Raj Saha
The Multicoloured Church - Part 2 of 3

The Multicoloured Church Part 2 of 3
If you’ve just joined us in part two you may want to read part one here. In summary I’ve presented 4 theological points which will provide a foundation as we look at the subject of The Multicolour Church:One, Different, The Church, The radical gospel.In this and future articles I’m going to use these foundations to build a context for building churches which truly represent God’s heart. This is really an attempt to unpack some of the things we have learnt at Jubilee Teesside so far. These are only a couple of areas and in reality none of them are rocket science but they are all challenging in their own way. Hopefully as I unpack them a little bit it will be of help to you in your own context. 

1. We need to know where we are going. An envisioning by God.
Brian Stevenson an American lawyer, social justice activist, and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law describes this envisioning as Hope. 

He says:  “The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong.”

As leaders we endeavour to shape all areas of our church vision around God’s future vision of an ethnically diverse, vibrant, joyful community where everyone benefits.  We make that crystal clear - what we do isn’t just for them, but for all of us. Weallbecome richer through this approach, even in self-sacrifice. Being the nations…going to the nations. That needs repeating and rephrasing andre-emphasising in leadership meetings, on Sundays, in prophetic contributions, in our songs, in our kids work, in our creativity, in our sermons series, in our groups, in who we ask to lead and contribute, in the market place. It’s  often a shift, it's a faith expedition, it's sometimes a voyage into the unknown - and sometimes a voyage out of our places of comfort (our comfort zones). To live as Abraham did in tents…looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. This journey is a challenge but one which is worth taking!

2. Empower your brothers and sisters
This is essential both in representation and process. As an eldership team we have a British guy from a Polish background, an Iranian ex-muslim convert that came to the UK as an asylum seeker, myself an Anglo Asian, and a young Brit with roots in Gibraltar. All of us want to cross culture. All of us have been through various degrees of racial tensions ourselves. We’ve seen it. We’ve had to work it out. We’ve all messed up big style and had to say sorry time and time again. We invite friends and listen to them from all over world to help us out. We ask them to share their experiences, hurts, friendship, prayers, their cultural intelligence, and wisdom.

Spotting people who I’ve termed ‘Interculturers’ is key too. These are the people who thrive in this mixed cultural environment. They have a God given passion, creativity, and skills to bring all these differences together. They see things positively, they are contagious, they inspire. They have the ability to move gracefully and attractively in various cultures. Take time to spot who these people are and place them in settings where they can make maximum impact!

Some great friends of ours Steve and Jo were one such couple. They loved to interculture, they were devoted to raising peoples dignity, honour and value. They invited people to their home to eat and sometimes to live but they also visited others. Their whole family was taken on this journey of discovery. They sacrificed their own comfort to uplift those struggling with systemic discrimination and sometimes poverty. Early one morning Steve along with a local GP who was not a Chrisitan, defaced a giant political billboard which dishonoured immigrants that was right outside where we used to meet as a church. They did what was required, they were never passive. They were beautifully provoking to be with, you couldn’t help but be changed by them. 

I intentionally mention an empowering process here too.  People feel permission to contribute and move things forward in different ways - we need to help them unlock those ways. In reality community changes from the grassroots upwards but that needs leadership facilitation. Rigid worship times and intensely scheduled meetings, can be a real barrier to many cultures. My Iranian friend Soroush generally only speaks when he is asked to. That is him honouring and respecting those in leadership and those he respects but in the past I have read this reaction very differently. I’ve made assumptions but I was wrong so wrong. So now I have got into the habit of regularly asking him his thoughts even though he is also free to speak at any time. By giving him this space I am also showing honour and value back to him, which is culturally meaningful for him. By doing this we have built a greater level of trust in our relationship and our communication has changed and evolved. Also inviting him to a 3 course meal is a great way of hearing him deeper, empowering him, changing me and affecting our church and the churches we work with. To be fair usually it’s McDonald’s but I’m sure other fast food establishments will work just as effectively. You see it’s the time that’s important and food is often culturally a great ice-breaker. 

We had a 20yr old guy Erimias from Eritrea, he had a good grasp of English and so we asked him to interpret for us on a Sunday. However when we encouraged our Eritrean families to pray or break bread or read scripture etc, we found that they wouldn't. It baffled us. These guys loved to worship and pray. Eventually months later we asked Erimias, "are you translating what we’re asking?” and he told us: “Of course I’m not, I’m a young guy and so I can't tell my elders what to do." So he didn't! We learnt something that day about culturally diverse empowerment and communication. Just because someone can understand the words you are saying doesn’t mean that you understand their culture or that they understand yours. This takes work, communication and understanding on all sides. You will sometimes make mistakes but if you build a community where there is grace, mercy and love for one another you can work through these mistakes. 

So in this post we have looked at two areas which have impacted how we have built up our own church community in my final post we will look at two further areas: having fun together and caring and encouraging one another. As I’ve said before this is really a short attempt at unpacking some of the things which we have learnt at Jubilee Church Teesside over the years. You can read and download the complete set here. You can also watch the video that goes alongside this series below and there are options to listen to this available on the ChristCentral media page: christcentralchurches.org/media and we’ve also made this series available on the ChristCentral YouTube Channel: youtube.com/c/christcentralchurches 

The Mulitcoloured Church:
Part 1 
Part 2 
Part 3 
Full Article (PDF)

Raj Saha - Bio:
Raj is part of the leadership team at Jubilee Church Teesside, a church which has a passion to serve the poor, marginalised and vulnerable and contribute to the city and neighbourhoods. They partner with churches throughout the world bringing diverse groups of people together both joyfully and with purpose. Jubilee Church Teesside is a church made up of people from over 20 nations with 30-40% of the congregation originating from other nations. Raj is a GP and the practice he is part of has been able to contribute to the prison sector, addiction services and serve those with severe mental health in various setting. They’re also involved with refugee medicine, training GPs and contributing to the future of NHS strategy and development. Raj would underline the fact that our Christian faith and influence for the good of all is much bigger than a service on a Sunday morning or evening! But you know that already? God has a wider and weightier agenda!