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Mission Shaped Church in a Multicultural World – Harvey C Kwiyani

August 8, 2018

MSCIAMCWIf current migration trends persist, race is likely to be a central issue in mission this century, as Christianity in the UK becomes increasingly darker in complexion.

The number of Christians in Britain has been greatly augmented by the arrival of immigrants. Rather than worshipping in our different ethnic groups, we should, through sharing, worshipping together and forming authentic cross-cultural relationships, enrich one another and pool our talents to re-evangelise our country.

Many of my prejudices, particularly my taste in music and worship-style, were challenged by this book.

It’s a bit repetitive in places.


Andrew Walls has eloquently argued for more than thirty yeas that the origins of Christianity outside Jerusalem (at Antioch) were multicultural in nature. It was because of this multicultural nature that they needed a new identity—christianoi. They formed a multicultural religious community that worshipped not in the synagogue as the Jews did, nor the pagan gods of the empire. They shared life together and worshipped Jesus, the Christ, across cultural and ethnic divides. This went on for several centuries. There is now archaeological evidence from the catacombs in Rome showing that early Christians lived and were buried together regardless of their place of origin. There was no segregation—people from Africa, Palestine, Persia and other parts of the world worshipped together with Europeans. This would not be the case today. We would all be buried in different churchyards or in separate parts of the city.

it is God’s right to mix the nations every so often. God is the host; we are all foreigners at God’s table.

British churches cannot say to African churches, ‘We have no need of you.’ Neither, of course, can African churches say to Asian churches, ‘We can do without you.’ As a matter of fact, no church should be able to dismiss another church as non-essential, just as much as one member of the human body cannot say to another part, ‘You are of no use to me.’ This is more so when those churches are located in the same city, trying to reach the same people with the gospel. The churches from different parts of the world bring gifts that they each need from one another. The body will function properly if every part does its part by bringing its gifts to the table.

the body of Christ is joined and knit together by the gifts that different members of the body bring. It is in this light that I believe that the gifts that migrant Christians bring when they migrate can help reinvigorate British Christianity. And because of this it is, in my opinion, best to engage one another by first listening both to each other and to God about the gifts that we both bring. Instead of first focusing on how our differences should pull us apart, we might seek to discern how those differences (and the differ­ent gifts that we bring) can help us both in our journey in God’s mission in our neighbourhoods and in the world at large. Difference is not the enemy; the fear of difference is. There will be many differences in our theologies, ecclesiologies, liturgies etc.

Both these groups need to slow down and engage each other in thoughtful conversations, listening to what God might be saying through the other. Such conversations are good for the entire enterprise of theology—a field whose global voices desperately need to change from a cacophony of theological arguments and misunderstandings to a polyphony of various theological voices and perspectives speaking to one another in harmony and humility, as they together celebrate the Spirit of God who speaks to Westerners just as well as non-Westerners.

We have a proverb in Malawi that says miendo ndi uyo abwera ndi kalumo kakuthwa, which roughly translates, ‘A guest usually comes with a sharp penknife.’ The penknife was once, for our ancestors, the super-practical all-purpose tool used to resolve all kinds of challenges blocking a community’s way to progress. It represents any tool that can be used to disentangle a com­munity from its struggles and challenges. Generally speaking, the penknife is new wisdom and understanding—a fresh set of eyes, a foreign perspective and a new way of looking at things—that might help the community solve some of its long-standing problems or make possible new opportunities. Of course, like a penknife, the wisdom is hidden; nobody knows it is there until it is needed and asked for. In addition, this penknife is sharper than their own penknives and can, therefore, cut through issues that the community has not been able to deal with before. That is what a foreign perspective can do.

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