What is an American?

It was 5th period and we were studying math. Suddenly the day and our lives changed forever. Something had happened in Texas and we would find out from our parents more  when we got home. Mom was sitting in herImage chair in the living room wiping away tears. Our young president had been killed. It was a moment, that no matter who you were or what you were doing, if you were an American you remember.

The moment that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon; the day when the Space Shuttle exploded. We all remember where we were standing and who was in the room. Then came 9/11 and it seemed that time had stopped for America. Our Congressmen joined together and sang God Bless America. These are just a few of the tiny threads that weave us together as a nation. 

Being an American is almost like being in a marriage. It’s for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Even in the moments when we hate to see what is happening around us, we are still rooted here. joined by the common threads that make us a people. America isn’t at all about black or white, it isn’t about rich and poor or educated and ignorant. The wonderful blessing we know in America is about a single amazing idea. It is the astonishing concept that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We are not a perfect nation. That nation will only come with the return of the Lord Jesus. But I am thankful tonight for God’s amazing grace and blessings on our country. I am thankful for the freedom we enjoy every Sunday in church. I am thankful that we can go to the voting booth and live to complain freely the following day if the person we wanted doesn’t get into office. We have more to be thankful for than complain about. So on our America’s birthday let’s all remember to pray for her. Let’s pray so that God will hear from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land

Challenges facing the Multi-Cultural Church

I previously advertised that this post would be about worship leading, but in recalling the many steps we have gone through up till now I realized that it is too big of a leap. To those of you facing similar situations or for some who long for a greater diversity at your church it might be of great value to recognize the unique challenges and battles that come with the territory!

Yesterday someone was talking with me about how to find a church that would take on the burden for reaching some of the Bhutanese refugees in our city. We have labored more than two years doing what we can in outreach even including a missions trip to the camps located in Nepal. It is not an easy work. We have one small Nepali church which has reached some people but there is such a large majority of them who are entirely untouched by the message of Jesus. They are hearing the words but are not receiving a living demonstration of the love of Christ from the church at large. People prefer to drop off bags of clothes or furniture, but the willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to build long-term relationships is of far greater usefulness. There are many social organizations out there and we work together with them to meet needs. But to reach a heart will cost a heart. Souls are won over to Jesus one at a time. No one will come running to our church doors simply because we put out a welcome mat. We must be willing to become the welcome mat! People will know if we genuinely are ready to become a part of their lives. Though the story told by Greg Mortenson in his best-selling book, “Three Cups of Tea”, may not be entirely accurate in some details, the ideas behind the book are absolutely true. Until we are willing to sit on the floor and drink tea together we will never truly reach people for the cause of  Christ. The Apostle Paul said it this way:

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

We must become like a bridge. On one side stands the love of Jesus Christ and on the other a people He longs to reach. Until we are willing to stretch ourselves across the divide they will never have the chance to receive Him. Daily the problems and the opportunities stretch before us. Time is short and we are not the only voices calling out to them. There is only today that God gives us to reach others. Tomorrow they may be so caught up in the pursuit of material things that the voice of God will begin to fade. Tomorrow circumstances and difficulties may suddenly sweep away today’s chance to reach someone with the love of God.

Ant the Chris Tomlin concert
At the Chris Tomlin concert

Today we face barriers of culture, barriers of language, barriers of crazy hot food! But when we think of how small the cost, and how great the value of a single person we must begin to trust God for a way through. Those mountains that seem to be insurmountable are the exact path our Savior leads. He has promised he will make the way. It is not only making a way for us, but also making a way for those whom we are desperately trying to lead into His arms! For those who are working or planning to work in the cross cultural church of today we must face the reality that there is a battle ahead, But then there is also the reality that we can rejoice in the fact that the Lord of Heaven’s armies is on our side. The church was His idea! He will be with us through it all!

Being a part of a Multi-Cultural Church

At our New Covenant Fellowship where we have been members for many years we have the blessed experience of being a part a multicultural congregation. Some of our people are from refugee camps in Nepal. We ourselves are American born, but our Pastor and most of the other people are from Brazil. While we may seem an improbable group in comparison with the typical church on the corner we are none-the-less, a growing church. We sometimes feel amazingly blessed and sometimes we feel isolated. We share in a unique community with a set of struggles,difficulties and joys that has enriched our lives beyond anything we could ever have planned or imagined.Image

So how does it play out with three languages, a variety of races and many cultural differences?

Since we have gradually assimilated into our adopted community we find ourselves with such a unique set of experiences, challenges, frustrations and joys that I have thought for a long time it may be a blessing to share with others what we have learned.

First God has called for himself a church from every tribe:

Revelation 7:9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb

In that God himself has called each of us, we have also discovered that God has gifted us all differently. Each “tribe” has a unique inheritance that is all their own, but God has called us together to make up the one nation which He has called the church. When we are pulling together rather than apart there are moments in our worship, at our prayers or during times of trouble that we begin to see the whole church. It has been said, that in America, Sunday morning at 11 AM is the most segregated hour of the week.

We once had a close friend from Northern Ireland who stayed with us for some time. In the Summer one of our delights is to go to one of the local ice cream shops and sample some of the amazing new flavors. But every time we would go our friend ordered only Vanilla ice-cream. One day I said, “Mark, I am buying and my only requirement is that you pick something that isn’t Vanilla! So finally He ventured out and tried the Pineapple and found it was “Lovely”. That is exactly what we have been experiencing in the church. We are going into the midst of God’s multifaceted grace and ordering up Vanilla every week. Vanilla is great friends, but there is more!

If we are following the commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to:

Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone …Mark 16:15

Then we might consider putting ours toes outside the door of our own culture, of our own language, of our own favorite foods and our own little circle of friends. All the world is a big and a diverse place! No one is excluded from our call. God is not ruffling our feathers and pushing us out of our sweet nests as a form of punishment but as a way of enrichment. There is nothing greater than being just one small part of God’s plan for the nations.

Next week: Leading worship in the Multi-Cultural church