Over this past weekend, I attended a men’s ministry meeting at my current church and a worship service at my former church. Being at these church events reminded me it has been more than a decade since I have been a racial or cultural majority member of a church. Our former church was a multiracial, multicultural congregation. Our current church, while predominantly African-American, has a growing commitment to becoming more multiracial and multicultural.
Both of these churches have been positive examples of effective church ministry for the past decade. They have been through internal challenges—like pastoral changes and major building programs—while dealing with external problems like racial tension, political turmoil, and the current pandemic. Through it all, they have remained unified, focused, and missional. Particularly in light of current cultural challenges, especially racial tensions, it has been fulfilling to watch these churches thrive through diversity rather than be divided by it.
These churches are strong because they talk about racial and cultural issues openly, but in proportion to the frequency, they are mentioned in the Bible instead of how often they appear on Twitter. The pastors of these churches preach through books of the Bible or sections of books—no matter what is happening in the world around them. They emphasize what the Bible emphasizes and speak on cultural issues when they emerge from the text. During a recent series from the gospels on The Jesus Agenda, for example, my pastor preached how salvation, making disciples, community ministry, and global missions define our response to current cultural events.
These churches are strong because they celebrate their racial and cultural diversity—in proper perspective—rather than make those issues defining characteristics. They do not view the world through the lenses of race or culture. Instead, they view race and culture through the lens of the gospel. This perspective shift is profound. It allows differences to bring depth and variety to worship, Bible reading, prayer, and a host of other personal and church experiences. Diversity helps us experience God in new ways and appreciate different approaches—not define our tribe and separate us from others.
These churches are strong because their members treat each other as Christian individuals, not as stereotypical members of a group. When tough issues are raised, church members talk about them, pray about them, and resolve to hold on to each other. They actively resist demonizing others and work hard to preserve unity. Their members have a deep respect for each other and are determined to treat their fellow members like people who are going to heaven together—because they are.
These churches are positive examples of Christians coming together around biblical standards, missional priorities, and common ministry practices. Despite the formidable obstacles, they make it work! Being a part of these churches has made me a better Christian and leader—for which I am deeply grateful.
Dr. Paul Kelly provides a biblically informed theology of youth that gives youth ministers and pastors a deeper understanding of the common experience and divine purpose of teenage years. You can find an excerpt of his new publication here.
Dr. Chris Chun hosted a digital symposium with Dr. Michael Haykin and Dr. Robert Caldwell to discuss Edwards’ spirituality, devotional life and theological impact in American Christianity.