30th May 2019
‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’
I am looking forward to speaking out of Revelation this Sunday at King’s. It is also Diversity Sunday which is always a highlight in our church calendar for me. As usual, we are encouraging everyone to come in national dress or, if you do not have one, to dress smartly or in the colours of your nation’s flag. I will wear my suit—a rare event!
Cultural diversity is a feature of the New Testament church and a high value of King’s—we are a church made up of people from many different cultures, nations and backgrounds. In 2017, our Invited teaching series focussed on this important issue, and you will find some helpful resources from that series on our website. As we approach Diversity Sunday, I thought I would post a video interview Charles and I did at the beginning of the series.
I love being part of a church that is so diverse. I love meeting people from different cultures whose background, life experience and outlook may be very unlike my own. As I was reading the passage above in preparation for my message, I reflected what an appropriate verse it is for Diversity Sunday. Revelation paints a picture of heaven where 'a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language' will be joined in worshipping Jesus. As we come together at King's this Sunday, let's take this opportunity to celebrate and appreciate our cultural differences and our unity in Christ. I look forward to seeing you there.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
18th October 2018
At the Newfrontiers Global 18 event last week, we once again gathered leaders from around the world. People travelled from Asia, North and Central America, Africa and Europe, representing hundreds of churches. As I looked around the room at our first meeting, I was reminded of the final verse of Lex Loizides’ brilliant worship song, Be Still and Know that I am God, which some of you may remember:
Be still and know that I am God;
My Son has asked me for
The nations of the world.
His sprinkled blood has made a way
For all the multitudes of India and Africa to come;
The Middle East will find its peace
Through Jesus Christ My Son.
From London down to Cape Town,
From L.A. to Beijing,
My Son shall reign the undisputed King!
The 80 or so people at Global 18 came from many nations, cultures and ethnic backgrounds; although much of the conference was conducted in English, we had Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Hindi and Bulgarian speakers in the room, to name just a few. I am always amazed by those who are fluent in more than one language – I struggle with English! It was another learning experience on how cultures can work together. We may live in very different countries and have diverse life experiences, but we are united in Christ and in our desire to see Kingdom extension around the world.
This week I had the privilege of speaking at a seminar for church leaders with my dear friend Tope Koleoso, Senior Pastor of Jubilee Church in Enfield. We spoke on the subject of diversity and cross-cultural awareness. Increasingly it seems that almost every leadership situation I am in involves a cross-cultural element. I have led a racially diverse church for more than twenty years, but I am constantly aware of how much I still need to learn.
One way we can learn is through reading, and I have recently come across a couple of books which I would love to recommend. The first is Global Humility by Andy McCullough. Andy is a church planter who was born and grew up in Cyprus and has lived in the Middle East as well as the UK. His insights into working cross-culturally are challenging, helpful and provocative. The second book is Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall. This is a well-written, very accessible book which gives an overview of modern global politics – very helpful for any of us wanting to broaden our understanding of the world we feel called to reach. Do also have a look at Andrew Wilson’s recent guest blog listing his Top Ten Resources on Diversity.
In more than two decades of leading a diverse church, I have found that one of the best ways we can learn is by building friendships, spending time and sharing meals with people from different cultures. In the last two weeks at King’s I have visited two Nigerian families in their home. Food was provided and I enjoyed their hospitality - in the past I might have been very ‘British’ and declined, but I am learning! Then on Sunday Deb and I were delighted to accept an invitation from a lovely Indian couple at King’s to have a meal together in a couple of weeks’ time. Another rich learning experience to look forward to.
In Global Humility, Andy McCullough urges us to ‘travel to learn, not just to teach’. We may not feel called to move to another country, as Andy and his family did, but many of us live in increasingly diverse cities and towns – we do not need to travel to meet people from a different cultural or ethnic background to our own! Let’s continue to reach out and build bridges, to listen and learn.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
5th July 2018
Since moving to join the King’s team two years ago, the subject that I have had the most to learn about has been the subject of diversity. I didn’t know much history (of Africa, empire, white supremacy, slavery, the civil rights movement, more recent developments in America and Britain); I knew even less about the lived experiences of minorities in contemporary Britain and in the church. So, in moving from a largely white context to a church in south-east London, I had a lot of catching up to do. Good resources—books, articles, podcasts, videos, and so on—were hugely important to me.
Occasionally people ask me which resources I have found particularly helpful. So here is my top ten:
1. Christian Smith and Michael Emerson, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Don’t worry that it’s US-based: the issues are almost identical in the UK, and their uncomfortable thesis (that evangelical Christianity usually makes the problem worse, not better) is both very challenging and very persuasive.
