Tag Archives: Diversity

Rediscovering the Jewel of Unity in Diversity

Have you noticed how children suffer from short-term memory loss when it comes to their toys? My son dumped out a toy box the other day into a pint-size mountain in the middle of the kids' bedroom. His eyes locked in on something in the pile, then he shrieked, "This is mine?! I love this!" He thrust his little hand into the pile and brought out a plastic triceratops and rejoiced over it like he hadn't seen that triceratops since the Jurassic era.

We are just like kids when it comes to the spiritual blessings that belong to us in Christ. There is so much we have yet to enjoy about God, but we lack the capacity for whatever reason. We're half-hearted, forgetful, desperately sinful, and oh-so-finite. Yet because God is eternal, we will never grow bored as we gaze into the unfathomable depth of his character for all eternity. Boredom will be a thing of the past, even "when we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun."

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Even now, on this side of heaven, we can dive into the treasures of the gospel in all its geometrical glory. Together "with all the saints" we can enjoy "the breadth and length and height and depth" of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:16-19). Richard Sibbes said, "We have a full treasury to go to. All treasure is hid in Christ for us."

When you do find that treasure in a field you have to ask: Who buried the treasure for you to find, and what must he be like? And just like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, if you give a Christian the treasure chest of gospel riches, he is going to ask God for more people for him to share it with. By God's Spirit we are led to count ourselves among the members of Christ's body, the church.

Christ's Pan-Racial Bride

The diversity of the one bride of Christ is one of those treasures we get to enjoy but often forget how unique and special it is. We're like preschoolers with short-term memory loss about the joy that could be ours. We have to be reminded to dig into that treasure chest of gospel riches to discover and rediscover God's heart for unity amid diversity. And when we are reminded of the gift we have in our unity amid diversity through the gospel we can't help but rejoice. "This is ours?! I love it!" The classic text we love to remember to illustrate this gift is Revelation 5:9-10:

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

This scene of the glorious pan-racial worship of the Lamb is set in the future. And the fully multiracial diversity of the bride of Christ is already/not yet. It's already, because God chose every single one of us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). But the church's full-grown pan-racial quality is not yet as long as "unreached people groups" are a reality.

Not Diversity for Diversity's Sake

All over the world you can find people getting excited about diversity. But the gospel gives us a distinctly Christian affection for diversity. That's one of the reasons why I love Trillia Newbell's book United so much. It's like Trillia was rummaging through that treasure chest of the riches of God's kingdom and she got to this one jewel called Unity In Diversity. In her book she's holding it up for all of us saying, "Wow! Hey guys! Did you see this one?"

Trillia doesn't have a passion for "diversity;" she has a passion for the gospel. She writes:

I have a passion for the gospel. It is in the gospel that we see people as made in the image of God, uniquely designed by God, and brothers and sisters in Christ. We know that every person who ever lived is made in God's image, but for the Christian, there is a new family. My desire is that we would see each other as who we really are---brothers and sisters bought with a price.

I think that as we grab hold of what the gospel does to the discussion of race, it is then that we'll be motivated and stirred to see church communities reflect the family of God. The family of God is diverse. My prayer is that our local bodies and our personal relationships would be too.

If you and I are going to be passionate about something, let's be passionate about the gospel which transforms not only this conversation but each other.

Just think of the brilliant glory of God that is refracted through the jewel of Unity In Diversity as we read about it in verses like Romans 12:5, "so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." There is no "they" in the body of Christ because they are "we." Our unity in diversity is a reality to embrace---a free gift that belongs to us. But because we are still sinners, unity in diversity is also something that we must work hard to always be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).

Foreign Is Relative

Being a minority in a global city has been teaching me a lot about my own ethnocentricity. One time I was standing in a train station talking with a new acquaintance when she answered her phone and said to the person on the other line, "I am talking with a foreigner." And here I was thinking that I was talking to a foreigner.

There is so much we can offer one another this side of heaven while we are waiting for the marriage supper of the Lamb. I'll never forget one "aha moment" I had when talking with someone from a nearby country about the famous prodigal son passage in Luke 15. I was recounting the story to her when she stopped me mid-verse. "Wait, wait. What? Where is the older brother?" She wanted to know what he was doing before I even finished verse 13. "It doesn't say what he is doing," I answered. "Well, what he should be doing is following his brother to bring him back to their father. If he loves his father he will go get his younger brother." Wow.

Needless to say, when I got to the part where the older brother whines to his father, "Look, these many years I have served you," she guffawed. She thought he was boldfaced lying because if he truthfully served his father then he would never have stood by to watch his little brother shame himself and their family while causing their father so much grief. He would have gone after him and done everything in his power to restore him to the family. I began to see through the lens of her perspective that Jesus was our Older Brother par excellence. He loves the Father, and he purposed to come rescue us from before time began, running after us so that he might live and sacrificially die for us in our pigsty "while we were still sinners" (Rom. 5:8).

