I’ve heard the missional church movement referred to as the second reformation, an equator shift, the coming of the “others,” the globalization of the church, the coming of southern Christianity and the list could go on and on.
For several years, I worked for a Christian organization and learned that I was a member of the “others.” Listening to conversations, I determined that “other” was a seemingly nice term for “anyone different, from another country, someone from a low socio-economic level, someone from a ‘people’ group or someone not from a middle- to upper-class Anglo background.” Sometimes I wondered when they spoke among themselves if they realized that one of the “others” was in their midst?
And in that place where I was “other,” I came to appreciate the faith tradition of the “others.” It was because of my experiences in that place that I researched, understood, accepted and fully embraced the “others” as my own. So that you understand, I didn’t know I was “other” until they told me that I was “other” or until they explained the definitions to me.
So if I am not one of them, who am I? Who else was an “other”? There was Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change our world and our civilization.”
More “others” would be people like Mother Teresa, Sojourner Truth, Sor Juana InÃ©s de la Cruz, Mohandas Ghandi, Justo Gonzalez, Dolores Huerta and Desmond Tutu. Hmmm, there are lots of us “others” out there.
I recently read a speech delivered by Cesar Chavez at the second annual Mexican Conference, where he refers to the farm worker strikes and the role of the church. According to the definitions, Chavez would have been an “other.” These are some of my favorite lines in the speech:
- When we refer to the church we should define the word a little. We mean the whole church, the church as an ecumenical body spread around the world, and not just its particular form in a parish in a local community.
- The church we are talking about is a tremendously powerful institution in our society and in the world. That church is one form of the Presence of God on Earth, and so naturally it is powerful. It is powerful by definition. It is a powerful moral and spiritual force which cannot be ignored by any movement.
- What do we want the church to do? We don’t ask for more cathedrals. We don’t ask for bigger churches of fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice and for love of brother. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don’t ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.
So, what does this mean? Perhaps it means even if there is only one of us “others” in your midst, we’re already here. And thanks be to God for those “others” who have used their voice to speak for us “others” just starting the journey.
In reflecting on my experience in that place, I find myself more thankful for those who communicate with the “others.” There are many of you who have enriched my own life, but in that place, I found myself missing you and thankful beyond words when I found one of you. Thank you, dear friends, for your commitment to building bridges through the sharing of our stories.
Laura A. Cadena is a fifth-generation Tejana, a graduate of Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary. She is a member of Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta. She currently serves as the director of communications for a bilingual, multiracial and multicultural community of believers and community members, who are attempting to demonstrate through words and deeds how to love one another as Christ loved.