SEND understands that it takes people from all nations to reach all nations. It’s part of our DNA: Some of SEND’s earliest missionaries were Asians who returned home after World War II to share the gospel with their war-ravaged fellow countrymen, while others were North Americans who had developed a heart for reaching Japan. Today, as our efforts have expanded to more than 20 countries, we continue to collaborate with sending offices and partner agencies around the world to send disciple-makers to the unreached. We know we’re Better Together. Here are four reasons why:
1. Multicultural teams reflect Jesus’ heart for his people
Unity in diversity emerges as a theme throughout the New Testament. Multicultural teams naturally reflect this unity.
- John 17 records Jesus’ prayer for the unity of believers: “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. … I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one — as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
- Paul reminds us of our unity in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
- And, in Revelation, John gives us an inspiring picture of eternal unity: “Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Throughout the world, many people associate ethnicity with religion — to be X is to believe Y. Multicultural teams contradict this notion without anyone needing to say a word. Their very existence whispers, “You don’t have to look a certain way or come from a certain place, or speak a certain language to love and be loved by Jesus.”
2. Multicultural teams are a natural outgrowth of a changing world
Even as the number of people identifying as Christians in Western contexts is dropping, Christ’s Church is growing throughout the majority world.
- In 1910, the vast majority of the world’s Christians — over 80 percent — lived in the global North. Today, that figure is only 41 percent.
- In Asia, Christianity is growing more than twice as fast as the general population.
- In 1970, 41.3 percent of all Christians were from Africa, Asia or Latin America. By 2020, this figure is expected to be 64.7 percent.
Jesus gave his Great Commission to all his followers. As more Latin Americans, Filipinos, Chinese or Africans become deeply rooted disciples, we can rejoice that these majority world believers are answering his call to make disciples of all the nations.
3. Multicultural teams can make full use of each other’s strengths
In Ephesians 4:16, Paul tells us we are to grow into Christ, “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow.” In addition to the spiritual gifts that Paul is referencing, missionaries from the majority world often bring other strengths that can help them make disciples.
- A similar (or even shared) language. For instance, several of SEND’s global workers from Latin America are seeing fruit from their work in Spain, without having to invest in language learning.
- A natural cultural connection, like a deep understanding of hospitality or the importance of extended family.
- A similar socio-economic background, which can keep financial disparities from derailing relationships. Said one Filipina missionary to China: “Asians can really empathize with fellow Asians, especially when you talk about poverty, etcetera.”
- Shared political history; for instance, Ukrainians find greater acceptance in some Central Asian countries because they, too, experienced cultural oppression during Soviet times.
- A familiar face. That same Filipina missionary said, “I think one of the advantages of having an Asian face is that Chinese people are not intimidated by me. Because I am not intimidating, women tend to open up more easily and express themselves freely, which leads to deep friendships.”
4. Multicultural teams inspire intentionality
Misunderstandings can sink a team. Monocultural teams certainly are not immune from misunderstanding, but sometimes people from one culture expect that they should understand one another, and therefore neglect to talk about topics that later grow into misunderstandings.
Multicultural teams, on the other hand, can anticipate misunderstanding. Words like “team,” “leader,” “friend,” “work” or “vacation” almost certainly will have different connotations to different members of a multicultural team. This creates an opportunity for the team, together, to talk through relationship expectations, leadership styles, work schedules and other potentially sticky topics.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we delve more deeply into some of the complexities of multicultural teams and as we share inspiring stories from around the world that demonstrate this truth: We are Better Together.
More Better Together stories
- ‘Vital instruments’ in new faith: Four Latin American interns passionately share their faith in Thailand, and two young women decide to follow Jesus!
- Missionary, know thyself: Multicultural teams work together more smoothly when each member understands their own culture. These questions can help.
- Check out the resources on SEND’s Better Together page.