It is harder to overcome what you don’t know then to accept what you do know.
As observed earlier, in the attempt to create a climate of tolerance (vs. acceptance), many people make the mistake of negating or ignoring the background of the audience they are trying to reach. For example, a church with a predominately white congregation may take pride in the fact that they “don’t see color,” and while in theory that makes sense, “not seeing color” could actually mean they are missing all of the wonderful and potentially useful things derived from the different cultures that are a part of communities of color. Smart ministry leaders embrace the things that make their congregations who they are and seek to create a genuine interest in them, even if they don’t fully identify with them. Such leaders understand the value that these differences add to the kingdom agenda they have been given.
The Spiritual Impact
The gospel of “here’s how to go to heaven” doesn’t really require much of us in terms of diversity and reconciliation. But the gospel of “here’s how the kingdom of God can be manifest on earth” challenges us profoundly. To me, underneath our past failures to deal well with diversity lies a failure to grapple with the actual gospel Jesus preached, the gospel of the kingdom of God.
—Brian McLaren, author and pastor
Whether or not the church chooses to embrace a multicultural perspective in ministry will ultimately determine how far we are elevated in the kingdom. God has called us to walk in the spirit, which, in turn, requires us to see our neighbor through spiritual eyes versus natural ones.
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12, nlt)
Race, gender, and other culture-based subjects are flesh and blood issues, and while they might be important to certain social, emotional, or psychological needs we have, they are inconsequential to the spiritual battles we are called to fight. In fact, as the Ephesians verse implies, it is the very thing that the enemy uses to separate us. They are the tools he uses to fight us spiritually. He seeks to alienate humanity from God by disobedience, ignorance, and corrupted thinking. He tries to separate people from each other through alienating sins.
A resistance to diversity in church plays right into his hands by keeping us focused on natural issues rather than spiritual matters.
When “natural” issues become factors in how we worship and to whom we minister then we will ultimately find ourselves stagnant in our spiritual growth, never rising any higher than those issues will allow and never being able to use what we can potentially learn from those who are different from us, for the glory of God and the equipping of the disciples of Christ. We could also find ourselves “entertaining angels unaware” (Heb. 13:2). In other words, we must cultivate our spiritual eyes—seeing ourselves, each other, and the body as God sees us and not as a function of the myriad things we’ve encountered.
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