Diversity…and why we refuse to move on and drop it!

[This appeared first at LifeChurchNC.com]

August 12, 2016

If you’ve been following our weekly emails, blogs or have been part of any of our general conversations as a church-community lately, you probably realize that the conversation around diversity (age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic, gender-identity, etc.) isn’t going away.  This is intentional.  Too often when social issues hit the fan, we have a fallible tendency to quickly move on and forget (assuming we pause to take notice at all).  And what I’ve found absolutely beautiful and compelling over the last few weeks in particular is how our willingness to confront tough issues and have difficult conversations as a church has only served to further solidify our identity as a people who are increasingly growing in diversity, and who, despite our differences, are visibly experiencing the richness of community with one another as we continue to center ourselves around the Gospel of Jesus.

Earlier today, we had joy of hearing from Bishop T.D. Jakeswho is part of this year’s Global Leadership Summitfaculty.  Bishop Jakes, speaking on the issue of racial reconciliation, shared:

Systemic racism isn’t simply about our dislike for another people group; it’s about whether or not we see that people group as a part of own strategy for success.  

Let that sink in.

If growing in diversity isn’t a strategy for our overall success, then to put it bluntly, we stand guilty of overlooking something that’s so indescribably important to the heart of God at the expense of our own comforts and preferences.

Last Sunday night, I sat behind the podium at New Zion Baptist Church for the first of our community Unity Gatherings, and was overwhelmed with emotion to see the turnout of our Life Church family.  I was literally brought to tears when Pastor Timothy Bates invited all of the children in the room to stand-up before this gathering as a reminder of one of the primary reasons we were together.  Children of different ethnicities and backgrounds, whose only discomfort was standing in front of a room full of adults they didn’t know, stood before us as a reminder of the legacy and responsibility we have to press into healing and full reconciliation.

On the way home that evening, my oldest son, Elisha, who is definitely my most contemplative and reflective kid, asked a simple and profound question: Daddy, why did we get together tonight?  I sat there for a moment and thought, Yeah, why DID we get together tonight?  After what seemed like several minutes of silence, although it was just a matter of seconds, I replied: Because the big people need it.  I’m not sure if I’d been given hours to ponder that question I would have come up with a more appropriate answer.

Because the big people need it.

Pulling myself together to stand and speak that night, I immediately expressed how proud I was (and am) of our church family.  I then quickly moved on to what I was convinced to be the question that most of us big peoplewere probably asking ourselves when we walked into the room that night:

What’s next?
So, I offered a challenge: Let’s be intentional about doing this again, and to make sure we do, I’m offering up our church building to host next month’s gathering.  To which, there seemed to be an overwhelming sense of affirmation.  Otherwise, all we’re doing is creating a brushfire that will quickly be snuffed out.
So, next month, Life Church, be on the lookout for the next community Unity Gathering.
Now, what’s so important about getting together on a monthly basis with other local churches, and what does that have to do with our own growth and development in becoming a diverse church?  Much like our Forge (men’s) and Coffee Break (women’s) gatherings, it’s not what we can accomplish while we’re together, but what will be accomplished as a result of our being together.   In other words, it’s what flows from these gatherings as a result of the consistency and our proximity that begins to build and deepen relationships, and in the process, begins to blur the definitive  (and at times, divisive) lines between our local churches, and subsequently all of the other differences that tend to separate us in our own eyes and in the eyes of the world.
I’m convinced these gatherings demonstrate and build toward something our community needs farmore than a bunch of individual churches working alone to reach our community; it demonstrates a UNIFIED church, a beautiful tapestry of local congregations who are more concerned about building the BIG “C” Church and advancing the BIG “K” Kingdom, where in the process we’re making great the name of Jesus for His glory and the good of our community, than building our own little “c” churches and advancing our little “k” kingdoms.
I’m convinced the lost and the un-churched find something far more compelling and attractive with churches that are less about themselves and more for the community around them, including the churches it’s been placed there alongside of.
And I’m also convinced that when this is what we value, our churches will grow as people find and experience the community and fellowship they were created for – God’s family on earth.
Referencing back to Bishop Jakes’s comment from earlier today, diversity is our strategy, and it’s accomplishment is how we must measure our success for the sake of the Kingdom in the future.

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