Association of Charities which includes Temple of Praise congregations, Liverpool Lighthouse Ltd, Harmonize Academy, an AP Free School and Bright Park, a 5-acre wooded land currently being redeveloped as a valuable community resource.   LJM’s work now extends to other UK cities, Uganda, Gambia, Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan and Myanmar where it supports churches and ministries.

As chair of Trustees and Senior Pastor for Temple of Praise congregations, he works closely with his wife Modupe who acts as Rector and CEO for the Association and Chair of Governors for the school.  The Association’s transformational work through Liverpool Lighthouse regularly engages with thousands of vulnerable people every year, providing housing, education, training and jobs and improving health, all these contributing to improving community cohesion, safety and wellbeing of communities.

Coming from a musical Christian family, Tani’s passion invariably includes music.  He has written or co-written over 150 worship and gospel songs, a number of which have been performed by his choir on BBC and other national radio and TV networks.  He is an adviser to GMIA (the Gospel Music Industry Alliance).

Tani is a director of Together for the Harvest, a local network of Evangelical churches in the Merseyside region, and represents the region on the national council of the Evangelical Alliance for England & Wales, currently serving on its ‘One People Commission’.  He was invited to join the EA board as a director in September 2014 and becomes the chair from March 2016.  He is currently an Ecumenical Canon of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts (RSA) in recognition of the community transformational work he has pioneered in Anfield, Liverpool.

Tani and Modupe have three beautiful daughters of their own, other children and a grandson.

The Evangelical Alliance

We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we’re not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.

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Child of Gabriel – Press release (Black BAFTA winner celebrates diversity )

Thirteen-year-old Kenya’s life is about to change for ever.
She is a guardian of an amulet whose fate determines the future of her planet.
Can Kenya and her friend find the amulet pieces and save their planet?

With the all-white Oscar nominations highlighting the lack of ethnic diversity in the entertainment industry, black BAFTA winner Anne Maria Raithatha is releasing a book to tackle the issue. Child of Gabriel: The Battle for the Lost Amulet is a fantasy book for children featuring black and Asian protagonists, which aims to build confidence in those whom culture often overlooks.
As a black woman of Caribbean heritage who has won entertainment industry awards and now teaches at a top preparatory school in North London, Anne Maria is perfectly placed to inspire children from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds to pursue and achieve success.
Anne Maria won her BAFTA, RTS and Broadcasting awards for the My Life as a Popat series that brought the lives of ethnic minority families to centre stage of British TV. Being married to an Asian she is particularly aware of the challenges and benefits diversity can bring.
Set in Harrow, one of the most ethnically diverse areas of London, the main character, a neglected 13-tear-old black child called Kenya, gradually learns to overcome hurdles and discover her own self-worth.
She lives with her cantankerous mother and grumpy stepfather in a London suburb. Ignored by her peers and unloved by her family Kenya is unaware of the incredible destiny that awaits her. As a result of the disappearance of her father she discovers that, as a Child of Gabriel, she is one of the guardians of a powerful amulet piece. This piece is one of many scattered throughout time.
The pieces had become dispersed when the world was young and a mighty conflict had raged between Kenya’s people, the peace-loving land-dwellers, and terrifying beasts of the underworld. The land-dweller guardians had ended the war by shattering a magic amulet that could give the beasts power to rule. However, in this first of a series, the long-forgotten underworld has grown in strength. It seeks to reunite the amulet’s shattered shards and conquer the world.
Kenya’s life is turned upside down as she embarks on a quest, with fellow guardian- Amit, to find the other amulet pieces before the dark forces from the underworld find them first. As her story progresses she learns to step out from the shadows and become a true heroine; and this growth in character continues in the sequel: Child of Gabriel: -The Return of the Nephanaks.
Anne Maria, who returned to teaching with the desire not just to encourage pupils academically but to help students on the periphery realise their potential, says: ‘The two main characters are black and Asian. I wanted to write books that reflect the diverse ethnicities in this nation. I hope this book will help to inspire more children from various ethnic backgrounds to read and write profusely in all genres’.

