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Building a Faith Community of Diversity BY Stan Phipps



The next frontier of intelligence is something called “Cultural Intelligence,” this refers to the skill to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It's the capability to cross boundaries and prosper in multiple cultures. People with high cultural intelligence are attuned to the values, beliefs, attitudes and body language of people from different cultures. Sometimes this is referred to as “Cultural Quotient” (CQ), different from IQ (Intellectual Quotient) or EQ (emotional quotient) it is more than how clever you are or how emotionally mature you are but rather refers to our capacity to connect and work in, or with diverse people groups


be it in the work place or in a church family. These terms are not terms the bible uses but rather terms that secular analysts are coming up with in order to describe the skills that are required to meet the current challenges in the global village in which we find ourselves. Although the bible doesn’t use these terms, God does envision a church that is full of diversity. With any diversity comes challenges as people endeavour to find each other, love each other and work together, perhaps to your surprise, even for followers of Jesus.


I am a pastoring a church of diverse people, different races, levels of education, socio-economic standing, ages and never mind the diversity of spiritual gifts, preferences, and the like. We live in a South African context with its history of legally instituted Racism in the form of “apartheid” policies and divisions, which post 1994 we continue to wrestle with as a nation. We also live in a nation in which xenophobic attitudes and actions continue to prevail. With so much history and hardness of heart and prejudice against us, how do we as the church do this right. It seems the world is, more than ever, looking for solutions and ways of being together in healthy relationships. In Christ and by the power of the Spirit, we the church, have all we need to be a model or example of diversity and unity.


If I wear a stethoscope around my neck whilst dressed in a white lab coat, this doesn’t qualify me as a doctor. In the same way, sitting in a church full of people of different cultures does not automatically give a person a healthy CQ. Proximity or ‘nearness’ does not automatically equate to having a high CQ. Although there are some skills to develop CQ it is a matter of the heart. The movement from a mixed church (different races in same building), to a relationally integrated church to a reconciled church is what I believe what Jesus would ask of us. Embracing diversity in South Africa, in particular, is a very important task of the church and needs to be intentionally at the core of our disciple making. We make this intentional decision not for political reasons but rather for biblical ones. This imperative should not be some form of “woke-ism” but rather a genuine desire to love the other, knowing that my formation in Christ depends on the otherness of fellow Christ followers.


Some practical considerations for building a diverse community in SA


  • Make sure the motive for going on this journey is a Spirit empowered journey of gospel imperative.

  • Know the gospel - from Ephesians 2 we see we are one in Jesus, Jesus pulls us together in himself and then asks us to live out the “one another’s" of the bible.

  • Honour for every persons created value in God is key. Honour in the New Testament means to “set a value,” To honour parents is to set a value for our parents and never let it drop. We need to set a God value for each other and never let it decrease even if people are behaving badly.

  • Know we all have preferences and prejudices, but Jesus asks us to go beyond these preferences and prejudices into living out an ethic of love. Love being living for the best of one another.

  • The book of James encourages us to listen more than we speak. To build a diverse community of faith, we need to be listening to understand each other not listening to justify our position or view.

  • Learning to ask questions rather than offer opinions is a major skill to be acquired in this process.

  • Be honest in you answering questions.

  • Make a decision to become “un-offendable” - choose to keep your love on.

  • Give honest feedback to people your honesty applied in love has the ability to change someone’s thinking or action. Remember most Christians are not wanting to be racist and need feedback to point out unhelpful comments or actions in order to change.

  • Don’t use race categories when speaking of actions or behaviour as though all white / black people think or behave the same, because they don’t.

  • Learn to push through uncomfortable moments and conversation as those moments are very shaping.

  • Ask God for genuine friendships across the race groups.

  • The old adage “what you celebrate you generate” applies to this conversation as to any other. Celebrate Diversity!

  • Make sure you take your whole family on this journey every single day of your life not just on a Sunday.

  • In many respects the workplace or even schools are more diverse in their make up than the church on any given Sunday, even if your congregation is not as diverse as you would like it to be (this can be for geographical/spacial reasons due to our counties historic group areas legislation) we need to equip people for life in its entirety, not just a Sunday meeting.

  • Find a small group of culturally diverse friends in which you can build trust and be safe enough to ask questions and build understanding with each other. Go on holiday together to learning each others “real quirks” making memories together and learning to laugh at ourselves.

  • Raising up leaders of other cultural groups is a necessity, as this will draw others along the journey as well as give integrity to the process. (NB different cultural groups require different ways of engaging/leading so wise leadership adjusts for what is required)

  • Love is a universal language, people know if you genuinely love, we must learn to love all people. After all Jesus has given us the capacity to love even our enemies.

  • Don’t give up - this is very hard, there will be many moments of misunderstanding, offence, even name calling but the gospel always comes with suffering of some form. Be patient.


A friend once took a few pieces of A4 paper and tapped someone on the head with them, it was not painful at all and had no effect. But as he continued to add another A4 sheet and another, until he had an entire ream of A4 paper and then hit the person on the head, it made a difference. Persevere, each piece of paper however seemingly insignificant will matter in the end if we don’t give up.


South Africa and the world needs examples of communities of diversity that are in unity and built on genuine love and respect. The church is in my view the only place that this can genuinely happen as we are not only called by Jesus into this great project but also empowered to accomplish it by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Stan is married to Heather as 3 children Matt, Natalie & Cameron. He lives in Durban and leads Glenridge Church.

Stan loves the Jesus and his Church. He is part of the One New Humanity team which is a group of church leaders committed to seeing God's Kingdom advancing on the earth through racial and cultural reconciliation. Stan. Is passionate about making followers of Jesus that in a walk with Jesus fulfil the great commandment and the great commission.




Stan is married to Heather as 3 children Matt, Natalie & Cameron. He lives in Durban and leads Glenridge Church.

Stan loves the Jesus and his Church. He is part of the One New Humanity team which is a group of church leaders committed to seeing God's Kingdom advancing on the earth through racial and cultural reconciliation. Stan is passionate about making followers of Jesus that in a walk with Jesus fulfil the great commandment and the great commission.

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