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20 Jul '13

Congregational diversity

Posted by T.J. Addington in diversity

There is a wonderful picture of worship in the book of Revelation that gives us a snapshot of what heaven will be like. "I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the lamb" (Revelation 7:9).

Many of us who have travelled internationally have tasted the joy of worshipping with those from other cultures and have experienced the common bond that we have in Christ.

But what about our own communities? Are we as passionate in worshipping with and welcoming the various ethnic and socio-economic groups who live in our own neighborhoods? And if you wonder who is actually in your community all you need to do is visit the nearest McDonald's or Wall Mart and one often realizes that there is greater diversity than we thought.

I am thankful that there are a growing number of congregations committed to ministering to all who are in their communities. They are intentionally embracing all whom God has put on their doorsteps and as the neighborhood changes, rather than leaving the neighborhood they are changing their ministries to minister to the changing demographics.

These congregations have embraced a deeply Biblical value: All people matter to God and in Jesus the barriers between peoples, races, ethnic groups and socio economic stratas can be torn down as He builds one people whose common bond is that they are followers of Christ.

This is not an easy process or the easy route for any church. When we start to diversify our ministries we must also start to share decision making, listen to viewpoints very different than ours and learn to appreciate worship different than what we are used to. It takes great humility to embrace people who are different than us and to honor their culture and perspectives.

And, the evil one will attack! He is not interested in unity. He is not interested in the supernatural power of God to bring people together and he will do all he can to sow seeds of misunderstanding, doubt and division. Congregations that embrace "all people" find themselves on the front lines of spiritual warfare and need a robust plan for protection!

I love to worship at the international church in Beijing where one worships with people from every continent in the world. How much better to worship with those God has placed in my own community - embracing the wonderful diversity of people and expression and having to grapple with what it means to be one people in Jesus Christ. A fortaste of that heavenly picture.