By Scot Loyd, Contributing Writer
Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Director of Forensics and Debate
The idea of “Separate but Equal” was once used as a tool to enforce policies of prejudice in the American South.
The idea that someone should go to a different institution based upon skin color as a matter of public policy has, thankfully, gone the way of the dinosaur.
Unfortunately, this philosophy is still voluntarily practiced in too many of our churches.
Christians need to understand that churches should not be segregated because most assuredly there will not be a segregated Heaven.
The Apostle John describes the diversity he beheld in that world to come in Revelation 7:9:”
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”
It is clear that diversity will be the norm in the New Jerusalem.
The writer of the book of Hebrews said in 12:28: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
The key word in this passage is “receiving.”
It is God’s intention that we receive the kingdom.
Something that is received is not earned or created, and that is an important distinction.
As the passage points out, when we understand that the Kingdom has been received, the appropriate response is thankfulness.
Unfortunately, many today are involved in Kingdom building rather than Kingdom receiving.
Kingdom building ends in pride, whereas Kingdom receiving ends in worship.
It is important then to understand what the Kingdom of God looks like.
What does it look like at your church?
In the book “Vintage Church,” Mark Driscoll and Gerry Brashear’s define the local church as “…a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
“In obedience to Scripture, they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of Baptism and Communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.”
The first word of this definition is of particular significance. Community.
Are we experiencing the Kingdom of God in community?
It has been my experience that many churches are built around the ideas of affinity rather than received in the context of community.
The difference in affinity and community is this – community encompasses the ideas of diversity, while affinity is all about uniformity.
Churches built on uniformity tend to have members who all look alike, dress alike, think alike, and generally share the same interest and values.
The common denominator is what they like. These types of organizations are often cults of personality and preference.
However, churches that have received the Kingdom value diversity in community.
Not everyone shares the same interest, not everyone looks or dresses alike, nor should they.
It is not about them, but rather, it is all about Christ.
The Body of Christ is not identified by its uniformity but by its unity around the person and work of Jesus Christ.
This has been modeled for us from the beginnings of the New Testament Church.
When Jesus selected his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 10, Mark 3, and Luke 6,
He selected men of diversity to come together in community.
Consider that eleven of them were from the country, one from the city, some owned businesses and lived lives of quiet anonymity, others like James and John seemed to be somewhat well-connected to the religious establishment of the day.
In the group was Matthew ,a tax collector employed by the Roman Government, and Simon who was a Zealot, who openly opposed the Roman Government and sought its overthrow.
These men were chosen by Christ to work together.
Likewise, we have been chosen by Christ to work together to advance the Kingdom we have received.
And certainly it must be stated that in our striving for diversity we never compromise the Gospel.
We should never redefine the Gospel or what it means to be a Christian to gain a wider audience or more diverse crowd.
When the consistent message of the Gospel is proclaimed, it is God who gives the increase.
But it is God who does the choosing and not you or I.
We are not building our own Kingdom, but we are receiving the Kingdom that He has given to us.
The Church is set apart to represent God’s Kingdom on this earth.
If we are content to segregate ourselves in conclaves of our own affinities, we miss God’s purpose and intention for our lives.
He calls us to live in community with one another, unified around His Word and work and not according to our preferences or prejudices.
If everyone at your Church is just like you, then perhaps you should step up and reach out to those unlike you, and by doing so extend the Kingdom of God into uncharted territories.
A Kingdom that we are blessed to receive and share.