Image for Q&A – How Does Christianity Relate to Other Cultures?

Q&A – How Does Christianity Relate to Other Cultures?

Photo of Michael PattersonMichael Patterson | Bio

Michael Patterson

With over two decades in church development and leadership experience, Dr. Michael Patterson has served ministries in Tallahassee, FL, New York City, and currently in Atlanta, GA. He is also the author of Running with Lions, a leadership development book, and an adjunct history professor at the prestigious Morehouse College. His doctorate is in education from Abilene Christian University. After the blessing of salvation, Michael has enjoyed 25 of marriage to his wife Shawn, and they have two children Alexis and Joseph.
Photo of Marcos MercadoMarcos Mercado | Bio

Marcos Mercado

After over 25 years of full-time ministry, Marcos planted a church in the heart of Wilmington, Delaware. Educated at Manhattan College and Abilene Christian University, he wears many hats, including that of Pastor, Church-Planter, and Radio Personality. You can hear him host the popular Radio One show “Marriage beyond the Vows” on WPPZ Praise 107.9 FM. Marcos, who is fluent in both English and Spanish, speaks both nationally and internationally in places like South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Happily married to his wife Amarilis, they are the proud parents of Lillian and Matthew.
Photo of Ronnie RoseRonnie Rose | Bio

Ronnie Rose

Ronnie Rose and his wife Sharmarra lead the FirstRock Church in Greenville, SC. They’ve served in the full-time ministry since 1996 and have worked with churches in New York and South Carolina. Ronnie was born and raised in New York City and became a Christian as a teen. Sharmarra was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and became a Christian in 1995. They’ve been married since 1999 and have two children, Kaylen and Stephen. Their life passion is helping make disciples that make disciples.
Photo of Kerry CoxKerry Cox | Bio

Kerry Cox

Kerry has been doing ministry since he was 18, all the way back in 1996. In 2004 he and 30 others planted a church in Wentzville, MO. The Crossings Church has grown to be a very young, diverse, and unchurched group of disciples committed to making disciples. The Crossings has since planted three other churches and partners with a fourth church plant. He has been married to Hannah for 20+ years and they have 3 kiddos who are all actively engaged in College, High School, and Children’s ministries!

*Editor’s Note: It’s easy to think of your own cultural as superior to others. When you become a citizen of God’s kingdom, how should you interact with other cultures? I recently sat down with four church leaders who are doing this well and asked them questions which get at the heart of how churches can be more intentional about pursuing multiethnic, multicultural churches. This is the fourth in a series of Q&A articles to come out of that conversation. For Part 1 (Why is it worth it?), click here, Part 2 (What gets in the way?) here, and Part 3 (What habits can we cultivate?) here. The church leaders are Michael Patterson (The Path Church in Atlanta, GA), Marcos Mercado (Delaware Christian Church in Wilmington, DE), Ronnie Rose (FirstRock Church in Greenville, SC), and Kerry Cox (The Crossings in Saint Louis, MO). 

Q: Multiethnic churches mean getting used to more than one culture. How does Christianity relate to other cultures?

Ronnie: If we’re going to fulfill God’s commission of making disciples of all nations, then we’ve got to think like kingdom people, not primarily as one culture or another. As kingdom people, we start with the inside and then work our way out. We allow God to transform our most fundamental identity. Whatever color you are, I think we have to have more of a kingdom identity.

Paul was an example of this. Paul was the Jew of Jews, a Hebrew of Hebrews, right? Yet he became “all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22). He was able to become weak to win the weak and strong to win the strong. And I think he was able to do that because he was a kingdom man more than a Jewish man. This kingdom identity enabled him to adapt. It enabled him to embrace different cultures.

I think it’s funny that he says, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews” (1 Cor. 9:20). That’s weird because he was a Jew. But I think that it speaks to the transformation that he had to being a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom and having a kingdom mentality and identity.

It’s also important to note that, as a kingdom person, you can serve people who are not like you, but without losing your cultural identity in the process. I don’t think that Paul ever lost his heritage or his Jewishness, nor did he require Gentile Christians to give up their cultural identity. We need to resist making people conform to our likeness in order for them to be accepted.

Mike: Yeah, Ronnie is alluding to our tendency to expect people to conform to the dominant culture. Whatever is the dominant culture, we expect people to embrace it. God taught me a lot of lessons early on as a minister. I was from the South, yet living in New York City, and my first ministry was working with Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Ecuadorian cultures. I had no cultural reference. But I just went into the environment, tried to be a Christian, and tried to show gratitude and appreciation.

Marcos: I think back to Peter and how he really struggled with allowing Christianity to be truly multicultural. He would sit with Gentiles and eat with them until his fellow Jews from Jerusalem showed up. Then he didn’t want to sit with the Gentiles anymore. Paul rebuked him because Paul saw that as wrong.

Like Paul, I think we need to treat it for what it is. If we’re not reaching other cultures, that’s wrong, especially if your area is changing. Especially now with churches having an online presence, there is no reason we can’t cross these boundaries. Obviously, we don’t want superficial. I know churches that would just hire a diverse worship team, but that’s not really crossing the boundaries. The real questions are, whom do you eat with? Who are your ten closest friends? Who are your kids’ best friends?

Kerry: It all goes back to the question of whether we are going to be disciple makers. I just don’t know how you can be a real disciple maker and not have your church become more diverse. Because when you make disciples, you are going to run into people who are different than you. I really think that, for churches that don’t have any diversity at all, either they’re in a completely non-diverse area where no one is around you, or they’re not really trying hard to make disciples.

When our churches are making disciples and experiencing a diversity of cultures, we should celebrate the differences in each other. At the same time, any tension caused by these differences dissolves in importance because what really matters is the kingdom.

I just don’t know how you can be a real disciple maker and not have your church become more diverse.