Saturday, May 22, 2010

Diversity in the Church

I am having similar thoughts lately.
Philip Yancey put it this way in an article in Christianity Today just this last November. He writes, "As I read accounts of the New Testament church, no characteristic stands out more sharply than [diversity]. Beginning with Pentecost, the Christian church dismantled the barriers of gender, race, and social class that had marked Jewish congregations. Paul, who as a rabbi had given thanks daily that he was not born a woman, slave, or Gentile, marveled over the radical change: ’There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’

"One modern Indian pastor told me, ’Most of what happens in Christian churches, including even miracles, can be duplicated in Hindu and Muslim congregations. But in my area only Christians strive, however ineptly, to mix men and women of different castes, races, and social groups. That’s the real miracle.
Yancey continues, "Diversity complicates rather than simplifies life. Perhaps for this reason we tend to surround ourselves with people of similar age, economic class, and opinion. Church offers a place where infants and grandparents, unemployed and executives, immigrants and blue bloods can come together. Just yesterday," Yancey wrote, "I sat sandwiched between an elderly man hooked up to a tank puffing oxygen and a breastfeeding baby who grunted loudly and contentedly throughout the sermon. Where else can we find that mixture?
"When I walk into a new church," Yancey says, "the more its members resemble each other—-and resemble me-—the more uncomfortable I feel."
Source: Philip Yancey, "Denominational Diagnostics," Christianity Today, November 2008, p. 119.