A big part of our culture in Tree of Life Church is building a church full of the nations. Now if you are in a village in the middle of Kenya, then it is going to be impossible for you to build a multi-ethnic church; but if you are in London and you are building or part of a church that is only one tribe, one tongue and one people then you have no heavenly vision at all.
It disturbs me so much that so many Christians go to churches that 100% match their culture. This is for three main reasons:
- We need as great a diversity in the body of Christ as possible. When you get a splinter in your foot, you can’t get it out with the other foot: but when Christians have a problem, they go to people just like them – same nation, same gender, same age. No you need a range of people who have wisdom and experiences that you don’t have.
- Unless you regularly meet people from outside your culture, your cultural norms are never challenged. The truth is that in the UK and across the world the white church has problems, the black church has problems – but when we worship together we can learn from each other and build something strong and kingdom minded, not culturally minded.
- I wonder what will happen to these people in heaven. I’ve had people leave Tree of Life because it is too black, because it isn’t black enough (their words not mine) and I wonder how they will get on in heaven because it is every tongue, every tribe and every nation! Let’s try and do some heaven on earth – let’s meet up with people across our nationality.
A lot of people ask how to do what we are doing – building churches that welcome people from all nations. The simple truth is that I just said we would do it, prayed for it and believed it and praise God it has happened. Looking back, and looking at maintaining what has happened I believe we have 3 keys that we need to know:
- Build everything on the kingdom – not nationality. Your nationality and culture has some great things and some bad things. That’s the truth no matter where you are from. This means you will offend some people. You will hear people tell me that you are going against their nation, their culture – you will hear offended people furious with you as they hold their traditions so dear. But it will be worth it as you are building something that is truly Biblical.
- Celebrate every culture. We have leaders and elders that represent our church and our city. We have a broad mix of ages, cultures and backgrounds. Why? We celebrate every culture. No culture is perfect, but they all have something to contribute and teach us
- Create a climate of humility. The way you always have done it isn’t always best! We have to show people that although their cultures are to be celebrated, they are not always right, and it is good to realize that. Let other people teach you how they pray, how they fast, how they fellowship, how they minister, and be willing to submit everything to the Word.