The Journey Pr.Preethy Blogpost
When my husband and I moved to the UK in 2005, we quickly felt the heart of the Lord towards East London. Although we’d primarily come to set up a finance and technology business, we began doing street evangelism and prayer. After two years of little visible result, we saw the Lord beginning to move and felt called to plant a church. Today we lead a church of around 25 to 30 nationalities and languages, and it is a privilege to pastor a multi-ethnic community doing life together in God.
Originally from South India, when we first began the plant, most people who joined looked the same as us. It’s natural to gravitate towards people like ourselves, but we felt a strong sense that God wanted us to be open to all nationalities, not just our own. This came from the first time we took a group from our congregation on mission to Tanzania, and I told God how excited I was to take people to the nations. I felt God reply, “To you, the nations are geographical boundaries, but to me, they are people. Each one of you carries your nationality with you, and in London, the nations are coming to you!”
This was a mark in the sand for our vision at Capstone Church, and returning from that trip I knew we had to seek God for a blueprint of how to improve in this area. God had called us to incorporate diversity into who we are as a church so that we could accurately represent the city we were in. Ironically, if we’d stuck to reaching our own community then I knew we would have grown faster, but I had to learn that God is in charge of when His purposes are fulfilled. If we were following His vision for our church, then the timing was up to Him and I had to relieve myself of that pressure.
As we began to live out this vision, there were several cultural quirks that emerged. For example, I’d assumed that everyone prayed the same way, and that the way I prayed was the right way. I discovered that each of us prays as we’ve been taught in our culture and we need to see different expressions as equally valid. Sometimes we had to reflect on these practices and bring them in line with God’s Word, but we could never assume that we had all the answers and the way our culture prayed was the only or best way to. Much of this took time and learning from observation, but it meant we could pursue a united but diverse model of prayer going forward.
From what I’ve learnt, in order to bring people on a journey together, you have to do more than just communicate the overall spiritual vision. It is absolutely right to have a clear direction that you’re all travelling in, but you have to help people work out which lane they’re meant to be running in. Part of welcoming different cultures into our church meant learning things like people from the Philippines are often phenomenal at honouring people and being hospitable. That meant that within our wider vision, we wanted to create space for them to thrive and bring all that God had gifted them with for our community. We didn’t need to change the overall vision, but we did need to put the vision in context so that, within it, every person in our community could flourish and fulfil God’s call for them.
When I started out, I felt like I had to have all the answers, but honestly couldn't comprehend the blessings and challenges ahead. Today, I realise that I don’t have to, nor do I even have to pretend to. The church is an organism, not an organisation, and while we must be obedient and focused on God’s vision, we should do so with His love and grace.
We must remember that the life we live is for Him. Jesus was a servant King and His call for us is to do the same. We begin by realising we are called to lay down our lives for others. We are rooted in Him (Galatians 2:20). We must also operate from a place of being loved by God and fully surrendered to Him The nations are coming to us (Haggai 2:9). Nations are people and not necessarily geographical locations which change over time. We must be aware that in standing with one person from another culture or nation, we are unifying with that nation.
The purpose of our ministry should be to impart what we have and build up others, all the while teaching them to impart and build up others and so on, just as Paul invested his vision and ministry into Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2) In the end, God will always do more than any vision can hope, pray and dream for, and He will receive all the glory for it. Get excited for more!! (Ephesians 3:20)
Questions for reflection
Are you following God’s vision for your church as a place for all nations? If we were in Pharoh's position, would we give Joseph authority? If we were Jesus, would we allow the Samaritan woman to preach or choose Saul to become Paul the apostle? Who is God calling in your community and are you willing to let them flourish into that calling?
"For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:7). We must be able to represent Jesus to people from various backgrounds and cultures. Do we think this is only for the wider body and not for us personally? Does your church's vision allow the nations to come and thrive? How can we better ourselves to model unity?
In what ways could our vision adapt to incorporate the gifts and passions of the people within your church? Do we dream for "the one" or is it only about the cooperate vision? How can we improve ourselves in handling the diversity of people, gifting and culture?
Sometimes we find that different communities (without typecasting) have certain key skills or giftings, that we can all incorporate to be a better community. What steps are in place so that we can learn from the different cultures in our church and community?