If there truly are a diversity of people and cultures in the world then surely it is inconceivable to imagine that the a community of the gospel ought to have a homogeneous look the world over, in vastly separate communities of culture, economics or way of life. Or indeed in a multi-ethnic and mixed economic community.
If it is the gospel and the gospel alone that shapes and directs our churches, then diversity is not simply a “nice to have”, it is crucial to the existence of the gospel in that community.
Ephesians 2, for example, makes it clear that the gospel is busy creating out of a divided humanity (in Ephesians that is the Jew-Gentile divide) one new man or humanity. This one new man is the body of Christ (the church). When we are in Christ we have a new identity, a new affinity and we belong primarily to a new humanity.
This does not mean a kind of a-cultural homogeneity or, as has been the case in the past, a conformity to Western Christianised norms. Rather we bring all of our previous cultural richness, diversity, strengths, weaknesses and idolatries into the one new humanity. And together our cultures enrich the church and grow us in our understanding of the gospel. Nothing helps us see our personal and cultural blind-spots than reading the Bible or sharing life with someone from another culture. The diversity of the church is a gift of God.
An affirmation of gospel diversity rescues us from cookie-cutter church models. Have you every paused to consider why throughout my city Cape Town for instance no matter which community you go into from the ludicrous wealthy to the desperately poor the essential structure of church life will be the same? Surely the gospel frees us to allow church life to grow up in such a way that resembles the life of the people of that community. It is a community whose life together makes sense to the people of that community whilst at the same time it exists as a challenge to the community because of the gospel at work in that church community.
If there exists in a community a gospel community which bears no resemblance to the culture and rhythms of that community then we must question whether there has indeed been a fundamental shift of identity from the old life to the new.