Teologiese perspektiewe vir
multikulturele gemeentewees
KGA 22 Julie 2014 CWA
Theological perspectives on
multicultural congregations
Statement 1:
NT emphasis is not, in first
instance, on multicultural identity
but on unity within congregations…
whatever differences their might be
– income, class, culture
1. NT emphasis is not, in first instance, on
multicultural identity but on unity within
congregations… whatever differences their
might be – income, class, culture
 Paul, for example, does not make a point: “Be
multicultural!”
 His emphasis is that…
o Body of Christ should function as body – 1
Corinthians 12
o Body of Christ should bring marginalized to
centre – Ephesians
Body should function as a body,
which means (1 Cor 12):
• Ear cannot say: “Because I am
not an eye, I do not belong to the
body”
• Eye cannot say to the hand, “I do
not need you…”
• “If one member suffers, all suffer
together, if one is honoured…”
Cor 12
Body should bring the marginalized
to the centre, for example Eph 2:
“You Gentiles… in the past separated
from Christ, alienated from the
commonwealth of Israel, strangers to
the covenants of promise…having no
hope and without God in the world…”
(Eph 2:12)
• “BUT now… in Christ you who
once were far off have been
brought near…”
• “For He is our peace… who has
made us both one, and has
broken down the dividing wall of
hostility…” (Eph 2:14)
• “So (now) you are no longer
strangers and sojourners, but…
fellow citizens”(Eph 2:19)
• In this body… each should consider
others… e.g. rich  poor, e.g. 1 Cor
11
• V 17: The Lord’s Supper which is not the
Lord’s Supper…
• Some richer Corinthian Christians were
thinking of themselves and friends
• No! Rather refrain from the Lord’s
Supper if that is your attitude
• If you want to celebrate Lord’s Supper…
you should “recognize” the body
In this body… each should consider
others… e.g. rich  poor, e.g. 1 Cor 11
• V 17: The Lord’s Supper which is not
the Lord’s Supper…
• Some richer Corinthian Christians were
thinking of themselves and friends
• No! Rather refrain from the Lord’s
Supper if that is your attitude
• If you want to celebrate Lord’s Supper…
you should “recognize” the body
In this body… each should consider
others… e.g. different cultures, e.g.
1 Cor 8
• Some (most probably from Jewish
background) knew: “there is no God
but one” (v 4)….
• Thus, for them “this was sacrificed
to other gods”….  not a problem
• V 7: “BUT not everyone knows
this…”, so… 
1 CORINTHIANS 8 (continued)
• There are… in body… people from
other backgrounds & cultures…
• For them: Eating of this meat =
Honouring old gods
• So… before you eat…  think of
them… think of others…
• V 12: This sin against brother = sin
against Christ…
• Same argument in 1 Cor 9:23 – meat
sold on market…
In this body… each should be willing
give space to others, from other culture,
e.g. Rom 14:1-19
• Paul assumes, takes for granted…
Roman congregations multicultural
• So… even before his arrival, he
explains where he stands…
• V 1: “Accept him whose faith is (in your
estimation) weak…”
• Accept that there are matters on which
there will be differences…
Some advice:
• Recognise “disputable matters” –
don’t quarrel about that… (v 1, 5)
• Focus on “building up” your fellow
believer (Rom 15:1-2)
• V 7: “Accept one another, just as
Christ accepted you…”
In this body… the unity is a
treasure that should be
defended, e.g. Gal 2:11-14
• The reason for writing of Galatians…
Peter’s disruption of unity
• The problem Paul addresses…
probably not so much righteousness
by works… as possible disruption of
unity between Jewish & Gentile
believers
Also: Gal 3:26: “You are all sons of God
through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you
were baptized into Christ, have clothed
yourselves with Christ…
There is (in the body of Christ) neither Jew
or Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you
belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s
seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Conclusion from statement 1:
• Paul took for granted that most
congregations he ministered to,
would be multi-cultural…
• He did not propagate founding
multi-cultural congregations
• He took it for granted that they
would be multi-cultural in the area
he worked… mostly Asia Minor,
Greece, Rome
• Paul never consider founding
multi-cultural congregations…
• He assumed they would be…
emphasised acceptance & support of one
another
• He encouraged them to treasure the
unity within multi-cultural congregations…
not only for practical reasons, but because
they reflected the reconciliation between
God and believers.
