A brief interview on the statement of mission with Gabriel Salguero
Gabriel Salguero was the featured speaker at the Power of One multicultural service at M11 in Louisville, Kentucky, in February 2011. His message on diversity and Pentecost was a highlight of the conference and can be viewed at www.graceandpeacemagazine.org. Grace and Peace caught up with Gabriel to ask a couple of questions about the Nazarene statement of mission to “make Christlike disciples in the nations.”
G&P: What does it mean to be “Christlike”?
Gabriel Salguero: That’s a question each generation must grapple with. We have a template for truly seeing who Christ is: the New Testament doesn’t include a gospel; it includes four gospels. From the beginning, we have had different lenses to understand who Jesus Christ is. These begin with the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and move on to Paul’s experiences of Christ, and then the early church’s experiences. I say to people, “Relax, the church is not wrestling with something it hasn’t wrestled with before.” We’re just wrestling with it at a more exponential level. The Bible gives us a template, which is that Christlikeness takes on different forms and has different interpretations. There is great diversity, but also great unity in that diversity. Not uniformity, but unity. When you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you are actually seeing through various lenses. You could insert Korean, Chinese, Indo-Pakistani, French, German, Canadian Euro-Americans, and Latinos—this is another set of lenses. The Bible never has a problem seeing through a diversity of lenses. If anything, these lenses come together to form a more complete picture. Out of those four gospels, we have one message: the unconditional love of God for all peoples. Let’s stick to that New Testament model of seeing Jesus through different lenses and loving each other through that.
G&P: What should be considered when discipling people “in the nations”?
Salguero: If the Church of the Nazarene is to be a global church, we must understand discipleship, or what others call spiritual formation, from a multi-layered, multi-ethnic, multicultural, inclusive perspective. We do this by listening to people of diff erent cultures, generations, ages, socioeconomic status, and geographic regions, on who Jesus Christ is for them. This includes listening to the stories that inform and form people’s understanding of Jesus through Scripture, through their tradition, through reason, and through their experience. This requires us to consider the following four things:
Number one: To disciple “in the nations” is to recognize our need to deeply listen to those who comprise the multi-ethnicity, multi-generational, multi-class reality that is the Church of the Nazarene, not just in terms of our worshiping together, but that deeper work of living together and loving each other, and challenging those systems that oppress the least and the last among us. This kind of listening allows the Holy Spirit to come and challenge us to be unified in our diversity.
Number two: To disciple “in the nations” is to recognize our need to be deeply empathetic with each other. Scripture tells us: iron sharpens iron. You can’t truly hear another without empathy.
Number three: To disciple “in the nations” is to recognize our need to appreciate generational differences in how Jesus and Scripture have come to those in our fellowship. How I have received Jesus and Scripture does not invalidate another person’s experience. We can all learn from each other and respect another’s experience.
Number four: To disciple “in the nations” is to recognize our need to be communal rather than individualistic. We must recognize that when a person speaks Spanish or Korean or Mandarin Chinese—whatever language people speak—they are the face of Christ to us. It is a recognition that Christ doesn’t reside in a favored culture or ethnicity, but in all people. So, we can’t play favorites when it comes to how we treat or relate to each other. To be communal implies an ethical responsibility to see the world through more than one culture or group.
At Pentecost, people came together, listened to each other, and learned together what it meant to be like Jesus. If we can do that, we will truly be the global church that makes Christlike disciples in all the nations. So, I’m hopeful.