For the past couple of decades, multiculturalism and diversity have been key goals of many Protestant churches and denominations. But our churches seem as segregated today as they did at the turn of the millennium. And churches that do venture into the waters of multiculturalism seem plagued by challenges to identity, internal division, misunderstanding, and more often than not end up with a diverse congregation that is culturally whitewashed, where people of colour are welcome . . . as long as they don’t “cause trouble” by trying to start conversations about systematic racism or reparations. Why does the promise of Revelation 7 – where the church of God is depicted as a great multitude beyond counting from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation – so difficult to achieve in our churches this side of Christ’s coming?
Christena Cleveland, a Christian social psychologist from Southern California, helps us understand the social forces that make cross-cultural relationships so difficult, but also so rewarding. With humour, wit, clarity, and an acute cultural awareness, she is able to make difficult psychological concepts not only accessible, but relevant, interesting, and important to everyday people. Direct and thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter promote further thought, reflection, and application for individuals or small groups.
Even though Cleveland’s focus is on multicultural relationships, she makes it clear that the same social principles apply in a variety of relationships of difference, making this an important read not only for churches pursuing multiculturalism and anti-racism, but also for those with questions about intergenerational ministry, urban/suburban/rural diversity, community outreach, church planting, and missionary work. Cleveland’s inspired insight into social forces and how they play out in the church is valuable for any church leader.
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