About the author:
Anne Maria Raithatha is a mathematics and science teacher at St. Martin’s School in Northwood .
Anne Maria co-wrote British Born Asian and Proud, which won an Edinburgh Fringe First in 2000 and then the children’s TV series My Life as a Popat, which won a BAFTA in 2005 and RTS and Broadcast awards in 2008.
She is also a speaker at children’s and adults’ events.
Anne Maria lives in North London, is married and has two children.
http://www.childofgabriel.com
For review copies and media enquiries contact Manoj: info@instantapostle.com
Tel: 07932 463 591

Child of Gabriel (ISBN: 978-1-909728-36-3) by Anne Maria Raithatha is published by Instant Apostle and is available on 24 March 2016 from bookshops and on-line retailers. Fiction, paperback, 160pp, £6.99.
NOTES FOR EDITORS: St. Martin’s School achieved outstanding results this year. From a cohort of 36 boys 24 scholarships were achieved with the majority being offered places at top independent schools Merchant Taylors’ and Haberdashers’ Aske’s.

To buy this book follow this link Child of Gabriel

 

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Pastor’s Brunch 2015

At the end of 2015, CMMW gathered together 15 pastors and leaders originating from 10 different countries as diverse as South Korea, Peru, Jamaica, Ethiopia and India. All now find themselves living as missionaries in the UK today, some having left their countries of birth with the express purpose of serving God here, while others have found themselves here through various circumstances, including fleeing their countries or coming to study, and it was while they were here that they sensed that God was calling them as missionaries to this place.
The purpose of the CMMW Brunch event was to encourage these pastors and missionaries, providing space to share their stories and discuss together the realities of mission in the UK today.
Girma Bishaw, pastor of the Ethiopian Christian Fellowship in Kings Cross, kindly hosted the event, and opened the event by posing a question to the leaders from the Biblical story of Elijah, a man who asked “why are you here?” That same question can be asked of us today – why are we in Britain? Girma believes it is because of the great agenda of God on our lives, to bless this country. There are people of every nation living in the UK, and the question he encouraged us to ask ourselves is: “Am I making an influence?”
Peter Oyugi, one of the CMMW team, and originally from Kenya, shared the vision of the Centre, which aims to be a hub stimulating networking and partnership. Their main aims are:
1. To encourage and equip those who have come to minister in the UK to continue to live out the gospel here
2. To help the UK, as the host nation, to understand those who are coming (this is needed as we often live out aspects of our Christian faith differently to each other)
3. To provide a forum for publications/writing by those from the majority world who are ministering in the UK, and inspire thinking and a change of attitude in scholarship, as the knowledge and experience of those from the majority world is shared and heard
4. Help equip those coming to minister in the UK to identify good places to do so and to plant churches
Israel Olofinjana, another CMMW team member, from Nigeria, reflected from the book of Esther: we have found ourselves here “for such a time as this”, with God using Christians from the majority world at this time to give birth to a missionary movement of people to the West. Each pastor at the event was given time to share their own story, and describe how God is at work through their ministry in the UK.
The keynote talk, Models of Mission in a Globalised World, was given by Dr Samuel Cueva, and based on his PhD. Samuel is from Peru and pastor of Iglesia Misionera Evangelica, a Spanish-speaking Latin American church in London. He reflected on the various models of mission, describing the new ‘Emergent Model’ which is emerging. This model sees missionaries, often from the global south, coming with little support, and under the influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit rather than coming from a position of power and influence. The model is also often less bureaucratic, more flexible and more relational, with its missionaries having a strong spirituality and confidence in God. However, the individuals often have weak financial support and lack proper training in cross-cultural mission.
Samuel described how God is bringing migrants from the South to the North, mobilising a new mission force. Most are not sent by mission agencies, so when we ask then “who sent you?” they often answer “the Holy Spirit”, and wonder why you are asking such a question!
Sometimes these emergent missionaries come to reach out to people of their own ethnicity in the host nation, and can find problems in reaching out to other groups. Samuel argues that while ministering to those from your own ethnicity is valid, missionaries also need to be open to the culture in which they find themselves, looking out into the wider community rather than being closed or insular. There is also a need to model unity with the Christian community in the host nation.
Dr Samuel Cueva’s book Mission Partnership in Creative Tension is available to purchase online.
If you would like the CMMW team to host an event in your area, contact us via our web page.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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PARTNERSHIP IN MISSION – PRESS RELEASE

Partnership in Mission Book Cover

What does the future of the UK church look like?

