Broadly, culture relates to language, habits, ideas, beliefs, customs, social organisation, processes and values.

Diversity is part of God’s creation, and God is at work in every culture. Culture can be a good thing! However, we (and the gospel we proclaim) can become captive to our culture. The challenge for every follower of Christ is to allow the Gospel to transcend our culture – to bring out the best of our culture and set us free from everything that entangles.

Intercultural Christian communities

An intercultural community is one where people from different cultures develop a life-in-mutuality, one that is demonstrated through deep relationships where mutual learning, understanding and transformation can take place. The work of the Spirit unites the community and transforms it into the fullness of Christ. These communities are a witness to the reconciling Gospel of Christ because they transcend the social constructs that divide us.

Multicultural and cross-cultural

Neither of these terms fully encapsulates the depth and reciprocity that interculturality demands. Multicultural is best used to describe multiple cultures alongside one another while cross-cultural acknowledges the differences between a dominant culture and other cultures. Sometimes these are used interchangeably with intercultural, and both are stages that can lead towards intercultural community.

A bicultural nation

Biculturalism has a special place in Aotearoa. Growing intercultural communities must not displace the importance of the bicultural partnership between Māori and Pākehā. Pākehā, in this context, has a broad meaning. To be Pākehā is to honour Māori as tangata whenua and to seek to live in deep covenantal relationship with them. Pākehā are, therefore, racially and culturally diverse – not simply ‘white’ or ‘European.’

Justice and solidarity lie at the heart of intercultural relationships. Truly intercultural communities will recognise both the diversity amongst Pākehā and the need for all Pākehā to build bicultural relationships that honour Māori. Many of the tools needed for intercultural life are the same as those necessary for undertaking an authentic bicultural journey.

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Intercultural engagement
Why does it matter?
How do we become intercultural?

Recommended resources

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, 1996
This offers a fascinating and in-depth exploration of how faith ought to shape identity within and without culture. It speaks particularly well to contexts where there is conflict, shame or enmity but applies to all interpersonal interactions.
Jay Ruka, Huia Come Home, 2017
This book is a beautiful exposition of the gospel in Aotearoa through a Māori lens. It traces its history, through the ‘cultural missteps’ of the Treaty of Waitangi, until the present day offering hope for us to go forward together.