The Church of Homogeneity
My wife and I were privileged to visit our favorite city in the world this weekend. We came back to Nashville to help with some of the cleanup work from the recent flooding, but that is not what this post is about. Nonetheless, tonight we visited a church that meets downtown and it sparked a conversation between Rachel and I about a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, homogeneity and diversity.
This church, where many of my good friends attend, seems in many ways to be a wonderful family seeking to love God and the people around them. They are involved in the community, even meeting in a local bar. The worship service was creative and contemporary, but not shallow. It seemed to be “seeker sensitive” without compromising the truth of God’s word or neglecting the needs of the members. But, one important detail was so glaring, so conspicuous that it was impossible to miss, yet so subtle, so plainly hidden that it could easily by overlooked; the church, like many others, completely lacked diversity. I have come to expect this from traditional, institutional churches, but this church has made a concerted effort to overcome the other shortfalls of more conventional church gatherings. Yet, most of the church body was made up of young, middle class white folks from the suburbs. This just goes to show how powerful of a force our desire is to be with folks like us.
I see it everywhere now. Our home church in Kentucky almost entirely lacks racial diversity, as does the organization where I did my internship in DC, though both are deeply concerned about helping the oppressed of all races and classes and nations. Somehow though, we have found ways to “help” those who are most different from us without joining them in their struggles or inviting them to join us in ours. I don’t mean to be overly critical of the church we visited tonight or our home church, but I do hope that we all become more aware of the diversity that exists in the body of Christ. One of the best pictures I have seen in recent years, or maybe ever, of what I understand the Kingdom to be is the annual international potluck at the seminary; people from all over the world make their favorite foods to share and we all feast and fellowship, praise and party. During the festivities we take communion together and celebrate the slaughtered and risen Lamb. After all, heaven is described as a banquet table at which people from all nations, speaking all languages gather together to share in God’s abundance and give him praise. Shouldn’t we seek such a communion here and now as we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven?