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Christian Living

Why We Need Diversity in Our Churches

Diversity Is Not Disunity

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said the most segregated hour in the United States occurs on Sunday morning. Based on my experience in visiting more than 52 churches his assessment is still painfully true.

We need more diversity in our churches.

I long to attend a diverse church, one with racial diversity, ethnic diversity, socioeconomic diversity, and even political diversity. Oh, and one more, I desire a church with theological diversity. What a messy, beautiful place that would be.

But until we embrace diversity in how we view God, we have little chance of realizing these other types of diversities. Diversity starts with God, but we’re not doing our part.

Instead we congregate ourselves with people who see God exactly as we do, who practice faith in the same manner and think our particular brand of Christianity is the best. We assume we are right, and everyone else is wrong.

We may not say this with words, but we show it through our actions. This puts a narrow view on Christianity, whose worldwide adherents number around two billion.

As a result we go to church with people who look, think, and act like us. And if someone doesn’t fit our mold we kick them out, either directly or indirectly.

We tell them to leave or suggest they “might be more comfortable at a different church”—when really it’s our comfort we are most concerned with.

Other churches aren’t so forward. There the act of exclusion occurs with subtle effectiveness. We simply ignore those who hold different understandings of God, how we worship him, and our role as his followers in the world. We give them a smug, holier-than-thou shunning.

Instead we need to embrace our differences in belief; we need to seek theological diversity. Not everyone practices his or her faith in the same manner, and not everyone worships God as we do at our church. Not everyone sees the same things when they read the Bible.

The guardians of theology claim we need to agree on some essentials. Then they make a list, but their list doesn’t matter. The only thing their “essentials” accomplishes is that it moves the line that segregates us.

We much embrace our theological differences at church. Click To Tweet

If we are talking about Christianity, there is one essential: Jesus. Everything else is secondary. The way we worship God doesn’t matter. The songs we sing, the instruments we play, the clothes we wear, the version of the Bible we read, and the way we pray aren’t relevant.

How we interact with the world, view baptism, interpret the end times, comprehend the Holy Spirit, and practice communion doesn’t matter. In our faith essentials nothing should truly matter except for Jesus.

After all, Jesus is the Christ and we put his title in our name when we call ourselves Christians. Now we just need to act like Christians, people who follow Jesus.

But until we embrace our theological differences we will never achieve any significant degree of diversity, not racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, or politically.

Until we become theologically diverse we will remain segregated on Sunday morning.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What Do You Expect From Church?

Push Aside the Past to Worship God Today

To the homeless man who complained about our church service, I said, “It sounds like you wanted a Baptist experience.” When he continued his rant, I became more direct: “If you want a Baptist experience, you need to go to a Baptist church.”

I later told my wife, “It’s like he went to a rock concert and was upset they didn’t play country western.” Indeed, he went with expectations formed by his experiences and was disappointed when he didn’t see what he was used to.

We all do this. We look for a church based on our experiences, be it directly or indirectly. When people move they evaluate a new church through the lens of their former church; they search for a new one that’s just like the old one they loved.

Even when people leave a church disillusioned and seek one that’s different, they still expect certain key elements to remain the same. Some people even switch churches for something new and then try to make the new church more like their old one.

The best way to experience church was to rid myself of expectation. Click To Tweet

Not only do our expectations usually yield disappointment, they often lack biblical support.

Consider some of the things people expect at church: a certain music style, an alter call, Sunday school, dressing up or not dressing up, small groups, a three-point sermon or expository message, using the KJV versus some other version, a choir, a children’s message, and so on.

None of these are biblical. They may match our experiences, but they don’t conform to what the Bible teaches.

One of the key things I learned from visiting 52 churches was that the best way to experience church was to rid myself of expectation. While it’s impossible to not evaluate a church through the lens of experience, I did need to remove my expectations.

I needed to open my mind to new experiences, to see God in new ways, to encounter him afresh.

The next time you’re in church, leave your expectations and experiences at home. Open your heart and let God inusing whatever means he wishes.

That’s what I hope to do today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should a Christian Community be Homogeneous or Heterogeneous?

It’s fun to be in the company of likeminded individuals. It’s comfortable to hang out with people similar to us. But are fun and comfortable, necessarily good things? Do they promote personal growth and advance understanding?

Being with people like us?—uniform or at least similar in perspective—is a homogeneous experience. The opposite of homogeneous is heterogeneous. A heterogeneous community is diverse, comprised of dissimilar people.

They might look, talk, dress, or act differently. Perhaps they hail from distinct neighborhoods, cultures, or even countries. They could be rich or poor or somewhere in between. They might embrace diverging priorities, worldviews, political alliances, or (gasp) even hold to an alternate theology.

How comfortable are we spending time with people who view God differently than we do? Will we bask in a diversity of perspectives or cringe over perceived heresy? One of the things I learned from visiting 52 churches in a year is the grand variations in Jesus’ family.

Our vastness and distinctions are beautiful. I’m delighted to have had the experience— and I miss it now that it’s over.

I’ve heard that if two people agree on everything, than one of them isn’t needed. We must apply this to church. How can our faith grow if everyone agrees on everything?

Most churches today are homogeneous, but I think we should be heterogeneous. We need to embrace, pursue, and celebrate diversity in our faith communities.

I learn the most from those whose ideas and understanding differ from mine—or even contradict them. It’s not always a fun or comfortable place to be, but I think that’s where Jesus wants us—and where he would be.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.