Several weeks ago, I introduced a new term in our church in Ann Arbor and this coming Sunday people in Chicago will hear it for the first time. The term is, “The Trans-Cultural Church.” We have heard a lot of the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic church, but we are trying to create a new ethos within the context of our church. More than just going “multi”- whatever, the key thing is that we want to train up people who will go across and even beyond what is natural and comfortable for them and create a whole new culture.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the prefix, “trans-” as, “across; on the other side; beyond; through; change; and transfer.” The Random House Unabridged Dictionary adds to the definition by adding, “changing thoroughly or transverse in combination with elements of any origin.”
Therefore if we want to be a “trans-cultural church,” it means that we will have to “go beyond” the ethnicities and cultures to “change thoroughly” in order to become a new entity. This entity reflects our identity in Christ, as children of God first and foremost above our own cultures and ethnicities. This does not mean that we have to give up being Korean-American, African-American, Latino-American, etc. but it does mean that we go beyond it. It means that we have to be willing go through discomforts and difficulties to cross over “on the other side” in order to and understand people who are different from us.
It truly has to be a love-of-another kind.
The exciting part is that God has given us both the ability and the access to love. The ability is given because “for he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Eph 2:14-16). The access is given because, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Ro 5:5).
So we simply define being “trans-cultural” as, “a decision to go through discomforts and difficulties to develop understanding and delight in people from a different culture.”
This is the only way the Church of Jesus will have any credibility as we talk about God’s love and how the cross levels the playing field.
I love David Bronnert’s quote in his book, The Gospel and Culture in The Changing World. He writes, “West Indian, and Anglo-Saxon congregations worshiping and meeting close to each other. These groups meet at work and in school, but not always in church. If the church is middle-class and intellectual in the language of the services, in the music employed, in the life-style expected of Christians, in its leadership, and in the methods of presenting the gospel, then the whole atmosphere is such as to repel those who are not middle-class and intellectual. They feel out of place and unwanted, even if they are given a friendly greeting at the door. The life of the New Testament Church was evidence of the supernatural; God was in their midst. The power of Christ was a reality. The fellowship could not be explained in simple natural terms. A church divided on social and racial lines is not evidence for the supernatural, but for the simply human and social.”
What would happen if God was really in our midst? What would happen if we experienced the supernatural? What would happen if we experienced the reality of the power of Christ?
I think the Church would look more trans-cultural. Lord this is our prayer… come visit us and show us Your power!