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Transforming Ministries into Movements to Finish the Finishables 2

Ministries to Movements series. Part 2

by : Dr. Ria Llanto Martin


In my previous article, “Transforming Ministries into Movements,” I briefly shared the history of campus ministries and how their devotion to God, faithful reading of the Scripture, and prayer turned their daily devotion into movements whose impact reached beyond the walls of the universities. Thousands of students signed up to sail across the ocean for missions without consideration of ever returning to their motherland; many pioneered campus organizations and founded churches and missionary agencies.

Then I wrote about the growth of International Student Ministries post-WWII and the rise of international students into North America. Missions across cultures were brought closer to home, right on campus, and this movement completely reimagined our participation in missions. It became the most cost-effective way for Christians in North America to be involved in international missions, a ministry that did not require a visa, fundraising, or overcoming language barriers. It was indeed a world mission from home, practicing hospitality to unreached people groups (UPGs) on campus.

More than a hundred years since the birth of ISM, I wonder, what is next for ISM? How much longer do we have to practice hospitality? Is it possible that hospitality is not the end but a first step toward reaching an international student? If so, how do we empower the internationals to bring the love of Christ back to their home countries to see exponential growth beyond what we can grasp or what we can control? Besides, control is the enemy of revival and movement. We cannot control the work of the Holy Spirit, and we follow where the Holy Spirit leads us.

Oxford University reports that “student mobility is shifting from a largely unidirectional east-west flow to a multidirectional movement encompassing non-traditional sending and host countries. International education is becoming polycentric, and global campuses are becoming a worldwide phenomenon.”[1] In this era of globalization, campus ministries and international student ministries recognize the missional impact locally and globally.

The juxtaposition of Interculturalism and Multiculturalism

I also defined Intercultural Campus Ministry (ICM) in my previous article.[2] Intercultural Campus Ministry “integrates local and international students into one local campus ministry.”[3] ICM sees international and local students as equal partners in their participation in the mission. I talked about Tikhala from Malawi and her involvement in our campus ministry in Seattle. In fact, at one point, she was the president of our Christian organization at the university and introduced her friends to Christ. Today, she is back in her motherland, Malawi, serving as Director of Global Movement Building at Women in Global Health.

In writing my dissertation, I questioned if existing campus ministries and international student ministries provide enough leadership opportunities and theological assistance and sponsorship to international students in the Global North to prepare them for when they return home. It is almost always an assumed expectation from one side, but it lacks patronage and adherence from the campus ministries who expect it from them.

I am inquiring if it has something to do with our terminologies because our theological assumptions dictate how we operate in missions. In my dissertation, I argued about the usage of “interculturalism” and “multiculturalism.”[4]The terms “multicultural” and “intercultural” are often used interchangeably in organizations and churches. We hear of multicultural churches and multicultural campus ministries but rarely intercultural churches and ministries. These two terms may appear synonymous, but they have different implications.

In research science, education, and policy, “‘multi-disciplinarity’ is understood differently from ‘inter-disciplinarity.’ ‘Multi’ first and foremost refers to “many different kinds,” while ‘inter’ means “among.” Many different kinds may be present, but they do not necessarily ‘inter’-act, connect or communicate. In other words, they simply co-exist.  Multi-disciplinarity study draws on knowledge from different disciplines, but it stays within their boundaries. However, interdisciplinarity research analyzes, synthesizes, and harmonizes links between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole.”[5]

Christine Halse and Jan Gube, who wrote the article “The Multiculturalism vs. Interculturalism,” quote Sarmento, who stated that the move to interculturalism grew out of the tension between the swelling movement of migrants and refugees in Europe and the growing influence of ethnic purity who opposed ethnic diversity. Sarmento proposed that multiculturalism encourages ethnic enclaves and strictly culturalized minorities, fostering a threat to national cohesion:

The overriding concern of multiculturalism is how to address these challenges while preserving the distinctive identities of minority groups (Taylor, 2015)… Interculturalism’s overarching concern is to address equities by improving mutual understanding and relations between cultural groups, for example through mutual dialogue, exchange, and policies that recognise diversity but also build social unity and cohesion.[6]

In politics, the Council of Europe and UNESCO[7] (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), at the end of the twentieth century, shifted from multiculturalism to interculturalism as their official policy and discourse, reflecting their international directions and guidelines on educational policies.

In response to Europe’s increasing cultural diversity, rooted in history and globalization, “White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue” was launched to safeguard the future of the society from segregation, the coexistence of majority and minorities, bound together by ignorance and stereotypes. “White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue” argues that “our common future depends on our ability to safeguard and develop human rights, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law and to promote mutual understanding. It reasons that the intercultural approach offers a forward-looking model for managing cultural diversity.”[8]

Interculturality fosters interaction, integration, intermingling, mutuality, and reciprocity more than a mere accommodation of many different kinds. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, “multicultural” became the official term for political accommodation of minorities[9] but not necessarily equity in rights and privileges. This accommodation of minorities immediately implies that there is a ruling majority.

What’s our Response?

