Sep 4, 2007

A Church to Die For

The Bible tells us that we are one body, and each members of it.

The Bible also tells us that Jesus is the head of this body called the church of Jesus Christ.

The church has had several ways of understanding what this means.

First, since each of us are unique in our own ways, we ought to be the best ear, nose, eye, finger, toe, or whatever God created us to be. So if your church is an ear, you ought not pretend to be something that you're not and you should just concentrate on being the best ear there is.

You can see this kind of thinking in homogeneous plans for church and ministry. These groups seek to gather as many "like" people as possible because this is one of the most effective ways to add new members to the church. Because the church today is surrounded by people who do not know Jesus Christ, the homogeneous method of evangelism and growing the church seems like a plausible way to go.

There is a danger to this kind of thinking though. For instance, a church full of upper-middle class white folks can say, this is who we are. We're not going to pretend that we're something that we're not. We're just going to work hard on being the best upper-middle class white church around. Why? Because we are surrounded by other upper-middle class white folks who do not know Jesus Christ. We don't have to pretend to be something that we're not, and since we're an upper-middle class white congregation and we're just going to reach as many of those people as possible for the Kingdom.

And even writing this and I'm sure reading this, you know something is not right about this. It's not right on several levels.

First, because the body is so interconnected and interdependent. A ear, no matter how great that ear is, simply could not exist apart from the body. Apart from the body, it's just a freaky cut off ear. And besides, apart from the rest of the body, it would be a dead ear.

But secondly, this is just flat out wrong. Jesus of the Bible would freak out about such a church. Jesus didn't die on the cross and descend into hell just for white folks, black folks, asian folks, etc. Jesus died on the cross for all the world, that whosoever should believe in Him shall have everlasting life.

Another way of understanding what it means to be one body is that each church is supposed to be a micro version of the universal church. Therefore, each church should have people representing all walks of life as much as possible.

There are certain limitations to this. Churches in Alaska are not likely to see a bunch of Carribean and Pacific Islanders in their congregation. Not because they are openly hostile to such folk, but Pacific Islanders are not likely to move to Alaska.

So where is Trinity in all this?

When I first arrived at Trinity, we were an all anglo congregation. Well, except my family. And then over the course of four years, we are now about 80% Anglo, and 20% everything else.

We are a multi-ethnic church (where there are many ethnicities present - Anglo, Korean, Chinese, Nigerian, Brazilian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Kenyan, etc). But we are a mono-cultural church (suburban America). We are by no means a multi-cultural church. In a real multi-cultural church, there would not be a dominant culture.

God has located Trinity in an area that is 91% unchurched in a 10 mile radius from the church.

Our goal is to reach as many of the 91% as possible. In order to do that we will need to be strategic and intentional about building bridges to that community. And one of the best ways to do that is to get folks in similar life stages together. At the same time, we will be intentional about being open to folks who are different.

And as we have been growing as a church, it becomes even more necessary to continue reminding ourselves of the goal of the body of Christ. God calls the church to grow new Christians and to grow faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. While having people who look alike, and act alike, and whose life styles are similar for the purpose of evangelism may be valid, as soon as one starts the journey of faith in becoming a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, we have to to be intentionally outwardly focused and other focused toward those who are not "like" us. Because that's what discipleship means.

Jesus constantly broke social, economic, and racial barriers to reach out to those who were not "like" the religious people of Jesus' day. And the reason why we need to be intentionally outwardly focused is because the default mode of all human organizations is to be inwardly focused.

This means that we have to be intentional about being outwardly focused. Although we may not have an eskimo "type" person in our church, if one were to come, they ought to feel like they've just come home. And if an eskimo can feel at home at a church in Texas, by golly, certainly our Hispanic, Asian, African-American, African, European neighbors of all socio-economic and educational background should feel at home when they come to TPC.

I would die to be a part of a church like that - a church where lost people, regardless of age, race, socio-economic standing, income, education, etc. can find a place of hope and love and finally belong. Now, that's a church worth dying for!

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