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July 12, 2016

Worldview Shift and Our Church Planting Mission

By Linda Bergquist

In recent years, the Christian conversation about modernism and postmodernism has waned. My hunch is that this is because we are no longer talking about a new worldview as simply a reaction to the old, but that we realize its newly emerging contours are already shaping our future. While I hesitate to name this new worldview (some already do), I am certain that its key values are becoming apparent. One of these values is the protection of and respect for diversity. Here are a few clues:

  • The Green Party of Canada says, “We honour and value equally the Earth’s biological and ecological diversity together with the cultural, linguistic, ethnic, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity within the context of individual responsibility toward all beings.” 
  • America’s Green Party proposes, “We celebrate cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and strive to build peace and understanding between disparate groups. We believe that the diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and governments, and we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally kept out of it. We depend on the diversity of the natural world and we must protect it.” 
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature connects biological and cultural diversity, seeking to protect both: The IUCN seeks to support conservation of the world’s cultural diversity and of traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous and traditional peoples.

Any search engine of the words protect, respect, or diversity displays thousands of government, environmental, nonprofit, educational, business, and other local and global institutions with these values. In other words, this cuts across multiple domains of our society. I am proposing that especially for a younger generation, these values are helping to create a set of shared beliefs that shape how they intrinsically understand bad and good, right and wrong. So what does/can this mean for the Church and its church planting mission? Let’s begin to scratch the surface:

  • Affinity based principles of gathering people have dominated the Western church planting landscape for decades. New ways of defining what it means to have something in common with a group have less to do with race or ethnicity, but are more about shared lifestyles, preferences, and interests.
  • Diversity is more than skin deep. Many people are reluctant to acknowledge a church as diverse unless it also transcends socioeconomics, age, and education. Parish type churches in urban areas are good examples of this. Demonstrate respect for real diversity.
  • You and I don’t shop at multiethnic pharmacies, attend multiethnic schools, or eat at multiethnic restaurants. They are pharmacies, schools and restaurants. That’s it. Can we simply call what we do “church”?
  • Anticipate a growing debate about gender identity and gender diversity, even in really conservative churches. For a growing number of people in the world, diversity includes these things.
  • A few years ago, it was rare for a person of color to lead a “multiethnic” church unless that person was iconic, such as a sports figure, or a well-known personality. That is changing. I know plenty of people of various ethnicities and cultural backgrounds now leading these churches. If you live in a diverse community, does your staff reflect that reality?
  • We, God’s people, belong at the table for this conversation. It is our God who is the Creator of diverse peoples and diverse living and nonliving things. It is His Kingdom that will someday reflect every tribe, tongue, and people. Ultimately it is Christ who tears down the dividing wall between us— not worldviews, philosophies, policies, or human values. Is this amazing, beautiful concept of Kingdom an integral part of our evangelism practices? Can we sort through what is biblical, and what is simply cultural? Let’s try.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Bergquist

Linda Bergquist is a church planting catalyst, coach, teacher, mentor who has been living and working in the Bay Area for 20 years. She works among many ethnic groups, and has a special interest in least reached people groups. Bergquist is an advocate of all kinds of churches and church planting methodologies. She has coauthored two books, Church Turned Inside Out and The Wholehearted Church Planter, and is the author of the Exponential series e-book The Great Commission and the Rest of Creation.

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