It may come as a surprise, but the reality is that cultural diversity can be found almost everywhere, these days. No more need to travel far, far away. No more ways to live in a cocoon, a bastion of your own. Here you have a primer on this environment for disciple-making.
A working definition
We must start with a definition, if our aim is understanding. Now, this is a definition in progress, i.e. it is not meant to be absolute, static, final. Then, cultural diversity is…
A human environment where two or more sets of preferences interact with one another, willingly or not, for a measurable amount of time.
A key element here is the length of the interaction. The longer it is the deeper the impact of one culture over the other. Also, the longer the period of interaction the more significant the friction between all participants.
And with friction comes the chances for misunderstandings.
The paradox of monolithic cultural sets
Even in cultural sets that seem monolithic or homogeneous, if you invest the time to look closer, you will find they all have differences within. Meaning: there are cultural subsets within a cultural set. Another way to say it is that there is cultural diversity even in the middle of a group with a very well define set of preferences.
Take the group called Hispanic Americans, for instance. We have common traits due, mainly, to a shared history and culture. However, the fact that we do have the same “language and religion” is not enough to remove the differences that exist even within countries.
Not all Hispanic Americans are the same. Not all _________________________ are the same.
You can observe this paradox within your own family, even.
Why cultural diversity
If this environment is so complex and demanding, why should we attempt to fulfill the Great Commission in its context? Well, let me give you a few reasons:
- You cannot escape cultural diversity, as explained above.
- The Triune God of Scripture & History calls us to go to the nations. In our case, He has been generous enough to bring the nations to us.
- This environment is so demanding that any progress made, in your own heart and / or in the heart of those around you, would be clearly demonstrated as coming from Him and not from you.
- Cultural diversity is abrasive for our pride – the main source of our idolatry
What to expect
You will experience some tension, when making disciples in this environment. You will be pulled back into your own cultural preferences. The temptation to use your own culture as the only way to measure Spiritual Transformation will be there. But also, with His help, you will experience meaningful Spiritual Transformation. He will cultivate you, more and more, into a humble follower of Him. And if He is pleased to show up and transform hearts around you, you will be allowed to see His Beauty more clearly than in any other context.
Invest time observing all the cultural sets interacting around you. How does our working definition match your context? Have you seen any of the 4 “Why’s” taking place there, in the cultural intersection you are serving?
Remember His grace, Follow Him in humility, Cultivate constantly, All in cultural diversity.