Beauty in Diversity

By Freya Galindo Guevara

There is a type of joke that starts more or less like this: “There was a Chinese guy, an American, a Mexican and a Spaniard…“  The point of these jokes is to exaggerate the differences between different nationalities and exploit the impressions and clichés associated with the people from those countries.

In truth, thanks to the phenomenon of globalization, we meet people from distant and different places of the world living even in our own cities and neighborhoods.  A person can guess that someone is a foreigner because of physical appearance or different clothing, or perhaps based on their language or accent.  It is easy to notice the obvious differences between one person and another, primarily because they are from a country different from our own.

In many cases the world emphasizes the differences between races, cultures and nationalities in order to divide, discriminate and ridicule. As always, God shows us that his Kingdom is not like that. He finds beauty in diversity.  Can you imagine if we were all the same? How boring!

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There will come a day when all the diverse groups that have ever existed on earth—all the nationalities, races, languages and people groups—will be together doing one thing.  “…standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9-10)

While we wait for that day, we must learn to appreciate the diversity that God has created, because that has been his plan since the beginning. We recognize that we are different, but that does not separate us. On the contrary, that unites us when we seek to worship the same God.

*Freya Galindo serves as a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene and is Global Missions Coordinator in the Central Field: Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

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Shouting With one Voice: Salvation Belongs to our God!

By Ramcely Cozar Castro

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Revelation 7:9-10

In this beautiful passage it is obvious that God himself has focused all his attention on assuring that the whole world will be saved.

When we read these verses, we must notice that God sees humanity as a single people, without borders, political divisions or cultural divides. Still, he respects and delights in its diversity, the vast spectrum of skin colors, as well as its linguistic and creative, cultural expressions. These are given by God to man.

John 3:16, a passage used broadly in evangelism, mentions that “God so loved the world…”  The last word does not refer to a single people group, but rather the whole world, with all of its peculiarities: every nation, every race, every people and every language.  God gave his only son, Jesus Christ, as one sacrifice for all because each of us individually is equally valuable.  “…That whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  Everyone has the chance to be saved.  We can all reach the Father.

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The vision in the passage from Revelation says every nation will be before the throne, in front of the Lamb, unified by particular clothing that represents the redemptive work of God in them.  All, regardless of their contexts, will be worshiping.  The Lord does not change who they are.  Each one, taken as they are with their own characteristics, is shouting with a single voice, “Salvation belongs to the Lord,” recognizing him as the only Almighty Lord.

Once I had the chance to organize a youth camp, and two of the participants were deaf from birth.  Even though I am a special education teacher, I don’t speak sign language fluently enough to be able to evangelize.  I communicated in a very basic way, and I used a lot of paralinguistic expressions.  In the middle of the forest on the outskirts of Mexico City, I began to preach an evangelistic message with only the firelight illuminating the dark night. But I had forgotten about these two young people! I preached without signs and without visual aids, and quickly the presence of the Lord came to that place.  The Holy Spirit touched one of the two deaf participants in such a way that he gave his life to Christ.

Of course, it was not because of my words or talents.  It was God himself speaking into that person’s life and breaking down cultural, linguistic and physical barriers.  He moved, as he has done and will continue to do in every corner of the planet, using his servants.  We must be his instruments so that more and more people will join this celestial chorus that will shout with one voice, “Salvation belongs to our God!”

*Ramcely Cozar is the pastor of the La Olimpica Church of the Nazarene in Naucalpan, Mexico City.

 

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Movements of God’s Mission – Part 3 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

The mission of God is attractional and incarnational.

I don’t know why, but I have a fascination with yo-yos. Now, I can’t yo-yo. Nevertheless, I find it amusing and entertaining as a skilled yo-yoer (if I can use that term) cast the yo-yo out with great rhythmic force only to have it return with an energetic bounce to be cast back out and to come back to its starting place.

I often use the yo-yo and it’s movement as a way to describe God’s mission. Just as a yo-yo, when properly used, has a ‘going out’ and ‘coming in’ function, so too does God’s mission. Missiologists sometimes refer to this going out and coming in as the centripetal and centrifugal forces (movements) of God’s mission.