Earlier, I mentioned these terminologies are unintentionally interchanged, but understanding their implications will help us evaluate our approach in missions, especially when engaging with international students in the Global North. Does our ministry reflect a mere accommodation of different ethnicities, or do we see them as equal partners in missions? When we say we have a multicultural church, do we mean we accommodate many different kinds of cultures, or do we genuinely reflect unity, connection and equal opportunities in missions and leadership roles?

As Canada celebrated its 50th anniversary of adopting multiculturalism as its official federal policy of societal diversity, Sherman Lau wrote “Why Canada’s Multicultural Policy Falls Short of the Gospel Ideal.” In this article, he states, “With 400,000 immigrants projected to arrive annually on the shores of Canada over the next three years, the multicultural church is appealing as a pathway to being a pragmatic witness of God’s heart for the nations.”[10] Lau added that the efficacy and relevance of the multicultural church had been debated for almost twenty years.

In his article, he quotes Dr. Sam Owusu, lead pastor of Calvary Worship Centre, the largest multicultural church in Metro Vancouver, BC, who says, “We should not pursue racial or cultural diversity simply because it is politically correct or it is the latest theological fad. We should do it because it is the gospel.”[11] Safwat Marzouk, the author of Intercultural Church, upholds interculturality, stating that “although multiculturalism is a great step towards accepting cultural and linguistic differences, the concern is that people will end up forming islands within the same community while avoiding deep engagement.”[12] In addition to this, W. Jay Moon, author of Intercultural Discipleship, asserts that a “congregation that embodies intercultural discipleship will experience exponential spiritual growth in biblical literacy, theological acuity, as well as inward and outward disciplines.”[13]  In other words, the forward-looking model approach in missions, which is incredibly engaging internationals in the Global North, is interculturality.

Interculturality is one of the foundational themes of an Intercultural Campus Ministry (see the previous article). Since the early campus ministries made every effort to take the gospel of Jesus Christ across the ocean to other nations, and since International Students Ministries recognize ministering to nations on our doorstep, why are we committing intentional segregation in our churches and missions?

In my dissertation is a chapter on missiological implications when we engage in missions through Intercultural Campus Ministry. I stated that the campuses in the global north will continue to be the top choice of internationals for academic pursuits, making its campuses the ideal setting to make the gospel known and change the narratives of our future. It is both a challenge and a potential for any Christian ministry to bring unity through diversity. This challenge is critical in understanding as it holds “the promise of Pentecost, but also the danger of Babel. Only this time, it is several towers, to each his own.”[14]


In this article I wrote about the difference between multiculturalism and interculturalism. Eventhough these terms are used interchangeably in organizations, each term differs in its implications. Interculturality fosters social unity and cohesion. Unity is one of the foundations of growth and movement. To emphasize what Moon stated, a “congregation that embodies intercultural discipleship will experience exponential spiritual growth in biblical literacy, theological acuity, as well as inward and outward disciplines.”[13]

Besides, if we are to model our ministry, it is best to follow after how Jesus started his church that became a movement. The first mention of the word Christian is a description of an international gathering in Antioch. The apostle Paul were able to meet believers from different places because the movement started before Paul started his ministry. His apostleship was needed because Jesus’ ministry became a movement. Jesus reflected a polycentric and intercultural ministry. For an in-depth reference on the intercultural nature of Jesus’ ministry, please see Chapter Six, “Theological Competency in Missions,” of my dissertation.

The forward looking model for ministries to become a movement is a missiological paradigm shift from merely accommodating the Majority World, the internationals in their host countries, to seeing them as co-partners and co-laborers, having equal opportunity is mission engagement and theological empowerment. It is moving from the “West Reaching the Rest” mentality to a partnership with God’s movement and his heart for all nations to be part of His Kingdom advancement.

[1] Alexander Best, “10 Reasons Why the Global Campus Is the Future of Mision,” Christianity Today, accessed July 29, 2019,

[2] See chapter seven of Ria Llanto Martin, “From the Philippines to the Global North: A Participatory Action Research on Intercultural Campus Ministry,” (DIS diss, Western Seminary, Portland, OR, 2020) paper copy.

[3] Martin, “From the Philippines to the Global North,” p. 8.

[4] Martin, “From the Philippines to the Global North, p. 164-166.

[5] Bernard C. K. Choi and Anita W. P. Pak, “Multidisciplinarity, Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity in Health Research, Services, Education and Policy: 1. Definitions, Objectives, and Evidence of Effectiveness,” Clinical and Investigative Medicine. Medecine Clinique Et Experimentale 29, no. 6 (December 2006): 351–364.

[6] Halse and Gube, “The Multiculturalism vs Interculturalism,” 4

[7] UNESCO is an international organization that seeks to build peace through international relations in science, education, and culture.

[8] White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue “Living Together As Equals in Dignity,” Launched by the Council of Europe Ministers of Foreign Affairs at their 118th Ministerial Session (Strasbourg, May 7, 2008), PDF

[9] The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology 2007


[11] Sam Owusu, ‘What Colour is Your God?’ presented at Symposium on Intentionally Multicultural Churches, ACTS Seminaries, Langley, BC (June 7, 2002), 3.

[12] Safwat Marzouk, Intercultural Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2019), Location 1552, Kindle Edition.


[14] Best, “10 Reasons Why the Global Campus Is the Future of Mission.”

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