Sunday, February 22, 2004

a diverse church: calling or by-product?

Was the church called to be diverse? Is a healthy church one that embodies socio-economic and racial diversity? Should this diversity include theological diversity?

Church planters today have target audiences. They begin a community of believers by targeting a specific generation, race, or even socio-economic level. Churches who are trying to reach the twenty-somethings do better if they have a band or cool electronic media. Churches who are trying to reach the black community do well if they have gospel music. Churches reaching to Hispanic communities do well if they have bi-lingual literature and speakers. Churches reaching out to the middle-upper class folks in Grapevine, Texas should have flat panel screens everywhere and multiple ministries to every age child in the church.

Americans are used to being marketed to. We not only expect it but we demand it. But marketing techniques for church means that a target audience must be chosen. "Can't reach out to everyone" they tell us. And American churches have found success in appropriate targeting of specific groups. But what does this do to diversity?

Did the New Testament church feel called to diversity or was it a by-product of living life together well. Certainly Paul and others were calling the Jewish Christians to welcome the new and different Gentile converts. Clearly this was in the forefront of Paul's mind in many of his letters. So maybe racial diversity is something we are called to. Maybe in the diversity of races and sub-cultures God is glorified. In a sense, this kind of diversity shows the world that the unity which is found in Christ is greater than the divisions which are found in the world.

And yet socio-economic diversity didn't seem to be something the early church was "called" to. It seems to have been a by-product of living life together well. In Acts 2 and 4 we see a picture of the rich and the poor providing for each other. We see a community which had such unity that they considered each other family. And in the family of God, the big brothers and sisters always help the little siblings in need. It seems that economic diversity was almost a given. It was a reality which united the body rather than a reason for division.

How do we recapture this when starting new churches in the US? How do we participate in communities which resemble this kind of racial and economic diversity? How do we become a community which seems beautifully strange to the world? How can we glorify Christ with a unity that can only have Him as its explanation?

Father, what is impossible with humanity is possible through you. Would you give me wisdom to be able to begin to respond to these kinds of questions? I pray that you would give me your wisdom so that I can move beyond the wisdom of this world.


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