2. Duke Kwon’s message at LDR on “Speaking the Truth in Love.” As an Asian-American, Duke has a unique perspective on black/white relations, and this message is the best single talk I heard last year.
3. David Anderson’s books Gracism (which King’s used as a preaching series ten years ago) and Letters Across the Divide (in which David exchanges letters with a white man who has objections and questions) are very helpful in “earthing” some of the issues, especially for white pastors.
4. Thabiti Anyabwile’s Top Ten Tips for Talking About Race are very helpful. Six years later, he wrote this, which is excellent at a more congregational level. Thabiti is one of the outstanding voices on this subject worldwide, and virtually everything he writes on it is worth reading.
5. Because so many of these resources are US-based, I think it’s also helpful to get a punchy account of black British history, so that we don’t imagine this is only something Americans struggle with. I found the history chapter in Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race very helpful.
6. The subject of privilege, and particularly white privilege, is massive, but I’ve pulled clippings of three helpful treatments together here.
7. I have found it hugely helpful to have a perspective on African history more generally, not least because African history and heritage is so often decentred in favour of European history. Martin Meredith’s The Fortunes of Africa is magnificent, but it’s also long, so my summary is here. From a historical point of view, it is also extremely valuable to read the African church fathers—many white people (and some non-white people!) do not know that most of the key Christian theologians of the first few centuries were African—like Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius and Augustine.
8. Taking a more medium-to-long-term view, we obviously need to go beyond one-off reads (as helpful as they are), and make sure that we are regularly seeing the world from a diverse range of perspectives; otherwise, we fall into the trap of seeing something as "the black community’s view” on X or Y, when things are always more complicated than that. For me, Twitter really helps, and I’ve found it especially illuminating to follow @ThabitiAnyabwil, @DukeKwonDC, @JemarTisby, @TheoChick, @TrilliaNewbell, @Mika_Edmondson, @BCWLindsay, @DrCEdmondson, @CarlEllisJr, @JasmineLHolmes and @JackieHillPerry. I also listen to the “Pass the Mic” podcast and keep an eye on thewitnessbcc.com. Reading cultural influencers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Gary Younge, Afua Hirsch and others is also very eye-opening, even though (or because!) you don’t agree with everything.
9. A number of resources that have really helped me have been TV shows and movies: Stephen: The Murder that Changed a Nation, Roots, OJ: Made in America, 13th, Selma, even Black Panther. They’re not made to help white pastors handle issues of diversity, but they do anyway.
10. Most recently, the messages from April’s www.mlk50conference.com are all free to watch online. The panel discussions, short talks and main sessions are all outstanding, and by being grounded in Scripture, they provide hope in the midst of the challenges.
On top of all this, the one irreplaceable thing is the most obvious one: eating with, talking to and building good friendships with people from different ethnic backgrounds, both inside and outside the church. Our Invited series last year was a fantastic invitation to the whole church to do that, and it’s hard to quantify how much this helps. I hope some, or all, of that may help you as you wrestle with this massively important subject.
Andrew Wilson is the Teaching Pastor at King's and is responsible for much of the preaching and teaching. Andrew has a PhD in theology, has written numerous books and regularly blogs at thinktheology.co.uk.
Steve Tibbert is on sabbatical and will return in September.
Posted by Andrew Wilson
12th April 2018
Our dear friend Scott Marques flew in from Zimbabwe yesterday morning, and it was great to catch up with him over breakfast. Even after a long flight and very little sleep, Scott never fails to bring his usual enthusiasm and positive energy! Our conversation ranged from catching up on family news and what is happening at both King’s and River of Life churches, to the political situation in Zimbabwe and developments in Scott’s crocodile and egg businesses – it is always stimulating spending time with this guy!
Scott will be spending the next four days with us at King’s and will be meeting with our staff and the Zimbabwe Partnership Team. I am very excited that he will also be speaking at our Kingdom Investment Seminar on Saturday morning. As well as leading River of Life in Harare and the DNA family of churches, Scott is a successful business entrepreneur and leader. The morning seminar presents a great opportunity to come and hear Scott’s story and catch his heart for finding kingdom opportunities in every area of our lives. The seminar is open to all and will run from 9.45-11.30am at our Catford site.
I am also glad to tell you that Scott will be our guest speaker on Sunday, which is Diversity Sunday at King's. King’s is committed to building a community made up of people from many different nations, races, ages and backgrounds, and this is a moment when we celebrate our diversity together. The service will be slightly different to normal and we would love everyone to come wearing national/traditional dress or to dress up a bit smarter than usual. I will be marking the occasion by bringing out my suit! I hear there are a variety of different things being planned, so I really encourage everyone to be there and not miss out.
We have an exciting weekend ahead at King’s, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham, Lee and Beckenham. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.