Multicultural Church and Personal Expression

cross-homeWith all my talk about multicultural church, I expect some of you might be wondering if I see any place for personal expression. Well, the answer is most certainly yes.

To the left you see but one example. Its a wind chime out the front of our house. It welcomes everyone who enters. I picked up when visiting some hippy missional friends of ours up near Nimbin. For those of you who’ve never heard of Nimbin, its the alternative culture capital of Australia.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this appeals to the alternative culture loving, former New Ager in me. I love the sound of the chimes, I love the colours of the crystals. In advocating diversity I feel free to express my own idiosyncrasies.

People who don’t necessarily get it can still appreciate the core symbol: the cross. That’s the essential thing.

This diversity flows through to other aspects of community life. When people meet over here, in my home, prayer with an ambiance of incense and candles has not been unknown. When people meet elsewhere, Hillsong or Keith Green may be playing in the background. Community meals may be dry or amply supplied with wine depending on who is hosting. It may involve meat and three veg, or a variety of curries. You see, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is this: we are of one body, one Spirit through the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus had this gift, of looking through the superficial, to seeing others as they really are. I believe he calls us to look beyond culture and into the humanity of one another. He said, if you have eyes to see, see.

7 thoughts on “Multicultural Church and Personal Expression

  1. What a lovely wind-chime!
    Personally, I fail to see how a multi-cultural church would pose a problem for personal expression, at least any more so than any other kind of church would. And in reality, I think the only time any kind of church would pose such a problem would mean there are serious problems with that church — most likely in the form of leadership trying to be too controlling of its members.
    In some ways, I would think that a multi-cultural church would be more supportive of individual expression. After all, such a church would be face by the diversity between the various cultures represented by its members, so what’s a little more diversity on the individual level?


  2. Jarred, why I mention it is because I find some advocates of subcultural church struggle to see the difference between multicultural church and traditional church and fear difference will be blanded out as it is in many traditional churches.
    If I could resort to some technical expressions though…
    – Traditional church is more homogenous and local
    – Subcultural church is more homogenous and hyperlocal/translocal
    – Multicultural church is more hetrogenous and local
    With subcultural church, demographic issues take precidence over geographic issues. Advocates like to talk about “third places” where members of the demographic group / subculture / tribe naturally gather. By way of contrast, in multicultural churches geographic issues still take precidence over demographic issues in a multicultural church, in a manner similar to traditional churches, so they can look superficially similar.
    Where the difference comes in though, is where traditional churches find themselves in multicultural locales. Traditional churches will cling to their homogeneity, in a manner similar to subcultural churches. So they end up becoming subconsciously subcultural even as they keep proclaiming anyone is welcome. It ends up instituting a two-stage conversion process. One must not only be converted to Christianity, one must also be converted to the (usually white, middleclass) subculture. In many ways this is the worst of all worlds. Subcultural churches are at least self-consciously subcultural and give up their claims to be universally representative of everyone in a particular suburb. Traditional churches, unfortunately, tend not to, and therein lies the problem. Pressure to culturally conform result. That’s anti-gospel.
    Multicultural church demands a different approach, a clear differentiation between core and non-core issues, between essentials and non-essentials, between gospel substance and cultural style. It demands this much more than the other two approaches, precisely because of the cultural diversity.


  3. The windchime is beautiful. I like crystals hanging up and i got a Irish cross on the wall. Always said i would never have a cross on the wall because He is risen… but this cross is beautiful. I dont like incense no more It reminds me of temples. U can get Honey incense though from L’Occitane shops. (french products) I just use oil burners.
    that was interesting re churches/your reply to Jarrad. the saddest thing about mainstream churches in my opinion experientially of course is what i see as TOKENISM. The pseudo layer that they embrace all cultures equally yet they continue to portray/preach Jesus as being a blue eyed, as you said ‘middle class’ European. So there is insidious co-ercion into following their doctrine.
    I think Australia has some great churches – diverse cultures. In all fairness there is acceptance and embracing of many cultures but i am always suspicious. The great white british colonizer always lurks around espicially churches!!


  4. Oh yes, cultural imperialism wont be overcome in a day. Its insidious precisely because so many are not even aware they’re doing it. But I do see evidence of the Spirit leading some beyond it. There are glimmers of hope.
    In the meantime I find its important to remember who’s God and who’s not – and it’s not the church. The church is full of wounded healers who aren’t finished wounding yet. Its nice when we can draw strength from God indirectly through the church, but perseverence also requires we draw strength from God, just directly.


  5. PS. I use incense more often when I am just by myself. My wife prefers oil burners too.
    I don’t mind the temple associations. I am reminded of the prayers rising as incense in the temple vision of Revelation.


  6. Totally speaks to my ‘hippy roots’. It reminds me of being in Byron Bay (which is like backpacker base camp for Nimbin visitors it seemed)
    Because I got swallowed up by a lot of new age and occult stuff before I accepted God in my life as being well, God. So I’m a bit wary now of letting it into my life again. I guess I bit like if I’d been an alcoholic I’d be wary of letting myself go into alcohol shops or buying wine (I hope no-one is offended by that comparison, but I can’t think of another way of explaining).
    I like your cross though. And I like the different styles that come through how you live out your faith and beliefs. It’s cool. 🙂


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