What is the black majority church and how does it feature in the bigger picture?

How is it partnering in mission with the wider UK church?

What dynamic is created by the presence of black majority churches?
_____________________________________________________________________

Want to know what the future of the UK church looks like? Put simply, it looks multi-ethnic.

Church growth in the UK is argued by some commentators to be dominated by the myriad of black majority churches (BMC) which continue to spring up in this country. These churches have played and continue to play a significant role in the history of the British church, encompassing a wide range of theologies, structures, missiologies, cultures and ethnicities.

Yet many in the wider church are unfamiliar with BMC and while some might welcome the energy and creativity they bring others might equally take the view that they can be divisive.

Of chief importance is the question of unity and what impact BMC are having in the area of ecumenism, vitally, how they will partner in mission with the wider UK church.

Written from a black Majority Church perspective the primary purpose of this book is to look at the intercultural ecumenism emerging between BMC and historic Churches. Israel Olofinjana explores how Black Majority Churches at national, regional and local level are working together in unity and partnership with non-African Christians in the historic and mainstream churches in Britain.
In doing this he asks ‘What is the BMC? How heterogeneous is the movement? What opportunities are there for partnership with the wider church?’

He covers the history and diversity of BMC in London and their development from being migrant sanctuaries to undergoing a theological shift that is enabling them to engage in holistic mission. Readers are invited to jointly experience the riches of multicultural Christian expressions in faith and practice.

Dr Kate Coleman, founder of next Leadership, says: ‘Israel’s latest offering goes the extra mile, beyond documentation, by proposing insightful and pragmatic ways that UK Christians can further express the prophetic nature of what must inevitably be increasingly creative and diverse expressions of mission and ministry in the unfolding history of the United Kingdom’.

This book challenges us to rethink our understanding of mission in light of Britain’s fast-changing social landscape. How can Black Majority Churches and other churches partner to effect structural and institutional change in our culturally and ethnically diverse society?

What reviewers think:

‘The rise of the BMC, their spread and growth, life and vitality, is the great untold story of British Christianity in the last three decades, and is vital to understanding the current and future shape of the church. In this book, Rev Olofinjana proves himself again one of the most capable and lucid interpreters of the BMC scene. Here he turns to ecumenical relationships, particularly to the good things that have happened between BMC and historic churches over the years.’
Dr Stephen Holmes, Senior Lecturer in Theology, St Andrews University

‘This book is thoroughly researched and excellently and factually presented. I pray that the content of this book will further remind its readers about Christ’s prayer for the unity of His church and help us to accept and embrace one another in love.’
Father Olu Abiola, General Superintendent of Aladura International Church
and President of Council of African and Afro-Caribbean Churches UK

‘Israel’s claim that “It will now be impossible to write the history of the church in Britain without proper reference to Black Majority Churches” is both true and important.
Dr Lucy Peppiatt, Principal, Westminster Theological Centre

‘Contributions to world Christianity by Christians in and from Africa have been immense. These contributions benefit all Christians, no matter where they live. I warmly recommend this book to all concerned readers and practitioners.’
Reverend Professor Daniel Jeyaraj, Professor, World Christianity & Director
of Andrew Walls Centre for the Study of African and Asian Christianity,
Liverpool Hope University

‘Not many people have been able to explore and articulate the distinctiveness and peculiarity of Black Majority and ethnic churches as Israel has clearly done in his book. The book can help leaders who are dreaming of integration and how to get along with people, churches and para-churches that are vastly different from them.
Rev Yemi Adedeji, Director, One People Commission, Evangelical Alliance

‘Israel’s presentations then and his book now display a wide knowledge of the history of BMC, a keen awareness of where they are and what they are doing today, a good discernment of the issues they face and a challenging assessment of what those of us in the long-established churches could do.’
John Richardson, former Ecumenical Officer, Churches Together in South London

About the author

Israel Oluwole Olofinjana is the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a Black Majority multicultural, multi-ethnic intergenerational church in south east London, and director of Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World. He has authored several books on the subject of reverse mission.

