Are You Guilty of Cultural Elitism?
"Let us get out from behind our cultural elitism, and instead look firmly forward toward a Church made up of all nations, all tongues and every tribe."
When speaking at a church in South Carolina about the need for workers in Scotland’s church plants, I was challenged by the question: “Why do we need to go there — are there not enough lost people here?”
Likewise, when sharing among believers in Scotland about a good and faithful brother who will soon be moving from the U.S. to join one of our church planting teams in Scotland, I am typically met with skepticism rather than enthusiasm and rejoicing.
Why would a Christian from America do ministry in Scotland? It is a question I get asked often. It is a curious question, to be honest. I am never quite sure how to answer it. It always takes me aback every time.
The very asking of the question raises in my mind so many other questions. Why would a Christian from England go and plant churches in Brazil? Why would a Christian from China go evangelize in Malaysia? Why would a Nigerian become a pastor in London? Why would a Scottish believer plant a church in Kentucky?
The question appears to presume that the birthplace, ethnicity, accent or cultural origin of a gospel worker in some way disqualifies that person from that work. Does this not defy what God is doing? If God can speak through a donkey, then he can surely speak though a southern drawl on the streets of Dundee!
Besides that, the church is a part of something global. The church is a part of something far bigger than any one nationality. We are no longer Jew or Gentile. We are all adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly father. Our accent, our birthplace, our race or ethnicity no longer defines us. As believers, we are marked out from the world and bound to one another by the blood of Christ. We share a common purpose, the proclamation of Christ and his Kingdom. That is the only identity that counts now.
The church is a sent-out people. Our mission is to go. Yes, we are to go to our neighbours, but more than that, we are specifically called to go to the nations. We are called to cross cultures. We are called to go beyond our own borders and enter into foreign, alien, unfamiliar lands in order to make known the Kingdom of God to all peoples. We are a sent-out people.
There is something wonderful about this, something Christ-exalting, when we lose our attachment to our nationality and ethnicity and embrace the common citizenship that all believers share as peoples from many tribes and tongues. Serving alongside one another, we bear witness to a global Kingdom that is yet to come.
So the question is such an odd question for a Christian to even ask. “Why would an American minister in Scotland?” Why? Well apart from the fact that there is not a rush of people queuing up to plant churches, it is also because we are by our very nature a called-out and a sent-out people.
Surely it should not surprise us that God would send English-speaking Christians to other English-speaking nations that are in great need of gospel workers. God could send from any nation, and he does, and he will. But why would we be in any way uncomfortable with God sending people to us in Scotland from other English-speaking nations? Why would we not rejoice that the Lord has not forsaken his church in Scotland?
He will, and he is, calling out and sending out workers. Those workers might come from within Scotland, just as they might come from places further afield. The origin of the Lord’s sent is really a mute point. God is the one who sends. The wind blows where it blows, and the Spirit leads whoever the Spirit decides to lead.
If only the Church would grasp hold of a bigger vision of herself. We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people from every tribe and tongue standing together to declare in a brilliant multicolored unison that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is glorious!
So let us get out from behind our cultural elitism and instead look firmly forward toward a vision of a church that is made up of all nations, all tongues and from every tribe. Accents of all kinds are welcome here. Workers from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds are invited to join us in building healthy, gospel-centered churches in Scotland’s poorest communities.
The gospel destroys every dividing line. A gospel-centered, gospel-loving, gospel-proclaiming believer who is being obedient to the call of God to go and proclaim his name where Jesus is not yet known is my brother and my co-labourer in the Lord, regardless of background, accent or economic standing. We are a new people, a new creation. We are one in Christ, and by our oneness the world might see him as the Son of God.