Statement 2:
NT does not suggest to us
that a mono-cultural
congregation is necessarily
an imperfect model
Example, Acts 6:
• The congregation in Jerusalem was a
monocultural, Jewish congregation. The tension
there was not between Jewish and Gentile
Christians, but between Hebrew and Greek
speaking Jewish Christians – v1: “The Greekspeaking Jews among them complained against
the Hebrew-speaking Jews”.
• The problem to be sorted out was not tension
between Jew and Gentile, but the perception that
one group in the congregation (the Hebrewspeaking members, who had been members from
the beginning) received better treatment than the
Greek-speaking Jews, who were “new-comers”.
Example, Acts 15:
• The “synod” in Jerusalem met to discuss the
question of Jewish identity markers
(circumcision, kosher diet, Sabbath as day of
worship).
• The question was whether non-Jewish
Christians in Asia Minor etc should keep these
customs.
• The very fact that such a question was
discussed, tells us that there were
congregations in Jerusalem and Judea who
were culturally Jewish – and who assumed that
these customs should also be kept by the
“newcomers”.
Decision of Synod in Jerusalem
• The Jerusalem synod’s decision was that
these Jewish cultural markers should not be
applied to Gentile Christian congregations
(with their Jewish minorities) in Asia Minor
etc.
• Nothing was however said about or against
the (monocultural) Jewish congregations in
Jerusalem and Judea – because it was
assumed that they would carry on as before –
most probably meeting on Sabbath for
worship, keeping kosher and circumcising
their sons.
Example, Acts 21:17-26 Paul in
Jerusalem
The charge: “You teach all the Jews who live among the
Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to
circumcise their children or live according to our customs”
(v 21).
Paul’s answer: Agree to perform traditional Jewish ritual
purification (v 26).
Conclusion: Paul (and also Luke, the writer of Acts) was
not against Jewish Christians keeping their own cultural
customs. Since many of these customs (e.g. worship on
Sabbath) could only be celebrated within a community
where one culture (the Jewish culture) dominated, we may
assume that there was in principle no rejection of “monocultural” congregations as such.
Example, The Letter to Hebrews:
Written to Jewish recipients, supports this
impression. The Hebrew recipients are
encourage to “keep on loving each other as
brothers” and “not forget to entertain
strangers” (Hebr 13:1).
So, whereas openness to strangers, which
most possibly included Gentiles, is stressed,
there is no appeal to change from a monocultural to a multi-cultural community.
Statement 3:
NT guidelines regarding
multicultural congregations
Statement 3:
NT guidelines regarding
multicultural congregations:
a. Multicultural congregations were not
propagated or suggested as norm or
ideal.
b. Emphasis was rather on equal and just
treatment of people of different cultures
when they were present in one
congregation or one community.
c. There should be no
preferential treatment on
grounds of culture, and to a
degree this also applied to
gender.
Statement 4.
Theological guidelines for
multicultural congregations
1. Multicultural congregations within a
denomination can and should be a
blessing.
2. Multicultural congregations should not
be upheld as the ideal or norm for every
congregation.
Reasons:
1. Most “multicultural” congregation are
really monocultural congregations, with
members of different cultures.
• One culture dominates
• Even if project starts as “multicultural”
congregations (with different
languages used), after a while it
gravitates towards a monocultural
congregation – which accommodates
different cultures.
• That’s a good thing – but not perfect.
2. A “monocultural” congregation has certain
advantages:
• Often in “multicultural” congregations with a
dominant culture and language, pastoral
problems which are more prevalent in one
culture, are often not dealt with.
• Monocultural congregations often are better in
supplying a cultural environment where people
can speak about problems which are more
relevant to people of their culture.
• Example: Young adult (25-35 years) service –
often very “monocultural”, but effective for that
age group.
There is the advantage of of
“authenticity” which is important.
• I can talk about certain issues here…
because the people here understand
“where I am coming from” – my culture.
• Example: In Messianic Jewish
Congregation – rejection by family and
friends.
• This same congregation is in danger of
losing its cultural authenticity if it is flooded
by new Gentile members…
Guideline:
• Whereas every denomination
should be encourage to have
“multicultural” congregations,
these congregations should
not necessarily be regarded
as the… norm or ideal.
• Applied to Bellville, Bill
Bezuidenhout Drive…
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NT guidelines regarding multicultural congregations