For review copies and media enquiries contact Manoj:info@instantapostle.com 07932 463 591
Partnership In Mission (ISBN 978-1-909728-35-6) by Israel Oluwole Olofinjana is published by Instant Apostle and is available from Lion Hudson c/o Marston and eden.co.uk

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Unity in Diversity (Racial Justice Sunday)

Unity in diversity by Lucy Olofinjana

Living in London, we see such rich ethnic diversity around us every day. And being part of a multicultural church such as my church Woolwich Central Baptist, I think we experience something of the taste of heaven that was mentioned there – as God’s people come together as one people to worship him.
In one sense it is a shame that we need to have a Racial Justice Sunday in the national church calendar. But part of the reason it exists is because of the sad reality that the Church has itself been guilty of the sin of racism and prejudice. God’s people have not always come together as one, or treated each other as equal, and indeed still now in many ways we fall short of the unity which God intended for his people, and which Jesus prayed for in John 17, just before he was crucified.
In the book Turning the tables on mission my husband Israel Olofinjana has compiled stories of Christians from various nations across Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean who have come to the UK as God’s missionaries to be used by him here. One of these people is Jose Carlos, a Brazilian missionary who lives and ministers with his family in Northern Ireland. For me, the saddest part of their story was not the fact that their car was burnt in an attack outside their house, but that within their local church people who should have been their brothers and sisters in Christ were so hostile and overtly racist. Jose tells the story of how, after setting up an English class, there was the need for a crèche for the children of the mothers in the class. In his own words, Jose recalls how the church volunteers ‘threatened to boycott the crèche if we kept bringing black children to their creche’ and how they locked away the children’s beakers because ‘they did not want to share the beakers with the black children, fearing contamination’.
And this didn’t occur in the 1960s or 70s, but in 2004.
When this story was read at the book’s launch, there was a palpable shock and deep sadness in the audience, and Steve Clifford, our general director at the Evangelical Alliance, led us in a time of heartfelt prayer, repenting for the sin of racism which has too often scarred the UK Church.
And in wider society we still see racism today. From the disproportionate levels of stop and search, to the way immigrants and refugees are talked about and new arrivals are often treated, to the fact that there is still no war memorial to the soldiers from the colonies who fought in the two world wars –.
I could go on.

But Racial Justice Sunday also exists in a positive sense to remind us of the equal value and respect that we are all entitled to, not because of ‘human rights law’, but firstly because we are all God’s children, one under him, and all created in his image.
And this day is a great opportunity to remind us of the Biblical call to unity in diversity – a theme which we find throughout the Bible.
We see God’s creative diversity in Genesis 1, where God created trees ‘according to their kind’ and he made the human race male and female. We see it in the 12 tribes of Israel with their various roles, and with Ruth the Moabite who married into the Jewish people and became an ancestor of Jesus.
And Jesus’ life when he was on earth communicated God’s intention that the family of faith would extend beyond Jews to all peoples on earth. We see this Jesus’ encounters with the Samaritan woman in John 4, the centurion in Matthew 8 and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15.
The Great Commission speaks of making disciples of all nations, and at the very birth of the Church at Pentecost in Acts 2 we see unity in diversity.
Here, at the birth of the church, there were people gathered from a wide range of nations, who could suddenly hear each other speaking in their own languages when the Holy Spirit came on them and united God’s people across their national divides.
In an earlier Bible story in the Old Testament – the Tower of Babel – people had been divided and spoke different languages following their human sin and pride in trying to build a tower that reached to heaven. But here in the New Testament we read how the Holy Spirit acted at Pentecost to reverse this division, showing us in a prophetic symbol that we are all now united through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
And much of Acts is about Jewish followers such as Peter coming to the realisation that God wanted Gentiles as well as Jews to be part of the Church, and working out how this unity in diversity would look in practice, for example in the distribution of food as we read in Acts 6.
So we can clearly see that the Bible is full of stories of unity in diversity.

