In affirming the ideal picture of a diverse community of Christian disciples presented in Scripture and summarized in yesterday’s post and, at the same time, lamenting the failure of most churches to fully understand, grasp, and work toward that ideal, a most loyal reader of this space commented: “Maybe we should leave whitebread land…”
No. That’s not necessarily the answer.
The answer is to keep trying. Keep teaching. Keep working. Like our Sovereign God, keep calling things that are not as though they were. And see it. Live it. Do it. But that can only happen, I know, AFTER a church and its leaders fully understand the Gospel significance and power of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-socio-economic body.
As long as we have churches for the poor and churches for the rich, white churches and black churches and brown churches, as long as we refuse to give and sacrifice and bend to one another enough to worship and serve and love and live together, we will be unable to give to the world anything it can’t already get at the social club or the mall or on the internet. I believe that people today are seeking truth. No, make that Truth, with a capital T. People are searching for a Truth that is bigger than themselves. A Truth that means something for eternity, that transcends what we experience on a daily basis, that is gargantuan in its scope and Truth-ness. Real Truth changes lives. It has the power to radically transform men and women and whole neighborhoods and cities. Gatherings of a bunch of people who look alike and think alike, who dress the same and make the same amount of money, can be found anywhere. Organizations that exist to cater to a certain select segment of our population are found everywhere we look. In fact, that’s all there is anymore. That doesn’t really speak a unique word to anyone. It’s certainly not some kind of all-surpassing, history-altering Truth.
The Truth of the Gospel is that God condescended to man, submitted to sinful humans, gave and served and sacrificed for others to the point of dying on a cross, and rose again to destroy eternally everything that separates man from God and man from one another. Christ Jesus destroys all the walls, his death demolishes the barriers, his resurrection defeats the differences. We’re all the same in our Savior. His Church is one body, one people, one eternal congregation of saints for ever. We know these things, we teach and preach these things, we write books about these things and uphold these things as pure soul-saving Truth.
But when we don’t live it, when we don’t show the world what it looks like, why are we surprised that the world yawns and turns away? We proclaim something radically different from the world, but we practice the same old thing that the world sees every day. I’m bored with it, too.
The scandal of the early Church was not that they were worshiping a different God. It wasn’t that they were preaching the Resurrection. The first Church was persecuted because they were destroying the social class systems of the Roman Empire. Greeks and Jews were sharing meals around the same table. Both rich and poor interacted in the same homes. Masters served their slaves. Educated and ignorant, men and women, slave and free, ruling class and no class, they came together to live and worship and serve the Lord and King who saved them and called them to a better way.
That kind of submission and sacrifice spoke a word of Truth to the world. That kind of living turned the world upside down for the Kingdom of God. That kind of spectacle was so different from anything anybody ever experienced anywhere else that it sparked a global revolution that upset governments and changed the course of human history.
But we want to keep our tidy little lines of demarcation between white and black, rich and poor, English and Spanish, in our churches. We think it’s too hard to integrate. We think it’s too much to sacrifice. We think we’d have to give up too much in our worship styles. In the name of culture and comfort we decide it’s too difficult. We don’t think it’s worth the trouble.
Either we have underestimated the people in our congregations or we have horribly misunderstood the Gospel of Jesus.
Jon Mark Beilue, a long-time columnist for the Amarillo Globe News, stopped by for an hour or so last week to interview me for the paper. His column came out this morning. You can read it by clicking here. The Garland cop is Jason Reeves. The cross above my computer is the collage of crosses Tracy Sharp did for me when we left Legacy. I was not a kid in suburban Dallas; I was born and reared in the heart of the Dallas hood, man — PGrove! I’m not sure why the color in the photo is so messed up; there’s no way my hair is really that gray. And Jon didn’t use my favorite line: Working for and with the Texas Rangers every day for four years drives most men into twelve-step counseling programs; it drove me to the ministry.
I really enjoyed my time with Jon Mark and the Globe News Photographer, Robert, who, like me, also hails from Big D. It’s a very nice column. And he’s right about this: our God could not have led me to a better church in a better setting in a better city than where we are right now today.