Jesus Christ gave His disciples two great commissions before ascending into heaven: to care for His church and to preach the gospel to all nations (Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47). This was a command to the first Christians, and similarly it is a command to us today. Because it is a command, we have assurance that we can succeed in this mission.
The unity of cultures corresponds to the Lordâ€™s will (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11; Isa 11:6-9) and should not pose an obstacle for the church today. Harmony between members despite differences of culture shows that we are united by the power of the Holy Spirit, the one faith, and the will of God. We should try our best to carry out this mission so that all peoples can see our union of love, peace, and joy.
Addressing Multicultural Issues
Many problems arose when the church in Jerusalem, which comprised primarily Jewish members, began to include Gentiles. There were theological problems (i.e., should Gentiles be circumcised?), cultural differences (i.e., should women be veiled?), and no doubt communication issues (i.e., which language should sermons be delivered in or translated into?).
Today, some people think that the solution to multicultural issues in the church is to separate the cultures, but that would be a serious mistake. First, this is not the example set by the apostolic church. Second, the multiethnic church is proof that unity comes from our faith and from the Holy Spirit. If other churches fail, we the True Jesus Church can succeed because we are the only church united by the one true faith and the Holy Spirit.
Although it is the will of God for all nations to be unified in His church, the task is not necessarily an easy one. It requires a good understanding of Godâ€™s will and a lot of effort from the believers.
The Apostolic Church and the True Jesus Church
When the Holy Spirit first descended on the Jewish believers in Jerusalem during the apostolic period, they began spreading the good news. Their mission was to preach the message of salvation to all corners of the earthâ€”which in their minds stopped at Spain!
Members of the early church in Jerusalem were in no hurry to preach the gospel â€œin all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.â€ They were too busy managing the daily growth of the church. The believers were rejoicing under the blessing of the Lord and led abundant Christian lives full of sincerity, joy, and harmony. It was only when persecution arose that the church started to expand.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit descended at the beginning of this century as the latter rain, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies. Jesus Christ has chosen the True Jesus Church, which originated from China, to spread the true and complete plan of salvation to all nations.1
Like the early church, the True Jesus Church is heavily involved in caring for local churches. The majority of preachers spend their time and energy pastoring members rather than spreading the Word. Like the early Jewish Christians who preached to their fellow Jews, the majority of the Chinese members preach to other Chinese simply because it is easier and more natural.
Hope of the New Generation
Despite this situation, the gospel has begun to spread to all continents due to immigration and occasionally to missionary work.
Unfortunately, though, most of the churches comprised of Asian immigrants have been unable to â€œopen upâ€ to all culturesâ€”particularly to the local population. Generally, the True Jesus Church has spread to different countries without really integrating with the local people or accepting the local customs. It is therefore difficult for the only church of God, chosen by His Spirit, to accomplish the plan of salvation for all nations.
Today, we are at the beginning of a new phase. The second-generation immigrants have integrated with the local culture and speak the native language. Perhaps God will work with the second-generation immigrants to bring new believers from all nations into the church. Further-more, overseas missionary training programs are now in progress to complete the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us.
Most churches established by immigrants face similar problemsâ€” they are involved in pioneer work without the benefit of prior experience that other local churches enjoy. But due to Godâ€™s grace and membersâ€™ efforts, the church has successfully begun to open up to non-Asians, thereby concretely carrying out Godâ€™s mission.
The Paris Church
An Example of a Multiethnic Church Today
The True Jesus Church in Paris is one of the churches whose multiethnic congregation enjoys unity through our faith and through the Holy Spirit. The Paris church has a congregation of about sixty members who attend services regularly. These believers are from Cambodia, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Reunion Island, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Though the majority are Asians, they neither speak the same language nor share the same culture. About 20% of the Paris members are Caucasianâ€”the highest percentage of any local True Jesus Church. By the grace of the Lord, none of the native French members have left the church.
Background of France
France is traditionally a Catholic country. However, the majority of the French do not read the Bible and do not believe that it is the Word of the living God. Generally, people go to church for baptisms, marriages, and funerals; some attend midnight mass on December 24th. In French history, the church was responsible for much bloodshed. Unable to overlook the past, most French reject Christianity and consequently reject Jesus.
