Diversity is defined in the following way.
- the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: ‘diversity of opinion.’
- variety; multiformity.
- the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc. ‘diversity in the workplace.’
- a point of difference.
The realities for me as a pastor who has served at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st is that the four churches I have served are remarkably homogeneous on a racial scale and extremely diverse on a social-political-economic scale. Because of my position of being a pastor I have had the privilege to listen to the stories of so these good people. I have heard what drives that motivate their lives. Yet, as I have stood in front of these groups of diverse people here is what I have seen:
- Avid Republicans sitting next to ardent Democrats;
- Those with financial substance receiving grace from those in near poverty;
- People of advanced years conversing with those much…much younger;
- Those of “Born Again beliefs” in dialogue with “Actions speak louder than words” believers.
When I read articles in magazines or blogs in the e-world by folks representing different ideological or ‘time-in-life’ positions there is often hostility, their world views are polar opposites. But when they enter Church something happens. Maybe it is just the remnants of civility. Maybe it is ignorance because they don’t know (or don’t care to know) what the other person believes. Or, maybe it is that something greater than a particular ideology or life experience allows them a shared focus for that brief moment in time.
Diversity within God’s people is not new. Think about the disciples of Jesus. Jesus had many followers. Some of these followers became disciples. But, the 12 that Jesus called to become Apostles were hand selected through prayer. Jesus chose a group of diverse and to some degree polar opposite people to be his inner core.
- John the beloved disciple vs. Peter the hothead
- Simon the Zealot vs. Matthew the tax collector
- The rest of the disciples vs. James and John who sought privileged positions
- Andrew who quietly brought people to Jesus vs. Judas who betrayed Jesus
- The disciples from Galilee (hillbillies) vs. Those from Judea (sophisticates)
What held this diverse group of people together? Most likely, at least at the outset, a desire to see Rome removed from Israel. Then as Jesus’ ministry grew it must have been his miracles and his teaching (“…to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” John 6:68). Ultimately I believe it was the commission Jesus gave them to
“God into all the world and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:18
I wonder if they had any idea when Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you…” that this diverse group of followers would be shaped into a team to changed the world?
So, what holds our diverse congregations together today? We are diverse, not by color or nationality for the most part, but certainly in our socio-political-economic realities. What is our unifying glue? I believe the glue ought to be a commitment to follow Jesus and a mission that embodies following him in a way that is meaningful to us. Within this light, ask yourself the following questions:
- In terms of your personal life are you committed to Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord? Do you know what he has called you to be and do? Are you actively pursuing that call?
- In terms of your church life do you know the mission of your church? In addition to worshipping God why does your church exist?
- For those of you at Chapel by the Sea, do you know why we exist? What is our purpose? What would you desire it to be?
We are a diverse group of people, no doubt. What is it that holds us together and how is our Lord commissioning us to serve? Over the next weeks we will be examining these questions. Pray that God will give us greater clarity and focus.