Many thanks to Mercy Hill member Gary Rivers for his helpful insight into an important and often delicate topic.
As a black man, there I was, standing in this white church, hearing these white worship songs, listening to how white people pray. I was thinking, “I’m just not use to this.” “This isn’t how we do church where I am from.” “This isn’t how I worship.” Adding to the weirdness of the white church, the movie screen then came down and the sermon started playing. My thought now was, “Did I come to see a movie or am I at church? Where is the preacher?”
Unfortunately, my heart at that time was so fully concerned with the barriers of the fallen world which are known to divide us (i.e.: skin color, worship styles, the differences in the appeals made to and before God and how the message is delivered). Honestly, I was living life so fully distracted from The Gospel of Jesus Christ that I didn’t even recognize it. Then The Holy Spirit again reminded me of The Gospel.
Before judging me as intolerant, recognize that The Gospel has revealed that I am much worse. I am a sinner. I have sinned before The Holy God and I have incurred real judgment because of my sin. But for reasons beyond my understanding God chose to love me by sending His anointed, appointed, and begotten Son from the throne of glory. He lived, hung upon a cross after being persecuted, and died in my place for my sin. He did this so that I would die to sin and live only in His righteousness. As if that were not enough, He has even given His Holy Spirit which lives within and teaches me. I know that He has risen because He lives in me.
Take a moment to consider our diversity. There is a certain complexity of defining diversity as it pertains to people. Here is how one of my brothers defines it: Diversity is the multi-faceted display of the glory of God. Diversity recognizes the similarities amongst us and embraces our differences. I truly believe that true diversity is only witnessed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is The Gospel that disintegrates the barriers of the fallen world. This is the Gospel that transforms hearts and renews minds.
As we grow deeper into The Gospel we witness the One community of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit transforming every particular person, nation, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, age group, and every other worldly demographic into One Body led by Jesus Christ. When we allow the love of The Gospel to penetrate our hearts, we see that there is no such thing as a white, or black, or Hispanic, or Asian, or African, or European or any other church. People the world see as American, Brazilian, Canadian, Puerto Rican, and Haitian and so on, our Almighty God sees as His people. For those seeking to follow Jesus, there is only One Church of which Jesus Christ is the head.
The Gospel reminds the local church daily that God’s faithful are called and provoked by His actions to recognize the similarities amongst us while embracing the differences we share. In this we reach out to others who are similar and different from us, while embracing the differences we possess (i.e.: skin color, worship styles, cultures, socio-economic status, birthplace, criminal record status, etc.). As this occurs, we see the beauty and importance of the multifaceted display of the glory of God. As we follow Christ, we will not mistake the role that the diversity of the local church plays within the universal church. We will not mistake our roles either. God justifies His people and sanctifies His Church. We (the local church) share with others, who are both similar and different from us, who He is and what He has done.
As we seek to abide in relationship with Jesus Christ as our Heavenly Father would have us do through His Holy Spirit and The Word of God, there are loads of characteristics revealed to us concerning the Kingdom of God. One characteristic of the Kingdom is that it is One community. This is why, if you have attended weekly fellowship at Mercy Hill Church, you have heard the appeal to get involved with a community group. “Discipleship happens in community.” This is much more than a plumb line. This is the truth. This truth is not solely spoken to any particular person, nation, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, age group, or any other demographic of the world. This Kingdom truth is all inclusive and reveals to us another truth which is united with it. The coming Kingdom of God will be one diverse community worshiping the glory of God that has overcome the barriers of the fallen world. Now let us go and tell His people.