This is an excerpt from The Foundry’s recent release, Color: God’s Intention for Diversity. Now available.
The psalmist paints the picture of a beautiful bride adorned for her bridegroom. One can only begin to imagine the splendor of the robes that are woven through with golden threads gleaming in the sun-drenched chambers. Her bearing is dignified, and she is draped in her many-colored garments before being led to the king. The mag- nitude of the honor the bride is given is reflected in the way in which she is now dressed and ready to enter the king’s palace.
The vision of the bride was but a foreshadowing of the mes- sianic era when the church would be birthed. The church—the bride of Christ—is to be ushered into the presence of the Bridegroom. Prepared for that day, the church will be adorned in beautiful many-colored robes, woven together with threads of gold, with design far outshining any human embroidery. The tapestry of these robes will come from the diversity of her people who are not mixed together to become uniform, but who are woven together by golden threads of faith and doctrine, creating a pattern so stunning that the world is left in awe.
Throughout her history the church has not always succeeded at reflecting such diversity. Far too often a desire for uniformity, or conformity, has prevailed. Sadly, this can paint a rather dull picture, one that can hardly compare with what God has intended. The only way the church can reflect the beauty that God planned is for brothers and sisters to come together in fellowship and conversation, allowing the Holy Spirit to weave them together into a divine reflection of the kingdom of God. This is our vision and dream for the church.
We are Dany and Carla, a brother and sister in Christ who have been spending time in conversation and fellowship. We are quite the unlikely pair to be writing a book together: Carla is a white woman who has lived twenty-one years of her life in Europe and speaks German, English, and Russian, while Dany is a black man who has lived most of his life in Senegal and speaks Wolof, French, and English. Through our work in the church, we were both thrust into brand-new positions that made us working partners for two years. During that time we, along with our spouses and other team members, spent a great deal of time traveling the continent of Africa, preaching, teaching, and fellowshipping. We all discovered that we had much to learn about the work we were doing, but also, about how we could work together, even when coming from such different backgrounds.
This book began as conversations around dinner tables where we would reflect upon what we had learned throughout the day. Honesty and trust opened the door for critical evaluation and continual improvement. Dany would share the things about Carla’s messages that he liked and how it may relate to African culture, but he didn’t hesitate to let her know when he thought she was off base. He would take the time to teach her deep underlying truths that affect the ways Africans would see and understand God. Carla would share with Dany about the theological truths he was embarking upon, and how they could be expanded when he allowed other voices to speak to him. She would talk to Dany about the ways he used music to communicate and relate to the people, often transforming a tense moment into one filled with the presence of God. This use of culture was a way God could be revealed to the people. They also had conversations about cultural misunderstandings and the realization that perceptions can be wrong.
We discovered that when we allowed God to weave our work together, it was better and more beautiful than when we did it alone.
The point is that we spent time talking and learning from one another, and we thought you might like to join us in these conversations. We discovered that when we allowed God to weave our work together, it was better and more beautiful than when we did it alone. We began to discover the beauty of the coat of many colors. Our brown and white became mixed with the incredible cultures we encountered. This is an invitation for you to join our personal journeys, and then our combined work as disciples who are processing this Christian walk.
We are living in a world that is changing at a rapid pace, and the experiences along the way helped to shape our conversations. When reflecting upon the past we recognize that at times the church has lived with an “us and them” mentality, and as much as we would like to shake that off, it’s been a struggle. We might think that this is in regard to our missional enterprise, but it may also be an attitude of one culture viewing itself as dominant, and usually entering other cultures as a host rather than a guest. Christian hospitality lies at the foundation of a relationship of mutuality and, depending upon the situation, the role of guest and host shifts.
In reality, the church is not much different from the rest of the world, which still believes there is dichotomy: That some are always the hosts, and others are always the guests. Sometimes we have embraced the mindset and language of a “developed” and a “developing world.” For others, it may simply be a dichotomy between your cultural worldview and another person’s.
Many of us have remained frozen in a 1960s picture of the world, and the church. Dr. Hans Rosling, in his book Factful- ness, shatters the 1960s notions of the world, encouraging us to see that we have come a long way since then, and along with the changes in the world have come major implications for the church. When we examine the world, we discover there is no longer any economic dichotomy of “us” and “them,” rather Dr. Rosling places the world on four levels of economic development. The number living in level one (the poorest) continues to decrease at a dramatic pace, while those on level four, com- ing from outside the “Northern Hemisphere and the West” will soon overtake those who had retained single occupancy in that category. In other words, the economic development in the world is happening rapidly, and this has implications for all of God’s people. The one who was assumed to always be the guest, rightfully, plays the role of host.
We can rejoice that these changes have occurred, and the church has been a very active participant in bringing change in many parts of the world. Without the work of missionaries and Christian humanitarian agencies, and the resilience and contribution of national Christian leadership, much of this progress may not have occurred. The exciting news is that many throughout the world have been lifted economically, socially, and educationally and are now ready to take their rightful place in leadership. This can be a challenge because we must work to intentionally break away from the old ways. This is an exciting time to be a part of the church, for we get to lean into a new future, one that has never before been explored or experienced, but that is only possible when we are willing to intentionally work at change.
This book is an endeavor to bring together radically different cultures, revealing a coat of many colors, which, in its beauty, reflects the kingdom of God. Doctrine is a golden thread that helps in weaving us together. The message of holiness transcends culture and calls us to be united. This work is not easy, but it is a labor of love for the church so that the bride may be resplendent with beauty.