French philosophers like Descartes spread the humanistic view that people are intelligent enough to detect Godâ€™s presence; and since they cannot prove it, therefore God does not exist. This concept led most French to become atheists. There are also some French who, having been disappointed by Christianity and rationalism, have turned to Buddhism.
These confused circumstances make it difficult for the True Jesus Church to preach the gospel in France, but if we keep our eyes on our almighty God, we need not be discouraged.
A Church for All People
When the Paris church was first established, members were conscious of the difficulties of preaching in the western hemisphere and were prepared to integrate. They wanted others to know that this is the Church of Godâ€”not a â€œChinese church.â€
Some of our church buildings in western countries display the name â€œTrue Jesus Churchâ€ only in Chinese. This reinforces the popular notion that the Chinese tend to congregate and to re-create their native environment wherever they go. The non-Asians who pass by take no notice at all because they think it is a Chinese churchâ€”not a place where they belong.
Although in Paris the majority of the members are Chinese, the name of the church is displayed in French. This shows nonmembers that this is a church for all people, not just for the Chinese community.
Bridging the Gap
When you come to the Paris church, you often feel touched by the love and kindness of the members who approach you with slightly broken French, trying their best to make you feel at ease. You also hear everybody singing hymns in French, except on rare occasions when there are visitors from abroad.
Realizing that it is hard for people to be touched by hymns in a foreign language, the Paris church worked hard to produce a French hymnbook. The members learned to sing in French in order to evangelize to the native population. The Chinese members put aside their Chinese hymnbooks to sing in a language they barely understood, practicing each hymn and learning the meaning of the words.
For the native French members, this was a tremendous blessing. It showed the membersâ€™ spiritual growth and their love for those who have not heard the Truth. These acts, which reach out to people of other cultures, are a kind of holy work that should not be overlooked. Today, the Asian members have improved their French through sermon translations (from Mandarin to French) and by communicating with the native French believers.
Celebration of Brotherly Love
Last year, the Paris church made further progress by holding the annual New Yearâ€™s meal on the French New Year rather than the Chinese (lunar) New Year. During this celebration, one Chinese mother cooked a French dish for the members who preferred French cuisine, and a French mother cooked a Chinese dish for her Asian brothers and sisters! The food is not the issue here; it is that these acts of thoughtfulness show brotherly love and kindness.
Through the grace of God, this is the spirit of the Paris church today. We still have a long way to go, but for the majority of the Paris members, there is no such thing as â€œChineseâ€ or â€œFrench,â€ because we are all one in Christ Jesus!
Unity â€” Everyone's Responsibility
In the True Jesus Church it is possible for all cultures to come together in Jesus, and this quality shows the world that we are the only church of the last days. But this is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is manifested by a concrete willingness to love God and to love men.
Paul said that he was free from all men, but he became a servant to all so that he would not be an obstacle for the spread of the gospel. He became all things to all men so that he might by all means save some (1 Cor 9:19ff). Of course, Paul did so within the bounds of the gospel.
Paulâ€™s attitude reminds us to try our utmost to become a Kenyan in Kenya, a Canadian in Canada, a German in Germany, and a Cambodian in Cambodiaâ€”out of love, out of duty, and to have a part in the blessing of the gospel (1 Cor 9:23).
The Paris church still needs to improve in many areas, and it should not be seen as the ideal church. Through its example, however, we can see that cultural unity requires everyoneâ€™s effort. Although it is the will and command of God, there are many things we must do to achieve it. May God help us as we encourage one another to accomplish His will and to preach to all nations. Amen!
1 During the apostolic times in the â€œwinterâ€ after the â€œfall rain,â€ heresies began to invade the church and the gospel of salvation became corrupted (Deut 11:14; Jer 5:24; Joel 2:23; Zech 10:1; Jas 5:7). According to Scripture, God would establish a second church during the â€œspring rain,â€ before His coming in the summer. This last and glorious church would come from the East (Ezek 43:2; Mt 24:27; Rev 7:2).