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The Centripetal Movement of God’s Mission

The centripetal movement (coming in) of God’s mission is most clearly seen in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel. God placed Israel in the middle of the nations. In the Promised Land they were called to be a light to the nations—to live so that the nations would be drawn to Jerusalem (see Exod. 19:5–6; Deut. 28:10; Isa. 49:6). As Israel embodied and enacted the life of God (i.e., the Kingdom of God), they were to be an ‘attractive sign’ to a watching world.

The centripetal movement of God’s mission remains as part of God’s missional call for the New Testament people of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers, “You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world. . . .[L]et you light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:13, 14, 16). Peter uses similar language found in his epistle (1 Pet. 2:9–12).

The centripetal force of mission expresses that mission isn’t only about going or doing (missions), it’s also about being. Thus, the identity and nature of God’s people manifested in the way they live out the cultural mandate, the Great Commandment, and their relationship with God becomes an attractional missional element among a lost and dying world.

The Centrifugal Movement of God’s Mission

The centrifugal movement (going out) of God’s mission is most clearly seen in the New Testament—although it is present in the OT in places like Joshua 2, Jeremiah 27 and 29, and Jonah. However, in a more pronounced way, Jesus introduces the paradigm shift of going out when He gives the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 1:8).

The Great Commission teaches that God’s mission isn’t just local, but global. And it is not the globe’s responsibility to come to the area where the local church resides, but the church’s responsibility to go to the globe.

The Great Commission (as well as Acts 1:8) is commenced in the Book of Acts and is to be continued today. Rather than people coming to Jerusalem, the believers went out from Jerusalem. Some have taken Acts 1:8 and created a (centrifugal) missions strategy that includes local missions, domestic missions, and international missions.

While I think this is helpful, I would also like for us to think about Acts 1:8 as a cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, and cross-racial mission. In other words, the Jewish believers were to centrifugally cross cultural, ethnic, and racial boundaries in order to share the gospel with those far from God.

This is an important point for believers living in an urban context—not to mention for all Christians given that we live in a globalized world. Over the last half-century, our world has experienced urbanization—an influx of people moving into cities.

Thus, our cities and their metro-plexes contain much diversity—they are typically multicultural, multiethnic, and multiracial. And the reality is that diversity isn’t slowing down; if anything, it’s accelerating. Those living in or around urban centers may encounter their own Jerusalemites, Judeans, Samarians, and foreigners.

The following is a chart to help understand the differences between the diverse groups—which are not only found throughout the world, but also where we live, work, and play—the Church was and is centrifugally called to reach all, simultaneousy.

Note that Acts 1:8 is an outline of the book of Acts, not an order that we follow. In other words, we don’t first reach our Jerusalem, then our Judea, and so on.

We are already, now, at the ends of the earth. The mission is from everywhere and to everywhere.

But there are some things we can still learn about the kind of people we are to reach. Here’s one way to think of it.

  • Jerusalem – Any location within the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith.
  • Judea – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith, but shares a common worldview.
  • Samaria – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith that has a slightly differing worldview, are often unappreciated and even disliked, but shares some commonalities with you.
  • Ends of the Earth – Any location outside of the daily sphere of influence of your community of faith that has a radically differing worldview with few, if any, commonalities.

Let me sum this up.

God’s mission moves two ways.

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First, it moves “attractionally” (magnetically) through the transformed lives of His people. Thus, it’s important for churches to teach and equip believers to live transformed, godly lives that are centered on King Jesus and that demonstrate His kingdom ethics. The mission of attractional living can and does lead to those far from God asking, “What must I do to be saved?”

Second, God’s mission moves “incarnationally” (externally) through God’s people being sent to a lost, dying, and diverse world. Thus, it’s important for churches to teach, equip, exhort, and provide avenues for believers to participate in God’s worldwide mission of reaching those far from God, a movement that begins with neighbors but that moves to the nations.

The mission of incarnational living can and does lead to the ingathering of all nations into one people—a people from every tribe, nation, tongue, and people group (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).

Next time, I will talk about the mark of a missional community.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/december/towards-missional-effectiveness-movements-of-gods-mission-p.html