I was sitting at Starbucks working on my sermon for Sunday. I had my headphones on, wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, I also had a flat-billed hat on. I did not look like your everyday pastor. However this is normal attire for me, I like to dress comfortable and for me this is comfortable. I was not meeting anyone, it was just me, Starbucks and my bible software. I got up to get some more coffee, as I stood in line I noticed an older woman watching me. She seemed nice so I thought nothing of it. After I got back to my table the woman made her move. She gave me an invitation card to her church. Then she said something that will stick with me forever. She said she does not see a lot of people dressed like hoodlums in this Starbucks and God wanted her to invite me to church that it was a very welcoming place for all types of people.
I was taken aback, first I am an introvert, so for anyone to want to talk to me that is not scheduled is always something new for me, but this was a whole nother level of surprise. I had never been called a hoodlum, at least not to my face by a stranger. As I quickly gathered my thoughts I decided to give the woman a card, like she gave me. I pulled an invitation card out and invited her to Redemption Church, I smiled and told her we welcomed hoodlums too, we even let them be the pastor. She was now the one taken aback. She smiled, said she may just show up one day, and left. That was over a year a ago and she has yet to join us for a Sunday gathering, but I still hold out hope.
I realized that I was dressed in a way that does not fit our mold of evangelical, Jesus loving Christian. I did not look like someone who would be attending church, let alone pastor one. This lady, with good and I am guessing godly intentions, did not think someone like me, with how I looked, could be a Christian. I am grateful that she was bold enough to invite me to her church. What I am saddened by is how it seems we have set up ideals of what it means to follow Jesus, what you look like, how you talk, how you vote, among many others.
As the church we need to seek and fight for diversity in our churches.
This is not the way of Jesus. Jesus sat himself in the mix of a diverse group of people. In fact he called a crazy ragtag group of disciples who had little in common (some were political opposites, like Fox News and MSNBC anchors look like buddies compared to these guys) to follow him and eventually to take his message global. As the church we need to seek and fight for diversity in our churches. Jesus did not come to make us all alike in a outwards sense, he came to give us new hearts that would overflow in fruit that would be expressed in diverse ways according to our own cultures and traditions.
One of my dreams and prayers for Redemption is to be a tapestry of diversity. I pray democrats and republicans can worship together, even knowing they disagree on some things but agree on the main thing, Jesus. I pray we are filled with the beautiful diversity that is the state of New Mexico, where Navajo can worship next to Spaniard, next to Anglo and Mexican. Where a homeless man can be in a community group with a scientist from Sandia Labs and break bread together. I do not dream for this because I am some sort of liberal, well maybe I am, but I dream because it is Biblical, this is what surrounds the throne of our Lord, a diverse tapestry of everyone singing in their own tongue (sorry other languages than English are included, in fact Jesus didn’t speak English) celebrating their own culture worshipping the Lord of all.
In the book of Acts we see “those” people saved, we see the gospel spread to “them over there”. Not by the initiation of the church, but by the direct initiation of the Holy Spirit. He is the one to tell the church to go here, be welcoming to this one, and to preach to them. God is infinitely more committed to the church’s diversity than we are, and to not be committed to diversity is to be “getting in His way”. Now I am not a scholar, but I believe no one should want to be in the way of God.
God is infinitely more committed to the church’s diversity than we are, and to not be committed to diversity is to be “getting in His way”.
I pray that Redemption Church, and the church in America, becomes a place where there is no mold for what a Christian looks like, where we engage the older lady and the “hoodlum” not assuming one is saved or one is lost, but loving them as the Savior has loved us.
Below is a quote I used to finish my sermon yesterday, I pray that we as the church take this to heart, as it is the heart of God.
“Now that the wall is down, the servants of Christ are called to crawl over the rubble with the message of salvation. It is comfortable to stay in the sphere of people like ourselves, seeking refuge in the familiar ghetto of Christian contacts. But we cannot wait for non-Christians to cross the culture gaps, to scale the walls to get to know us well enough to see Christ’s grace in our lives. the gospel speaks with power in every culture, to every people under heaven. When the gospel touches a new culture, it does not leave that culture unchanged. Yet God does not demand that people leave their culture in order to hear his Grace in Christ. We who have experienced this grace are the ones who must climb the walls, build the bridges, and suffer the stresses of culture shock. People who know Jesus must pay the price to pierce the barriers between the peoples. And as they do, Jesus spreads his salvation to the ends of the earth.” Dennis Johnson
P.S. I still rock the headphones (Beats of course), hoodie, sweatpants and hat, because I like to be comfortable.