Last Wednesday evening I went to an evening about cultural diversity, run by Dr Sheryl Silzer, a Chinese-American who is married to a German/Scottish/Irish man. We looked at the difficulties that can arise as a church develops in it’s multi-culture diversity and the importance of understanding each other’s cultural identity.
Many cultures have a “group identity” (i.e. Maori, Pacific Island, Asian). Many cultures have a “group identity” (i.e. Maori, Pacific Island, Asian). However, the predominant culture in NZ, Australia, the States and Europe is “individual identity.” We each have a “culture based judgment system” which is our emotional response to cultural differences.
Hospitality practices, friendship expectations and communication styles are different for group and individual identities. Here are some examples: Some group identity cultures will say “yes” to your request but not follow through on the action (i.e. Japanese). They say “yes” because it is rude to say “no” to someone in authority. In some group cultures (i.e. Chinese), when you are given a gift it is hoped you will do the same in return. Some group cultures can’t easily answer questions like “would you like something to drink” because the hierarchy makes the decisions in their culture. They are used to just being given whatever drink is on offer. Individual cultures speak of “I, me, my” whereas group cultures speak of “We, our, ours.” In group cultures “time” doesn’t matter but relationships do. In individual cultures speak of “I, me, my” whereas group cultures speak of “We, our, ours.” In group cultures “time” doesn’t matter but relationships do. In individual cultures, many things are based on time-keeping. We have so much to learn about how we make decisions together and how we do life together as a church family. Therefore much grace towards each other is needed in this exciting journey of authentic multi-cultural church. What an exciting journey we are on 🙂
Love and peace