More Than Lip Service

There’s a lot of lip service given to the idea of multi-culture churches. We want to champion diversity, but it is easier to talk about than practice. I hope to encourage churches to pursue diversity within their congregations and leadership by digging into the reason we should pursue it.

The last several months have highlighted the great divide present between Christians of different ethnicities. The death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner show that Christians who love God still can’t agree on how they should demonstrate that love toward one another. The sixth commandment prohibits murder. Many of us self-righteously check that box off our list. However, John Calvin explains,

“Unless we endeavor, as our ability and circumstances allow, to do good to our neighbor, through our cruelty we transgress this law” (Institutes. Banner of Truth, 2014. 149).

We often transgress this law by not doing the good within our reach. That is why multi-cultural churches are needed.

Spanning the Divide

The only way to span the current racial divide in our country and the church is through worshiping together as people from all nations, tongues, and tribes—as image bearers training our bodies, minds, and hearts through the story of the Gospel rehearsed each Sunday.

Why does the mind say yes to multi-cultural churches, racial reconciliation, or solidarity as image bearers, but the heart not register the right action? The only way is through the Gospel story. This Gospel is rehearsed in our churches and churches send out the body into the culture to love and do good. The fundamental act of worship together then prepares our hearts and minds to seek, listen, and build relationships with different people. We begin to see them as people made in the image of God—not as projects, adversaries, or news stories.

Pursuing Unity

As we hear God call us to worship, we praise him for who he is and approach him humbly. We pray together for forgiveness of sin, and also hear God’s promise of the Gospel together. We eat the body and blood of Christ together. We are sent out into the world to do good together. This paradigmatic togetherness is what re-orients our hearts, so when unity, love, compassion, and empathy are needed, they will overflow out of a heart that knows how to approach the church humbly; knows how to repent; knows the Gospel is his or hers; knows how to do good, because he or she has been sent by God. The physical togetherness is a tangible way to re-orient our hearts to the truth we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the New Testament, racial tensions rus high between Jews and Gentiles. The first church council was convened to decide how Jews and Gentiles should co-exist. As all of this takes place, and as Paul deals with racial issues as he travels throughout Asia Minor, the assumption is that Jews and Gentiles are in the church together. They are worshipping together, sharing meals together, and going out in the world to do good together. That’s where the tension arrives, but also where it resolves. We’ve forgotten we can talk the gospel talk when it comes to race, but if we are missing the foundational togetherness the New Testament writers assume, then all the talk will not bring about the repentance needed to reconcile. It will not bring about the love needed to listen, empathize, and do good for our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we not only talk about multi-cultural churches, but also pursue it, knowing the togetherness it brings will re-orient our hearts in love for one another.

Question(s): Are you willing to live together in Christ? How can churches foster this kind of solidarity?