White Church, Black Church, Trite Church, Wack Church
Last Sunday, Providence finished a sermon series titled "ONE." In the series we discussed the overly busy nature of our society and how God has called us to live lives of joyful simplicity to the glory of His name. Any other anxious, stressed living comes apart from faith and wisdom.
In this series, many different topics were covered. In our sermon, "One Church," the idea of a multicultural kingdom was addressed. Obviously we all know that Jesus did not only die for one race of people, but to save people from ALL races and blend them into one race of people that are His by the power of the gospel.
The question that this produced was, "What can we do to help practically produce multicultural congregations in light of this truth?"
Some may say this is unnecessary. Aren't we passed this? Statistically speaking, if there is anywhere in the U.S. that we are NOT passed this, it is the church.
In my recap via audio I gave a number of ways that we can fight for this kind of diversity. However, I felt that I left out the most important point in this conversation.
In my ministry training, I was always taught that in order to build a multicultural congregation, you had to make sure that you had mixed worship. You had to have "black people music" AND "white people music" blended together. Secondarily, you had to make sure that you had a healthy mixture of race on the stage during worship as well. And if possible, get someone on staff who is ethnic. These are the three ingredients to a multicultural congregation.
I always thought that was kind of fishy. In a way it seems so disingenuous that it border-lined on degrading. Are we saying that the only way the church of Jesus Christ can blend our congregations is to meticulously plan our music style around racially charged stereotypes? And are we asking our worship leaders and/or pastors to filter people primarily based on race and not on the biblical qualifications lined out in Scripture?
To be fair, I think that the worship "style" of a congregation SHOULD reflect the heart of the congregation, and if we are to have multicultural congregations, then the music will reflect the people. And by God's grace, we will naturally have a wide range of ethnicity in leadership as well.
I am not sold that this is the way to build multicultural congregations.
Jesus gave us the greatest tool we could ever ask for in the hopes of building multicultural congregations. And I can't help but think that Paul the apostle might be looking quizzically down at us as he is seated in the heavenly grandstands.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for ALL who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16 emphasis added
The gospel is the multicultural tool of God to blend the nations under one name. The gospel has the power to destroy racial segregation. The gospel comes with far greater power than musical set lists, to eradicate our racial prejudice, and build a heavenly community on earth.
When Paul says, "to the Jew first and then to the Greek" he is not catering to his Jewish buddies. He is fighting tooth and nail against the racial segregation of his day in Rome. The Jews and Greeks had been caught up in a fight about race. Who is better? Are Jews to be preferred? Should Gentiles be circumcised? It got so bad in Rome that the Emperor Claudius had to deport the Jews because skirmishes were breaking out in the church!
Paul exclaims, "the gospel has the power to change this! It was promised to the Jews first, but it is effective for ANYONE who believes!"
How does Paul prove the gospel's effectivity and the mutual need for application?
The gospel breeds multicultural congregations because sin is multicultural.
Let us never forget the reason for our churches: to preach the gospel of grace for all who believe and worship our King and Savior Jesus for doing the impossible and substituting Himself in our place for our sin! This message is as multicultural as it is countercultural. Anywhere you go, this message divides and it unites!
Brothers and sisters, in our fight for diversity, let us not forget the message at home while we tinker with the method. May we follow in our Lord Jesus' footsteps as the disciples did.
Preach the gospel to the Pharisees in your town, and then follow that up by preaching to the Canaanites too (Matthew 15). After a long day of preaching the gospel to your neighbors, spend some time with the Samaritans of your town too (John 4). Preach the gospel to the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopatamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome, Crete, and Arabia if you can (Acts 2:9-41)! Preach Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch of your city (Acts 8:26-40). Preach Christ to the Italian soldiers of your city (Acts 10). Preach Christ to the Athenians of your city (Acts 17:22-34)! No matter your ethnic origin, preach Christ far and wide! Preach Him to as many as will hear. As many races that make up your town, preach the gospel of Jesus to them!
It is through the fearless proclamation of the gospel that TRUE diversity emerges!
We don't want the trite, fake diversity that permeates our culture. We don't want a cease fire based on musical preference in our congregations. We want a thread of unity that no man can break; the unity created by the blood of our Savior! May our churches be as beautifully diverse as the throne of God will be on that day when we see the Lord face to face (Revelation 7:9-12)!
When He comes, may we be found about our Father's business, proclaiming the One who was and is and is to come! To Him be the glory forever and ever!