Cross-Culturalism: A Presupposition of the Book of Acts
The following is an excerpt from a paper that Pastor Brandon wrote in defense of cross-culturalism. His assertion is that Luke presupposed the integration of the Church while writing the Book of Acts. Acts 1:8, the programmatic verse of the book, clearly presents this agenda and the rest of the book defends it. You may contact The Embassy Church at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the essay in its entirety. You may also listen to Why We Can’t Wait to hear our heart on this matter.
A credible reading of the Book of Acts must presume the entirety of Luke’s literary style. He is recording a theological history. As such, he is using historic moments to convey theological emphases of the Church. If one reads the book with this in mind, it becomes apparent that Luke treats race and culture as thematic. The Gospel is culturally universalized and there are no legitimate barriers that prohibit anyone from joining the gathering of Christ’s followers. The resurrected Christ himself presumes this in the book’s introduction as he promises that the Spirit will empower believers to be witnesses of the Messiah “to the end of the earth.” The entirety of the Book of Acts selectively chronicles the promise coming to fruition as the Gospel spreads from its epicenter in Palestine. Luke’s record of the intimate dialogue between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch affirms that the promise is inevitable, as the Spirit of God is its orchestrator. Luke also went into judicious detail regarding the Church at Antioch as he presents it as a case study that proves the local body is called to reflect the diversity that is inevitable in the universal Church. Both narratives complement the thematic words of Christ in the book’s introduction in which he promised the global diversity of the Church. Luke’s intentional record has made it rather clear that cultural diversity and integration are presuppositions of the Book of Acts. The recurring emphasis of this point categorizes it as normative; any deviation from it is a disregard for God’s divine plan.
For much of its history the American church has refused to treat Luke’s cross-cultural presupposition as normative. I concede that cross-culturalism should not be the sole core value of the Church; but, until now, we have hardly treated it as a value at all. A cursory appreciation of the Gospel that spans the entirety of scripture presumes familial engagement across races. That is an undeniable aspect of the divine story and God’s desire is that we would be “people of the story.” Any abdication, even a passive one, is an embarrassment to our Master and a rejection of his divine plan.
…Luke, while writing the Book of Acts, presupposed the cross-culturalism of the church. While his approach was judicious and indirect, it was by no means subtle. The mission is clear! We are to engage all people groups with the message of the Gospel. Throughout American history, astute men and women have disregarded the cross-cultural idea and by no means has one race been the sole violator. Each Sunday we flock to our homogeneous gatherings for the sake of worshipping the God that we have in common. This behavior tells the world that compartmentalization is appropriate among the people of God. We claim that we will be in heaven together, but until then we model xenophobic piety. But is this not an overt betrayal of God’s “Kingdom Agenda?” After hearing Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, Billy Graham said, “Only when Christ comes again will little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children.” His comment was not malicious. He was merely professing what he deemed to be a realistic view of the world. But the Church cannot wait. If Christ is presently King, then we are already inhabitants of his kingdom. Waiting is an act of faithlessness and an abdication of discipleship. Robert Tannehill presumes this point: “Luke’s conviction that God is calling the peoples of the world to share in community that includes their enemies and reconciles them with those who worship and live in other ways.”
In 2010 I joined a team that set out to plant The Embassy Church in northeast Denver, CO. We intentionally selected that community as it has attributes similar to Antioch. Luke’s presupposition was central to our vision. Due to gentrification, the neighborhood is roughly 33% black, 33% white, and 33% brown. Its close proximity to downtown lends itself to the metropolitan ethos that was typical of Antioch (Acts 11:19-30, 13:1-3). It is a diverse population (roughly 55,000) that lives in close proximity to one another. During our fundraising we met with a seminary professor of missiology and he reviewed our church-planting proposal. He rejected the plan as, “not missional…if you target everyone, then you are targeting no one.” We mentioned Luke’s record of the Church at Antioch as the case study upon which our goals are based and he asserted, “Antioch was the exception. Just get people saved; God will diversify his Church in heaven.” We reject his premise! The American Church, not Antioch, is the exception to Luke’s presupposition. The Church is waiting for the day of racial reconciliation, but God is calling us to it now. Luke’s cross-cultural presupposition is normative. It has a bearing on our missiology, ecclesiology, and social engagement within the church. The Bible promises a day in which cross-cultural worship is certain (Rev. 7:9). But Christ’s model prayer presumes that kingdom living begins now: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Cross-Culturalism is a presupposition because it models kingdom culture and is, therefore, applicable. The Church is the Embassy of Christ’s Kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20). As such, we are to be the first institution to seek intentional, contextualized integration.
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world.
 Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 153.  Eric D. Barreto, Ethnic Negotiations: The Function of Race and Ethnicity in Acts 16 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 3-4.  Tony Evans, The Kingdom Agenda: Life Under God (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013), 482-8.  Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Grand Rapids: Oxford University Press, USA, 2001), 47.  Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait (New York: Signet, 1964), 76-95.  Robert C. Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, vol. 2 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 2.  Alan J. Thompson, “Unity in Acts: Idealization or Reality,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society51 (2008): 541–2.  J. Daniel Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2003), 157.