Church is hard. Really hard. Sometimes we act as if we can simply get people to read the Bible, pray, show up on Sunday, and then church comes naturally. In fact, I think it’s the opposite. Pointing people to Jesus is just the beginning. In some ways, the difficult work then begins. After coming to Jesus, we then spend the rest of our lives being shaped to look like Jesus. And we spend the rest of our lives doing that with other people. In other words, we are added to the Church, and we then spend the rest of our lives becoming the Church – together.
I am a fervent believer in the fact that the Church should be a place for all people. I’m not really interested in being a part of a congregation where we are only interested in young people … or old people. Men … or women. White people … or people of color. Rich people … or poor people.
As I read the New Testament, I see a picture of a Church that includes all folks who would respond to Jesus and seek to follow Him with others – who are sometimes very different. But this is hard. It is much easier to gather around me people I like, and who like me and look like me.
And what happens when you gather in one place people of different ages, backgrounds, perspectives, and interests? You get a bunch of different people with different interests and preferences. In other words, you get Congress. Or the Church. We all know how messy Congress is right now. Is it anything but the grace of God that Church is any less messy?
But I am passionate about being a part of a church that works its way through the mess – the challenge of finding unity of purpose and direction in the midst of the differences we find. This is what the New Testament talks about. And the truth is, it only happens when the Spirit of God fills the people of God, and empowers them toward a unity that is of God’s making, not ours.
So, whether you are young or old, male or female, white or not, rich or not, are you doing all you can to let God lead you to unity with those very different from you? In an earlier post, I mentioned three ways you can work to build unity in the diversity that is the Church. Can I add two more?
One: Be an encourager. Find ways to build others up, even those you disagree with – especially those you disagree with. Before you criticize someone, love them. And see that person as a brother or sister.
And two: Serve. It’s amazing how things look different when we get off the sidelines, and into the game. It’s surprising how we learn to appreciate and understand our differences when we aren’t simply noticing them from a distance – but serving together through them.
I am passionate about the unity of the Church in the midst of our diversity. But unity takes work. I am committed to doing that work by encouraging and serving with others. Will you join me?