The Challenges of Diversity
This week, we will continue to "tag-along" with the nation of Israel on their trek to the Promised Land. Last week I shared by belief that their journey was less about the destination and more about the preparation. Like the Israelites, we too find ourselves in a season of preparation as God leads us into a future filled with hope and excitement.
As we prepare for the role God wants us to play in the future of His church, I want to share an excerpt from a book by author, Philip Yancey. The book is titled, Vanishing Grace, and addresses the need for the church to return to a Good News filled with grace AND truth. I shared this at our last church council meeting and thought I would share it with you as well. As you read, be thinking about what God might be asking you to do in building an irresistible church, with an irresistible message about Jesus Christ!
"As I read accounts of the New Testament church, no characteristic stands out more sharply than diversity, the primary testing ground of grace. Beginning with Pentecost--a gathering of people from many countries--the Christian church dismantled the barriers of gender, race, and social class that had marked Jewish congregations. Even Paul marveled over the radical change.
Diversity complicates life, and perhaps for this reason we tend to surround ourselves with people of similar age, economic class, and outlook. Church offers a place where infants and grandparents, unemployed and executives, immigrants and blue bloods can all come together. Where else can we go to find that mixture.
Diversity, however, succeeds in a group of people who share a common vision. In John 17, Jesus stressed one request above all others: 'That they may be one.' Paul's letters repeatedly call for unity and to end divisions. The existence of so many denominations worldwide shows how poorly Christians have fulfilled that goal. Major church splits have occurred over such issues as what kind of bread to use in the Eucharist and whether to make the sign of the cross with two or three fingers. We have not, in fact, been faithful stewards of God's grace.
Ideally, the church should be a place that reminds us of lasting truths: that God intends the best for us, that sin and failure are inevitable but forgiveness is guaranteed, that a supportive community bears burdens and comforts the needy. A pastor friend of mine did a series of sermons on the phrase 'one another.' He found twenty-nine uses of that phrase in the New Testament which, taken together, show what a true community would look like. They include the following:
Love one another.....Forgive one another.....Pray for one another.....Bear one another's burdens.....Regard one another as more important than yourself.....Do not speak against one another.....Do not judge one another.....Show tolerance for one another.....Be kind to one another.....Speak truth to one another.....Build up one another.....Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
I wonder how different the church would look to a watching world, not to mention how different history would look, if Christians everywhere followed that model."
See you Sunday.