Intercultural Relationships

Sean Mortenson / January 20, 2016

God calls His people to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and be faithful witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). God wants every culture to know the love of Jesus.

 

Local and Global

In 2010 a study concluded that the greater Phoenix area was the most religiously diverse metropolitan area with a population greater than a million people. Latino migrants, international students, the elderly, refugees from around the world, and Native Americans are just a few of the diverse communities that make up our cultural fabric. Within these communities are things to celebrate and learn from. But there are also tremendous needs and challenges and many of them have been pushed to the margins of society. We believe the church is called to seek justice and show mercy to all people, knowing that regardless of a person’s story or economic status, they are created in God’s image (Micah 6:8). That means they have value, dignity, and great capacity. So as the Spirit leads, we move across cultural boundaries to build relationships.

Although God has brought the nations to us, we are still called to go to the ends of the earth with the good news. There remains a tremendous need for the Gospel to be planted in various cultures and communities around the world. And there is also great blessing to be found in relationship with the global church. The majority of the world’s Christians now live outside of the Western world, and in a few years Africa is predicted to be the central hub of global Christianity. The Western church has a great deal to learn from the majority world as the Gospel spreads through Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and the diverse cultures that are present in our Arizona.

Our local and global efforts have a reciprocal relationship of blessing and sharpening one another. We learn from the intentional focus of missionaries overseas and are blessed

Walking with global churches allows us to learn from what God is doing through His people in different communities, partner with brothers and sisters to preach the Gospel and love neighbors, and help strengthen ministries and churches as God leads.

Continue reading below for an expanded overview.


 Our model: the love of Jesus

Incarnational

Jesus walked with people in relationship, He humanized, He touched.

Jesus made His dwelling among us, became nothing, humbled Himself, took on flesh, and served us unto death (John 1:14; Philippians 2). Following the model of Jesus, Christians humbly enter into their neighbor’s culture to love them. They recognize the differences in other cultures, desire to adapt to that culture, humble themselves, and become like their neighbor to love their neighbor. God is present in all cultures because all people are created in God’s image; therefore, we receive the good in every culture, reject the sinfulness in every culture, and seek redemption for that which is broken in every culture.

People are not projects, and we believe that true transformation comes through walking alongside others in incarnational relationship. True wholeness and restoration can only come through Jesus, and under the Lordship of Jesus we strive to love as He leads. We care for people by relieving their urgent needs, but our primary strive is toward long-term development that seeks to restore wholeness to all that is broken in individuals and communities. Continued relief efforts can become paternalistic, and when humans are capable, we do not wish to do for them when they should be doing for themselves. When we cannot have incarnational relationships, we seek to develop partnerships that do.

Sustainable development work is often locally led and locally supported. Therefore, we walk alongside partners and view our work as a process, and not only look to the finished product for validation. Our goal is to strengthen and birth local ministries that seek to care for whole people.

Holistic

Jesus heals the broken relationships people have with themselves, others, God, and creation.

Jesus created whole people, so our ministry is concerned about loving the whole person. God did not create spiritual beings but whole creatures in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). Jesus developed as a whole man and cared for whole people; therefore, we care for the whole person.

Humans had a right relationship with God. We declare with Augustine of Hippo, ‘’You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you’’ (Confessions). However, sin has alienated us from God and people turn from God and worship idols. We often even take good aspects of God’s creation and make them “ultimate things” that we tragically and foolishly love more than God. Jesus restores our relationship with God.

Humans had a right relationship with themselves, and God willfully created humans in His image and after His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). God’s image gives value and dignity to every human life. However, the fall has left humanity believing that they are more than human or less than human which leads communities to having God complexes or inferiority complexes (Romans 1:25). Jesus gives value and dignity to the dehumanized.

Humans had a right relationship with others. The Trinitarian God is not alone; therefore, since man is created in His image he is not to be alone either. God created man for relationship because God is, and always will be, in relationship (Genesis 2:18). However, the fall has corrupted relationships and cursed the peace that once existed in communities. Jesus reconciles broken communities.

Humans had a right relationship with creation. As image bearers of God we are called to cultivate His creation and point to His goodness and beauty in all things (Genesis 1:26-28). The physical world was once perfect and so were our physical bodies. However, sin alienates us from the physical world and we now live in a world of physical pain, toil, and decay. Jesus cared for the physical world and physical bodies.

Spirit Led

The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the people He served, empowering Him to love.

Michael Goheen states: “Jesus ‘often’ withdraws to pray, and on occasions He prays all night (Luke 5:16). These reports of prayer take us to the heart of Jesus’ ministry and the secret of His power: an intensely intimate relationship with God, as a son with His father, and the working of the Spirit in and through Jesus.”

The Kingdom of God comes as the Spirit responds to the prayers of Jesus. The Spirit empowers Jesus through His entire ministry. He is baptized and the Spirit is poured out on Him, the Spirit leads Him to those God desires Him to love, and the Spirit empowers Him to do signs and wonders (Luke 3:22; 4:18-19; Acts 10:38). As Jesus sought God in prayer, and received the Spirit for powerful witness, so the church seeks the leading of the Spirit toward the people and places God wants us to love.

Full of Grace & Truth

Jesus valued all as image bearers, defended the powerless, and cared for the hurting, but He did not withhold hard truth about His identity.

Jesus gave humanity to those that had been dehumanized by the majority culture. He sat with the supposedly unworthy, exalted the outcast, and dined with the sinner (Matthew 9:10; John 4:1-30; Luke 10:25-37). However, He did not withhold hard truths about His identity and how people needed to respond. He saw all people as image bearers of God, but did not hesitate to call them to repentance and faith in the Gospel (John 8:1-11). The grace of God allows the church to also see people as infinitely valuable, and this frees us to learn from one another, build peace, and work together in loving our fellow neighbors. However, Jesus is the Truth and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The church must also be faithful to proclaim Him as Truth and call people to repentance and faith, and we do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). In a globally interconnected world, it is also becoming more important for Christians to be truthful about their identity and intentions.

The nations are watching to see if the church is living with integrity and honesty. Therefore, we strive to have integrated identities in the local or international community. We seek to have the same vocation and identity before the Christian community, the religious community, and the secular community (Blessing the Nations in the 21st Century by Rick Love). We want to live good lives among other nations, and though they may accuse us of doing wrong, they will see our good deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:12).

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