Raj Saha
The Multicoloured Church - Part 3 of 3

If you’ve just joined us in part three you may want to read Part 1 & Part 2  before proceeding. In brief summary I’ve presented 4 theological points which have provided a foundation as we look at the subject of The Multicolour Church:One, Different, The Church, The radical gospel. I then moved on to look at a number of areas which have impacted how we have built up our own church community. I initiatilly looked at the need to be envisioned by God (we need to know where we are going) I then moved on to look out how we should empower one another to be influencers in our community and communities, this can look different for people of different nations and cutlures. Here In my final post in this series we look at two further areas: Having Fun Together and Caring & Encouraging one another. 

3. Enjoy. Have fun together
Get stuck into and make the most of the various celebrations, parties and social gatherings that occur in different communities and cultures, experience how different communities enjoy themselves. It seems simple but joyful proximity changes the heart. Having fun together is a great insight into other people’s worlds and a massive eye-opener to your barriers and skepticism. If you’ve got any (I don’t have much left), let your hair down. 

I’ve had the privilege of being invited to and been involved with many different celebrations here are some examples. I’ve been to Eritrean coffee rituals in living rooms where the smoke alarms started screaming and the house almost burnt down! I’ve been to Persian New Year celebrations where I’ve danced till my hips gave way from wiggling and jiggling. I’ve sat in makeshift saunas then plunged myself into ice cold swimming pools nearly passing out, building friendships with new converts, who not so long ago were racist towards people like me. I’ve cooked with people, walked with people, sang with people, and jumped on trampolines. I’ve even eaten turkey porridge! Having fun breaks down barriers so quickly. 

Bryan Stevenson notes: “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance…You have to get close….Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths."

As the church we are looking for that space, 2-way bridges for different cultures to cross, to mutually encourage, to hear the stories and heartache, the joys and dilemmas of different people groups and communities, especially the broken, the outcast, the asylum seeker.

Another friend of mine who we’ll call Farod, was a muslim asylum seeker from Afghanistan who when I first saw him looked solemn and emaciated. His stare was stern and spoke of despair and tragedy. Indeed as we got to know him, as he joined our Alpha course and came on a journey with us. As he ate with us and spent Christmas’s with us, we got to know more of his story. It’s these things, these moments that can't be rushed. Indeed his life so far, at only 20 years old, was a continuous series of death, abuse and separation. However, through his friendship with the church, through the gospel, through his thirst for Jesus and He said in the bible, God brought healing and family back to this desperate young man.

Eventually after a few years, his asylum case failed, I was distraught. In my final conversation with Farod I was determined to counsel him about his safety and being careful what he reveals to others about his new found faith in Jesus in the midst of terrible persecution. That was my agenda! But In those final words that’s wasn’t his concern. He also didn’t say Raj everything will be okay either, I’ll be fine. Instead for the next 5 minutes he led me through one of the most profound bible studies that I’ve ever experienced from Romans 5 which he’d been praying through and pondering over that week.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings [he told me], knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

He eventually said to me Raj, I am good, I am happy I am strong. Jesus is joy. I always have Jesus. Jesus makes me strong. 

Over the years he’d been with us, God put an unwipable eternal smile on my friend’s face. Even today, this very same Farod, who we are in contact with regularly, is leading people to Christ, baptising them in waterfalls and streams, setting up business, a new life, and allowing the "Joy News Of Jesus" to go viral in midst of marked poverty and extreme danger. He changed me!

You see proximity works both ways. You can’t fail to be changed as you engage with and journey with those who have a different culture to your own. 

4. Caring, encouraging.
In missional cultures, we can all to quickly make people into projects rather than having the same motivation of compassion and care that Jesus had. Recently a couple in our church called Simon and Jodie, have befriended a Salvadoran family living in Middlesbrough. The family had lots of basic needs but Simon and Jodie took the time to ask questions and find out what they were lacking. Through the church we managed to help them settle in to their new home. This all happened during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in March / April 2020. Getting things sorted was tough for this family that were new. Amongst their list of requirements was a guitar, their son knew how to play and together the whole family worshiped. This was so important to them! This is what they missed most about lockdown. So Simon made it his mission to find one and the week after he delivered it, the family sent him short videos of all of them, children too, worshipping God and praising to there own music! What a joy to see them praising God in their own language. 

If we want God's heart for an ethnically diverse church we need to be proactive about showing his love and tenderheartedness. We need to be creative, especially in places where ethnic diversity is harder to find. It's a massive game of hide and seek! Minority cultures often keep themselves to themselves. One of the big ways we do that in Jubilee is by serving asylum seekers and refugees. But in the midst of that others see and tell their communities  - in more oral cultures news travels fast! 

The Alpha Course is another amazing way of creating a space for cultures to eat together, show you care, share stories, explore and discover faith together. I could go on all day. I could encourage you to Engage your kids to walk over cross-cultural bridges too as that also brings families together.  I could exhort you to make your own stories, to share those stories, to allow your church, your communities, your MPs to hear those stories - of victories, of setbacks, of faith exploits, and of perseverance. 

But I’m going to begin to bring this series of articles to a close. 

Are you excited about Gods plan for multiethnic church where God transforms racism to Gracism. I am! 

Let’s finish with this last story. An Iranian muslim guy started coming to Alpha and he loved the community and family feel. Anyhow one day he attended one of our Sunday mornings. Someone brought a tongue and then we talked about how tongues are a gift from God. By the way, I didn't tell you, this guy only had one leg! On hearing the explanation of the tongue he started hopping jubilantly in the middle of an isle with his crutches flying all over the place. We were all wondering what was going on. He told us that the previous night he had been woken up and found he was speaking in a language he had never learnt. It terrified him! He thought it was the devil. That morning he realised that Jesus was getting through to him. He was so thrilled, that He had encountered the living God not the devil! The next week he made a commitment to follow Jesus during our Alpha evening.

Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations 
May all the peoples praise you, God;
May the nations be glad and sing for joy

Jesus is building, his multiethnic, multiracial, multicoloured glorious church - his city on a hill - the hope of the world. Let’s put our faith in his faithfulness!

In this series of posts we’ve looked at some areas which have been influential in our thinking at Jubilee Church Teesside. We’ve looked at some theological foundations and then at some areas where we have intentionally built a church community which reflects the diversity of our city and the nations. We’re not perfect but we are learning together how to continue to be community in a world which is desperately searching for unity, diversity and an answer to the issue of race. As I’ve said before this is really a brief 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!

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