“The first time we visited the church the most striking thing was that it looked like a United Nations meeting and we thought, I have never seen this before and it is awesome. We knew we had to come back to see what was producing this.” Those are words of a family who had been visiting our church and decided to pursue church membership.
When I was at seminary, I was taught the homogeneous unit principle in my evangelism and missiology courses and could never reconcile it with the Bible’s teaching that “in Christ” the church was “one new man” (Eph 2:15). When I asked how the homogeneous unit principle could be embraced in light of the biblical witness of the multi-ethnic glory of Gospel community (Eph 2:11-22, Rev 5, 7) I was told, “The homogeneous unit principle was simply a sociological observation. A fact that church leaders, evangelist, and missionaries ought to be aware of.” But it seemed to me that the principal was being used as a philosophy of ministry and not a sociological reality over which the Gospel triumphs. I was convinced then, and remain convinced, that the church should be a display of vertical (God to man) and horizontal (man to man) Gospel reconciliation.
The Great Commission is a pursuit of diversity (Gen 12:2-3, Ps 67, Matt 28:18-20, Rev 7:9-10) and the cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate act of transracial adoption (Mark 14:36, John 10:16, Gal 4:6, Eph 1:19-2:22). Racial reconciliation is not simply a nice idea for Christians or an optional addendum to the Gospel. It is at the heart of the Gospel and the Great Commission. To lead a church as if racial reconciliation is optional or an unattainable ideal is to misunderstand the Gospel and Gospel ministry. Racial reconciliation demonstrated in the local church is a key, visible manifestation of the triumph of Jesus Christ over Satan’s parasitic Kingdom.
Our church has a strong emphasis on reflecting the Gospel through an adoption culture where the entire church is involved in the rescue and care of orphans. The result has been the adoption of children from all over the world and many families in our church who are gloriously transracial. Our adoption culture strengthens our church in many ways but one of the most profound ways is the way it transforms how people think about preaching. Transracial adoption is not only acceptable it is a beautiful expression of the gospel and the natural consequence of a Christian worldview. Corporate worship provides a glorious theater displaying the power of the redeeming work of Christ. “Red, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight” is visible each Lord’s day as transracial families gather for worship.
Constantly observing the power of the Gospel on display in the pews causes the congregation to listen to the sermon with a sense of expectancy and an expectation of the transformative power of the Word of Christ. Witnessing the Gospel destroying walls that legislation, political pressure, education, and social action have not been able to budge is transformative and cultivates a culture that expects God’s Word to transcend the cultural status quo. A diverse congregation built by Gospel love is a constant reminder that we are a blood bought church of King Jesus and not just an affinity group.
I am deeply troubled by the reticence of many pastors to directly address issues of race and ethnicity with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that many pastors are willing to fight for certain programs in the church, styles of worship, and ministry methodologies while at the same time they are reluctant to speak directly and boldly on issues of race and ethnicity because of fear it will upset some in the congregation. Could it be that our reluctance results in malformed Gospel-betraying sermons that have “the appearance of godliness” but are actually “denying its power” (2 Tim 3:5). Faithful preachers of the Word must be persistent gospel agitators and not caretakers of the congregational status quo.