Multi-ethnic Churches: A Gospel Imperative in a Post Brexit World

In the light of the EU Referendum vote that led UK citizens deciding to pull out of the European Union, there have been lots of conversations about Brexit and its implications for economics, commerce, trade and society in general. But what implications will Brexit have on the church in the UK, or to rephrase the question, how shall we do church in a post-Brexit world?

If Brexit is dividing people into us and them, migrants and British citizens, elite and uneducated, racist and accepting of others, how should the church respond and handle these differences?

In order to respond we have to comprehend God’s vision of Every Tribe, Nation and Language as articulated in Scriptures. This is why our Centre, Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World, in partnership with other churches and agencies in Bristol is putting together a conference with the theme of Every Tribe, Nation and Language: Growing Multi-ethnic Churches in Britain on Saturday 10th of June 10am-4pm.

The vision of a multicultural, multi-ethnic church is very essential to the Gospel; in essence it is a Gospel imperative that started with Creation itself and runs through the biblical narratives. The creation story is a witness to the fact that God loves and intentionally created diversity in all its beauty. The promise to Abraham that all nations will be blessed through him reveals that God’s plan in salvation history was to draw to himself people from every nation (Genesis 12: 1-3).

Paul in the New Testament expounded on this theme both in the letter to the Galatians and Ephesians. In Galatians he confirmed the acceptance of Gentiles (non-Jews) into God’s family by affirming that God’s promise to Abraham was not only meant for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.

One implication is that we are all one in Christ whether we are Jews or Greeks, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). Paul seemed to be saying that in Christ, culture, class and gender should not divide us. He pressed this message home in Ephesians 2:11-22, when he talked about how Christ’s work on the cross reconciled us back to God (vertical relationship with God), but that in addition, he pulled down the wall that divide sus as humans (horizontal relationships with our neighbours).

In the time of Paul and the other Apostles, this wall would have been the various separations that happened in Herod’s temple. There was the Holy place only for the High Priest, the court of the priest for the other priests, the court of Israel only for the Israelite men, the court of women for Israelite women and the court of the Gentiles for everyone who is not a Jew. These various separations were taken seriously, so that if a Gentile dared entered the court of Israel, it would have been at the loss of his or her life. To illustrate this, when Paul was arrested, one of the accusations against him was that he brought Greeks into the temple area (see Acts 21:27-29).

Paul’s theology of unity in diversity saw Christ’s death on the cross as putting an end to these artificial segregations, therefore uniting us together in Himself. Paul went further to say that this is why he, Paul, has been chosen by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1-7).

God demonstrated time and time again that His Gospel brings an end to whatever divides us. In Acts of the Apostles this was done through the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost, which brought Jews in Palestine as well as Jews in diaspora together.

It was the cultural diversity of the church in Jerusalem that led to one of the earliest tensions in the church, which emerged in Acts 6:1-7. The Holy Spirit also caused the disciples to scatter into Judea and Samaria, therefore bringing the Gospel to the Samaritans whom Jews would not accept as equals (Acts 8). As if that was not enough, God had to convict Peter first through a vision in order for him to accept and relate with Cornelius (a Gentile) and his household in Acts 10.

All of these Scriptures demonstrate that God, the creator of diversity, embraces cultural diversity in a way that it should bring us together rather than separate us. The implication is that whatever divides us today, such as race, culture, ethnicity, class, gender, and age, we should form one new body when we are in Christ, because it is in Christ that our identity is fully complete.

A multicultural, multi-ethnic church is one of the spaces where this diversity can be lived out in togetherness. Multicultural, multi-ethnic churches are signs of God’s kingdom on earth! How can we develop multi-ethnic churches and what are the challenges faced in these churches? These questions and more will be discussed at the conference on 10th of June. Below is the link to register for the conference:

Every Tribe, Nation and Language

 

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About israelolofinjana

Rev Israel Oluwole Olofinjana is an ordained and accredited Baptist minister and has pastored Crofton Park Baptist Church (2007-2011) and Catford Community Church (2011-2013). He is currently the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a multicultural church in south east London. He is Nigerian coming from a Pentecostal background. He holds a BA (Hons) in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and MTh from Carolina University of Theology (CUT). Israel is the editor of “Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK” and author of “Reverse in Ministry and Missions: Africans in the Dark Continent of Europe” and “20 Pentecostal Pioneers in Nigeria” He has spoken in a number of conferences regarding reverse mission and Black Majority Churches (BMCs) and has also contributed to academic journals and Christian magazines on the subject of Black Majority Churches (BMC) in Britain. He is currently co-opted as a member of the Baptist Union Council. Israel is also one of the Directors of Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World an initiative design to train and equip pastors and missionaries from the South. He is a member of the Global Connections council. When he is not preaching or writing he is playing with Lego! He is happily married to Lucy who works as an administrator and research co-ordinator for the Evangelical Alliance. She is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), earning a BA in Social Anthropology and International Development. Lucy loves baking and watching movies!
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