A Church for Everyone: Being an International and Invitational Church
PART 3: How do we get there?
By Pastor Seeyong Lee, Korean & International Ministries-
Now that I’ve laid out the case for why we must become an “amazingly international” church, I want to look toward the future and share how I believe we get there and what we must do.
People tend to discriminate against others based on all kinds of differences in race, culture, nationality, gender, socioeconomic class, etc. However, God created the world with great diversity. Even humans were created according to “our (God’s) image,” a reference to God’s triune character. God said, “‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness’” (Genesis 1:24-26).
And when the whole world spoke one language, people began to build a tower that could reach to the skies, thinking the Babel tower would bring them together. However, God scattered them all over the earth (Genesis 11:1-9).
People are often afraid of being different, but the truth is that God intentionally made all creatures, including humans, diverse. Diversity has made the world more beautiful and stronger in many ways. Just think of the many varieties of flowers and animals that are more enjoyable because there isn’t only one kind. The combination of different biological genes can make a couple’s descendants strong. Similarly, diverse people and cultures make our society stronger, too.
Practicing Openness and Wonder
When we are open to all sorts of differences, by wondering about incredibly diverse people, nationalities, ideas and cultures, we can promote multifaceted peace in spiritual, emotional, social and international level. “Wonder is a form of ‘active openness.’” By that, we can go beyond our fixed thoughts and views, emotional classism and spiritual indifference, and we can learn from each other. Moreover, we can work to reduce fear (homophobia), discrimination and foster social harmony to create racial justice. Such an openness will strengthen our holistic minds and create a mature community of faith. So let’s remain open to becoming more multicultural.
I used to think that “multicultural” just meant “culturally and ethnically diverse.” The dictionary defines “multicultural” as “relating to or constituting several cultural or ethnic groups within a society.” However, I have come to develop a new understanding: “To be an amazingly international and multicultural means to be surprisingly compassionate, inclusive, diverse, holistic and healthy.”
As our nation struggles with divisiveness, ego-centrism (me-first) and immature mind and behaviors (hatred and systemic injustice), we need to go beyond separating ourselves (I/we/inside) from others (you/they/outside). We are inextricably weaved and systemically connected like one living organism. Moreover, we are called to do good to others as much as to ourselves.
Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” When we do good for others, it is also good for ourselves. When we live like this, God will be pleased for all of us, and the “joy of the Lord will be our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
In doing good for others in our community, we will get closer to our vision of becoming an “amazingly international” congregation. I hope you’ll join me in creating a church for everyone.