Diversity in the Church

This week I had the opportunity to interact with some church leaders on the question of diversity in the church among other things. I attempted to share my heart and desire to see the local church reflect well the reality of Christ’s bride – a church greatly diverse in language and ethnicity. It is the reality of the church described in the New Testament and it is sad that we have historically allowed affinities other than Christ form the core of our churches.

Today John Piper tweeted a link to a 2007 article explaining why his church sought diversity, especially among staff and elders. Given the current public climate concerning race, it is a timely reminder for Christians of our citizenship in the kingdom of God. You can read the whole article here but below are some choice sections.

“It is right to admire this diversity for many reasons:

  1. It illustrates more clearly the truth that God created people of all races and ethnicities in his on image (Genesis 1:27).
  2. It displays more visibly the truth that Jesus is not a tribal deity but is the Lord of all races, nations, and ethnicities.
  3. It demonstrates more clearly the blood-bought destiny of the church to be “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
  4. It exhibits more compellingly the aim and power of the cross of Christ to “reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:16).
  5. It expresses more forcefully the work of the Spirit to unite us in Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).”

“it seems to us that the admiration we feel for this diversity in the New Testament should carry over into the desires we have for the visible church today. It seems to us that the local church should want these things to be true today at the local level where this diversity and harmony would have the greatest visible and relational impact. For us, this has implied pursuit. If we admire it and desire it, then it seems to us we should pursue it.”

I know this is easier said than done, creating a diverse church, but we should be about it. For Christians, honestly, it should come naturally…

Unity and Diversity

Stacy and I had an interesting conversation with a great lady in the pool while on Kauai last week. It so happens that she is a Portlander and once lived in DC during the 60’s.

Somehow the conversation arrived at a story about her most recent trip to DC. Knowing that I was heading into seminary she ensured I was not offended, but the reason for the visit was to attend a same-sex wedding. She just couldn’t get over how diverse the wedding was and how amazing it was to see inter-racial couple, people who have traveled the world, all colors and all ages coming together to celebrate a wedding.

Regardless of your feeling about same-sex marriage, the conversation forced me to think about this woman’s deep desire to see diversity. In her heart she longed to be in a space that did not regard one’s race, politics, hair color or difference. And she had to go to a same-sex wedding to experience it.

Sadly, some among us believe such diversity would be horrible and we would rather maintain cultural racism in our own realm of insecurity and ungodliness; but that thought is for another post.

When we think of what the City described in Revelations will be like, it would be disingenuous to suggest that this diversity would be absent. In Christ there is no “Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one..” (Galatians 3:28) So why can’t we live our communities of faith like that today?

I am sure you can find an anecdotal example of a church being diverse but overall the church has failed in unity and diversity. I am afraid this is one area of our faith that for too long we have allowed culture to control. This level of diversity should be nothing new to this woman – she should see it in Christian community everywhere. But she doesn’t and we need to be bold enough to confront this. I know it is difficult but we are to carry a cross… this is not supposed to be easy.

Christ prays for our unity and we deny it. For this we must repent and work for unity among believers across lines of difference with an understanding that diversity does not discard doctrine and it is not for its own sake but for the glory of God alone.