Culture is like a vat of dye. We get soaked in it as children and it permeates every part of us. We don't even know it's happening, Iosis Family Solutions CEO Ruby Duncan told Gathering delegates.
Iosis is one of the families ministry of the NZ Baptist Union, based in South Auckland, and Ruby's message was that we can't escape our cultural upbringing
"I will always be soaked in the 'dye' that I was soaked in when I was a child. Other cultures will always be soaked in their vat. I can never create an environment where they feel at home...because I don't know what that looks or feels like and I can't create it. Only they can create that, and only they know what it's like to create an environment where they feel at home," said Ruby.
"So I have to give leadership away. I have to create space for leaders to take the lead with their culture and create a place where they feel at home. Only they can do it."
Ruby said two crucial areas where leaders needed to step back to accommodate other cultures were worship and welcoming.
At Iosis Ruby does not lead the morning worship and instead hands over to leaders from other cultures who can then lead and sing their songs in their languages. "We do that every morning and I have been so enriched by that experience. Somehow God has brought to us leaders in culture who have led the way for us at Iosis."
The other area is that of welcome. "I've come to realise that we pakeha are quite rude, especially with welcome," she said. "Typically pakeha people tended to walk straight into room and start discussing the business at hand without taking the time to see who was present and make them welcome."
"We must grapple with creating space for anyone and everyone to feel at home. We must give away, and give up, anything that gets in the way of that. Our pakeha ways get in the way. If my leadership ever gets in the way, then I have to step away and step back. We will do whatever it takes, won't we? Because people are so lost."
Ruby said Baptist churches had some great community initiatives but they were just the front door.
"Like John the Baptist, we prepare the way. We remove the obstacles, bring hope and understanding and re-screw a few things in heads and hearts, but only Jesus can walk through the door. Jesus must be at the very centre of all we are doing and the core purpose of what we are about must be that the lost will meet their Saviour."
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