I took a class called Youth Ministry across cultures this fall in which I had to read a book called Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter with Marvin Keene Mayers. One of the basic premises of the book was an 'incarnarional' mode of ministry. This means that in the same way that Jesus came to earth and was made flesh we enter into different cultures to reflect that same love. Jesus was 100% God and yet he became a baby in the context of the Jewish culture at that time. Jesus grew up in that culture learning everything about being a legitimate Jewish man. In this way, Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. He was the 200% person.

For us as the followers of Christ, we are called, as Paul said in Philippians 2, to have the same attitude of Christ. We humbly enter into the world and culture around us and become 'babies' in order to become one in spirit and purpose. This is one of the core values of New City Fellowship. Racial reconciliation is a process of humbly submitting ourselves to each other in love and unity through having open and teachable hearts. The authors of this book believed that Jesus becoming the 200% person was something impossible for anyone but God. They postulate that we can't give up more that 75% of our original culture, but we strive to adopt 75% of the new culture. We are called to be a kind 150% person. Let me take a plunge of the deep end and try to appy this principle to some of the practical realities of NCF in St. Louis.

In our church we have some foreign immigrants and refugees. Most of these people are from an African or Latino culture, many speak English only as a second language, and some do not speak or read English at all. I would suggest that these people have by necessity had to sacrifice almost all of their original culture. Although they can often find enclaves of people from their culture in St. Louis, they are forced to become 150% people in order to receive employment, buy groceries, and go to church.

In our church we also have American minority groups. These people are Black, Asian, or Latino people who have grown up in the US, grew up speaking English, and have for most of the history of the US been marginalized and expected to melt into the melting pot (i.e. become white). These people have the freedom to remain 100% in their original cultures, but many have to find employment outside of their cultural network. In addition, the ones who choose to become a part of NCF are leaving their culturally specific church and giving up even more of their original culture. These people are willingly becoming 150% people by choosing to leave the comfort of their original culture and by the fact that they are minorities in a Anglo dominated context.

(Please do not misinterpret the above paragraph to mean that minorities at NCF are somehow 'less Black' or 'less Asian' or 'less Latino.' I am simply acknowledging the fact that attending NCF will never be the same as attending their culturally specific churches. So, when people come to NCF they are making a conscious decision to leave behind their comfort zone in order to participate in a multi-cultural environment.) 

 Finally, there are people in our church who are Anglo. These people are from European ancestry, speak English, and come from families who have been in the US for several generations. These people are very comfortable in most contexts in St. Louis (employment, shopping, eating out, going to ball games, etc.) because their culture is the dominant culture here. Many of us take for granted that the Anglo way of life is the 'normal' way of living in St. Louis. As a result, many of these people have not had to sacrifice any of their culture to live in St. Louis and have had to sacrifice very little of their culture to go to NCF.

Bearing all of that in mind, here is the point of all of this. Sometimes people have made comments like this, "If we are supposed to be multi-cultural, then shouldn't we try to music in the style of our European heritages as well?" I would say, 'No!' Why? ? If we were all starting out from the same position I would say, 'Yes', but the fact is that Anglos have given up so little in comparison. If Anglos are going to reach out in love to our siblings from other cultures, to be incarnational in our ministry, to lay down our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, we have to recognize that our siblings who are minorities have given up a lot to leave their cultural enclaves to worship with us and our siblings who are immigrants have given up almost everything in order to live in the US. How much should we be willing to sacrifice in the name of showing love to each other? Jesus gave up everything for us, even his life. In the same way that Jesus became a baby in the Jewish context, we have to relate with different cultures as an infant, with humility and a sponge-like eagerness to learn.

In the end, New City Fellowship must become a 150% church. We begin to share our cultures in a way that the natural and comfortable culture here becomes one where different cultures are allowed affect the larger church culture. Our children will grow up singing, "Oshe Baba Oluwa, Oshe" and learning conversational Spanish. They will treasure African-American spirituals as well as Presbyterian hymns as their tradition. NCF will become a unique culture that begins to affect the greater culture of St. Louis, the PCA, and the heritage of the generations who will come after us.