One body
The passage that was read earlier, from 1 Corinthians chapter 12, speaks of us, the Church, God’s people, as a body, made up of many parts.
Verse 1 reads: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” And verse 27: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
The body is a fantastic image, because it is both a whole – united and complete – but yet is also made up of many different and distinct parts, from the eye to the ear, and the head to the feet.
And that’s the joy of unity – it is not about uniformity.
Real unity is not about all being the same, or thinking or doing things in the same way. But unity is about recognising the positive qualities and the value of others, and respecting and working alongside them.
It is about all being connected to each other, like a family. As verse 26 reads: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured every part rejoices with it.”
It is also about recognising that we need one another. After all – as we are reminded in this familiar Bible passage – where would the body be if it were made up only of ears, or only eyes?
So 1 Corinthians 12 gives us a great picture of the diversity that exists in God’s body, the Church, and yet the unity we are called to as God’s people – “For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Living out this unity
But unity won’t just happen – it is something we have to live out intentionally.
I don’t know about you, but as someone who goes to a multicultural church, and is married to a Nigerian, I can become complacent and assume that I’ve got it sorted, and I have no problems when it comes to unity in diversity.
But I am challenged when I ponder on certain questions:
• how often do I judge others for doing things differently from the way I do, assuming that I’ve got it right and they must have got it wrong?
• do I talk disrespectfully about styles of church which are different from mine, assuming my church has got it all right?
• outside of the Sunday morning service, do I only really hang around with people who are similar to me? (PLUs as someone described them – People Like Us)

Love
I don’t think it was a mistake that Paul, the writer of this letter, followed 1 Corinthians chapter 12, which focuses on unity in diversity, with chapter 13 which focuses on love.
1 Corinthians 13 contains the famous passage on love which is often read out at weddings, “love is patient, love is kind…” etc.
But the love Paul was talking about here is not in fact the mutual love between a couple, or between family members or friends.
The Greek word Paul used here was agape. And this speaks of sacrificial love – of choosing to love not just those who love us back and treat us well, but those who we find it hard to love, or even to like!
Commentator David Guzik describes this agape love:
“Agape is a love that loves without changing. It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting repayment. It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is love that loves even when it is rejected. Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given. It gives because it loves; it does not love in order to receive… The word has little to do with emotion; it has much to do with self-denial for the sake of another.”
Let’s translate that to us as the Church.
Love is a choice.
We choose to love and respect each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we don’t agree on everything. Because respecting each other doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other all the time – but it means we choose to listen and to speak well of each other.
We are called to love that person who sings out loud in praise when we just want it to be quiet and reflective.
We are called to love the person who we can’t understand because they never seem to show the exuberance and joy of the Lord, when we can’t stop expressing our self loudly in praise to God.
We are called to love the person who asks so many questions about God and faith, when we wonder why they can’t just trust that God knows the answers.
We are called to speak well of the church that seems to be mono-cultural, when we could only ever imagine worshipping in a multicultural community.

Pride
As 1 Corinthians 13 talks about sacrificial love, it says those familiar words: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it goes not boast, it is not proud.”
When we really take those words in, and consider if that is how we are treating our brothers and sisters in Christ, it really gives us food for thought.
I want to focus on just one of those phrases before I close – “Love is not proud”.
Because in order to truly love one another and live in unity, we cannot be constantly judging each other, or assuming that we know best.
If we’re honest, pride is probably the biggest cause of disunity among us.
Pride in our opinions and our way of doing things, which means we don’t respect others who may do things differently.
And too much pride in ourselves, meaning we take things too seriously and aren’t quick to forgive and overlook misunderstandings or unintended offences.
Because if we do make the effort to spend time and build relationships with people who are different from us and who do things differently, we are bound to get offended along the way, and we need to take this lightly.
For example, there have been a few occasions where West African members of my church have pointed out to me that I’ve put on weight recently. Now as an English lady that is probably the worst, most offensive thing you could ever say, even if it is true! And although it did hurt at the time, I had to decide not to take offence and hold a grudge, because I know they did not realise I would be hurt by what they said, and that in their culture it is not meant as an offence, and can even be a compliment!
And when my husband arrived from Nigeria, he had to get used to the reserved British way of doing things, including making appointments to go round to a friends’ house three weeks in advance rather than popping in randomly and knowing that you will be welcome any time!
Why we do it
But the joys of unity in diversity do far outweigh the sacrifices.
And without you saying anything, being unified with people of different backgrounds to you does communicate a truth to the world – that we are all one in Christ.
And in intentionally living out our unity, we are fulfilling what Jesus prayed to God the father for in John 17, just before he was arrested:
I close now with that prayer of Jesus, which is central to all we do as an Evangelical Alliance. From John 17 v 20-23:
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

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