At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series “Misfit Community.”
Gateway is a diverse community racially/ethnically as well with over 60 nationalities represented – just in our Austin campuses alone! When we include those connected across the United States or globally, it is even more remarkable. God’s heart has always been for all people of various tribes, tongues, races, and ethnicities, and the Church has always had to learn to see each other across cultures. In a divided world, we are uniquely called and equipped to be the unified community the world needs us to be.
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Ethnically Diverse Community Next Steps
Gateway Panel Discussion:
Message Notes from John Burke:
In this series talking about the Misfit Community Jesus has always been building. God’s heart always to build a family from diverse ethnic groups because our diversity reflects God’s creativity and His Image reflected in our diversity, we are as diverse as we are unique individuals.
500 times in the Old Testament God speaks to all nations—no other gods pretend to care about all peoples—What God has done has been for all people groups.
The Multiethnic Early Church
The first church was formed perfectly timed to include all ethnicities:
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Acts 2:5-6.
God planned the first church to reflect the diversity of nationalities, cultures, ethnic identities.
The Church in Heaven
And we see the Picture of God’s dream come true in Heaven:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Rev 7:9
We may feel like Ethnic Diversity is a politically charged subject, but I need you to raise your eyes above all the news, the politics, the left-wing or right-wing solutions and instead focus on God’s heart and God’s Dream for His church. Because you are part of that plan, if you so choose.
There have always been struggles, injustices, inequities because human nature sees the world from a self-centered or my-culture-centric perspective, and evil plays on that to try to steal, kill, destroy and divide humanity. Working for better laws or better policing or better criminal justice is important—but the ultimate goal of God far surpasses those reforms to make us one loving family that actually cares and stands up for each other—because we love others as much as ourselves, and that changes humanity at the heart.
The early church was birthed in injustice, oppression under the Roman Empire—God didn’t overthrow the Romans by force, but started an underground movement of sacrificial, upside down love and forgiveness and service that did ultimately overtake Rome.
The early church had to solve problems within of unfair treatment, inequity, racial/ethnic struggles within the church. Which is good for us to remember—it’s normal to have to work through stuff.
The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. – Acts 6:1
An inequity based on racial/ethnic identity. But they worked through it. They didn’t ignore it, they worked it through.
Paul had to rebuke Peter for giving in to ethnic pressure causing separation and division between Jewish and Greek Christ followers.
But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong…. Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism…. Galatians 2:11-12
So it’s not without work and effort and hard conversations. We can all make mistakes, even Peter, and must humbly learn God’s ways.
Today, we’re NOT focusing on what’s wrong in our country—there’s plenty—we won’t solve that today. We’re gonna focus on what God is doing among us, building his Misfit community from all ethnicities.
Our panel was made up from a diversity of people on our Staff, Board, and long-time Leaders at Gateway talking about their ethnic culture, and what God’s doing among us. Why is that important?
The Beauty and Challenges of Our Cultural Backgrounds
Because understanding other ethnic cultures and people helps us work together toward God’s Dream. We all have an ethnic culture. Every ethnic culture has good, beautiful aspects that align with God’s intentions, and every culture has broken ways that don’t align with God’s ways.
I grew up a predominately white culture—I don’t represent all whites, just as the people you’ll hear from can’t represent all of their ethnic culture, but we can learn about God seeing the diversity He created. I grew up in a very “you-can-do-it” “we believe in you” individual-centered culture. I got some great things from it—a strong work ethic, an emphasis on taking responsibility, feeling empowered, getting a lot accomplished was highly valued. But honestly, I didn’t even know I had a culture until Kathy and I moved to Russia for a year. I had to go through cross-cultural training, but even that didn’t prepare me or our co-workers. It was exhausting living with a different culture, a new language, alphabet, ways things were done—trying to figure it out was wearying. Some things felt “wrong”—like how inefficient things were. In America, I could get 10-15 things done in a day, if you can do 3 things in Russia—that was good. And Russians put way more emphasis on relationship than getting things done. We’d invite people over for dinner—we’re thinking White American “dinner” – come at 6 leave at 8. They’d come at 3 and leave at midnight. Over the year, I started to see my White American culture—the great things I missed, but I saw how some things in Russian culture aligned more with God’s Word—like relational priorities, hospitality, not being so individualistic. So the value of learning other cultures helps us see our own—the good and the not so good—and helps us learn about the God of many ethnic cultures.
To Build His Diverse Misfit Community:
- Be Open to God Changing/Healing Me
Since we are all humans affected by this sinful, broken world, we all have room to heal and grow. Can you ask God, “Show me where I need to heal or grow or change perspectives, so I align more with Your will?” None of us can change another human heart, but God can use a changed human heart to impact others for good. That’s the first step for all of us.
- Listen Empathetically
No better way to love another than listen deeply, seek to understand, and you don’t have to solve or fix things, just be in it together and consider other’s perspectives. It’s Putting ourselves in other’s shoes
- Value, Encourage, Empower Others
In Acts 6 the Hebrew led church empowered the Greek Christ Followers to find a solution to the inequity between Greek and Hebrew widows. Find ways to value, encourage, and invite diverse people into volunteering or leading with you.
- Reach a Diversity of People.
What’s our part in building God’s family from all people-groups? It’s reaching out to people ethnically diverse and showing them God’s love, inviting them in, giving a place to belong, find faith, then all of us healing, growing, serving and loving God together. That actually changes humanity—from the inside out.