The gospel is transforming and will transform men and women and children from every tribe and language and people and nation. Our brothers and sisters are still out there---in suburban sprawls in Dayton, high rises in Doha, villas in Wollongong, and huts in Kokoda---waiting for someone with gospel-swift feet to come preach good news (Rom. 10:15, Eph. 6:15). Our brothers and sisters will waken from their slumbering spiritual death and be given new life in Christ. We have rock-steady assurance from Jesus because he promised us that his sheep assuredly respond to his call (John 10:16).

The message of pan-racial reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ is the message that sends us into those places with confident joy. And in this jewel of Unity In Diversity we can see glimpses of the brilliance of Jesus.

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Trillia Newbell will speak on "United: The Beauty of Diversity in Friendship" at The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference, June 27 to 29 in Orlando. Gloria Furman will talk about "Missional Motherhood," and they will appear together on a panel about "Teaching Our Children About Jesus." Browse the list of dozens more speakers and talks then register yourself and friends.

The Joyful Pursuit of Multi-ethnic Churches

Forming multi-ethnic churches seems to be appealing at first, but unless believers grasp the profound joy of pursuing diversity, the challenges of this type of ministry will quickly deflate them.

Churches that desire a more multi-ethnic membership desire a good thing, but it's not easy. Some churches are located in areas with virtually no ethnic diversity. Other churches across the spectrum still have leadership or laity who actively fight against any mixing ethnicities in their congregation. Still more churches may have the desire but lack the resources to effectively pursue multi-ethnicity.

While these problems are real, the right motivation can help churches persist in the call to multi-ethnicity. But people often have the wrong motivations. Guilt can be a motivation---this is especially true for people in the racial majority. The argument goes: "Whites have marginalized and oppressed blacks for so long, churches need to make it right by 'reaching out' to different races and ethnicities." While guilt has its place, this emotion will hardly give churches the determination they need to persevere through the difficulties of becoming multi-ethnic.

Another common motivation is fear. Christians fear lots of things about being in a mono-ethnic church. We fear that as neighborhood demographics change we will lose people. We fear that we will become irrelevant in the community. We fear being racist, or classist, or elitist. Fear, too, has its place. But that won't keep churches moving toward a multi-ethnic vision.

We need to be reminded of the joy of diversity. We need to keep that joy before us so it can motivate us for the marathon that is multi-ethnicity ministry. Here are six joys of pursuing a multi-ethnic make-up in churches.

1. You become more racially, ethnically, and culturally savvy.

In a healthy multi-ethnic church it becomes acceptable to talk about differences in race, ethnicity, and culture. Continual interactions with people different from you makes you into a person who is more sensitive and aware of culture and ethnicity. You make fewer missteps and feel less awkward when engaging people across racial and cultural gaps.

2. Your church becomes a safe haven for lots of different people.

Regardless of one's ethnicity, everyone wants to worship in a place that feels "safe." As an African American who longs for biblical teaching and preaching I do not feel at home in church that has erroneous theology but is more culturally familiar. Nor do I feel comfortable in a church with sound theology but is culturally distant. A multi-ethnic church becomes a place where I can get both sound doctrine and an accessible cultural experience. What is true along racial lines is also true along economic, linguistic, and other lines. Multi-ethnic churches communicate that it's all right to be different, and then lots of different people start coming.

3. You begin to understand what is primary and what is preference.

In a multi-ethnic church you have to constantly work to address the diverse needs of several ethnic groups. So you start having lots of conversations about what elements of worship are primary and which ones are preference. Churches that do this well begin to hone in on the essential truths of the gospel and communicate them more clearly while at the same time demonstrating flexibility and wisdom regarding culturally conditioned opinions about worship.

4. You want to invite people to church.

How many times have you hesitated to invite a person to church out of concern that the person wouldn't "fit in"? In many churches there is an unspoken expectation that people will wear a certain type of clothes, speak a certain way, know certain songs, have a certain background, and the like. Multi-ethnic churches make it easier for different people---folks with purple hair and earrings in their eyebrows, folks who can't afford a suit and tie, folks who have never been to church and don't know how to pray, folks of a different color---to feel at home. This, in turn, makes you bolder and more confident to invite people to church.

5. Your church becomes an authentic witness in your community.

Ethnically diverse churches authentically witness the gospel's power to reconcile people to God and each other. In a society shredded by sectarian interests---political, ideological, racial, you name it---churches that demonstrate unity in diversity attract attention. Multi-ethnic churches demonstrate that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

6. You get a glimpse of God's kingdom come.

Revelation 7:9 gives a concise depiction of the heavenly kingdom: "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands." Scripture teaches that an essential aspect of the heavenly congregation is racial and ethnic diversity---Christ is calling people from all nations to himself. Multi-ethnic churches excite God's people because they truly reflect God's people.

The Joy of Unity in Diversity

We delight in multi-ethnic churches because they reflect the essential nature of God himself. God reveals himself in the three persons of the godhead--God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Yet these three are one. The Trinity gloriously displays the unity and diversity of God. And God has so ordered the congregation of his people to reflect his three-in-oneness.

Although imperfect and incomplete, we can truly enjoy this reflection in our churches. The joy we feel in a multi-ethnic gathering of worshipers is the joy of feeling God's pleasure as we glorify him in his triune being. May God's church joyfully pursue diversity through our unified faith in Christ.