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Leadership Talk: Embracing Cultural Diversity

Kingdom principles work across every human culture

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The fact that Kingdomcity is in several countries and multiple continents not only makes it visible to Christians around the world, but also gives the church a wider view of the kingdom. Founder Mark Varughese talks to us about this valuable perk of being spread around the world. 

What have you learned from being present in several countries over the past few years? 

When I’m in Australia, I realize that I think like an Australian. You don’t realize how much your setting affects you. Over the last 5 years, as I have hopped between cities, I was never in a single place long enough to get indoctrinated in a local culture. This has helped me form a “sieve,” so to speak – what goes in is a country’s culture and what comes out is kingdom culture.

You head up a global team at Kingdomcity. When you start a new church in a new city, does the purpose of that church differ from existing Kingdomcity churches in other cities? Or is there a set of principles that you stick to and align the church towards, regardless of which nation you are in?

We call ourselves one church in multiple locations. But the reason is not a control structure – the reason is a language perspective. I asked the Lord about all the many church models around, “What do you think, Lord?” And I had an encounter with the Lord where I realized that God is far less stuck on structure than we are.

The analogy which helped me was actually the concept of food. Imagine there’s this inventor of food, and this whole concept of feeding people. There are different ethnicities, different kinds of restaurants. Some would be local franchises, some would be global. If you’re the inventor of food, you just feed people.

“The vision is the same everywhere, but it’s a very broad vision – connecting, equipping, and empowering people to bring the reality of God into their world.”

God spoke to me and said, “Son, do what’s in your heart. There’s one model and that’s it.” Do we call ourselves a movement, or something else? I call it one church, and that’s just my conviction. Jesus is not polygamous – He is coming back for one bride. If He’s one day coming to unite the whole global church, why would I call plural what He calls singular?

I’m not fussy about it. We are expanding an existing church into a new space in a new city. This gives the new team the guidance of being “sent.” We have different wineskins and a more relational model.

It sounds like you’re saying that your DNA and vision stay the same, regardless of where the new church is?

The vision is the same everywhere, but it’s a very broad vision – connecting, equipping, and empowering people to bring the reality of God into their world.

We are relational – that’s connecting. We are teachable – that’s equipping. And we are Spirit-filled – that’s empowering. That’s our process.

It’s not me bringing the kingdom of God into your world, it’s you carrying God’s kingdom wherever you are. Every member of the house, wherever his or her world may be, is carrying the kingdom. That’s the mandate. Our vision is fulfilled when you bring the reality of God into your world. But there’s a variety of expressions for that.

Exuberant praise and worship at Kingdomcity Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2019

 

The DNA and the essence of our goal is the same, but it’s not a whole bunch of rules that confines everyone. Instead, we value giving people freedom to explore. It’s more about changing parameters.

It’s like when you’re growing up. At first, as a child, it’s all about needing permission from your parents before you do anything. In your teenage years, it’s more about setting parameters. And when you become an adult, what you need from your parents, more than anything else, is perspective.

It’s not about control – it’s about protection. I’m passionate about principles, but I celebrate preferences.

Knowing this, how do you manage your relationships with the church plants in other countries? 

Sometimes the leaders come to me asking for permission to do something, and I tell them, “You don’t need my permission – you need parameters or just perspective.” If they needed my permission and only wanted perspective, they may get in trouble.

“That’s why Kingdomcity is one word: we’re meant to collide or clash with the culture of the world. Our goal is to bring God’s reality into every city to which we go.”

The percentages change as the leader matures. At first, it may be 99% permission. It’s not so much a rule, but it’s how I look at where the leaders or the church is at. It helps me from a leader’s point of view to look at the health of the leaders.

Being in so many different cultures, does the diversity of expectations come into play? Do you have to train a leader differently in one country than you do another? 

I guess some of it is cultural, and that’s why you need awareness. You help people see values. We bring the kingdom into the city, and that means we’re bringing kingdom culture. I have to give space to the local culture, but ultimately it’s kingdom culture that we want to see. In every earthly culture there are aspects of clashes with God’s kingdom, and these need to be addressed.

The beauty of this blueprint is that, after twelve years, we already have seeds planted in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe. There’s really been a spread in our really young movement as a church. This DNA is being tested in multiple settings. I love the diversity, and I’m not trying to make all our churches the same.

Part of the journey of discovery is discerning which parts of our culture are kingdom principles, and which parts are merely a specific country’s culture. That’s why Kingdomcity is one word: we’re meant to collide or clash with the culture of the world. Our goal is to bring God’s reality into every city to which we go.

This is our fourth conversation with Mark Varughese, Senior Leader of Kingdomcity. Read the other conversations at the links below:

Saying Yes to God Over and Over

The Story of Kingdomcity

Leadership Talk: Overcoming Disappointment