Monday, July 21, 2008

Between Three Worlds - Vision Pt. 2

What kind of church could we leave to our children as they take up the cross and lead the witness of the gospel into the middle of this century? Is it possible that maintaining the status quo may leave us in the awkward position of being the last American institution that’s largely separated along ethnic lines? With all the emphasis we place on cultural relevance could the very nature of how we do church render our cutting edge, technologically savvy, artistically aware churches absolutely irrelevant within the next 20 years? Imagine how we might be viewed if towards the middle of this century we have large churches in urban centers that mainly cater to one or at most two ethnicities? Are we really looking forward to continuing to attend conferences, convocations and conventions that draw multiple thousands of mainly one ethnicity?

Can we imagine a future in which the distinction within the church in America falls along truth lines instead of ethnic ones? Why am I going here? I thought as long as I’m pushing for reform of the black church I might as well include everybody. Let’s face it folks. The American church got off on the wrong foot from day one. Despite how God has used us we’ve never presented a strong, unified, multi-ethnic witness of the gospel that would cause people to look beyond our ethnicity to the Lord of the gospel. Now’s our chance however. Many in our society want to live in an authentically unified multi-ethnic community but have no idea how. Our churches both black and white are in serious trouble. Immigrants are flocking to America in record numbers. Who knows if God has called us to this place and this era for such a time as this?

How then can the next generation of God’s church in America boldly go where we’ve never gone before? As I said in the previous post we may have to leave our current reformed and bible believing black churches behind at least for now. I say that because it’s unlikely that they would be willing to make the necessary changes to truly transform into authentic multi-ethnic churches. So do we start by examining the dominant features of our existing church cultures and seeking ways to blend them together? Nope. We lead with truth. Instead of majoring on the important but transient facets of God given human culture we focus on producing a people who emphasize and embody a distinct, biblically informed, Christ-centered culture.

I’m using the term ‘culture’ to describe the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people along with their shared history, attitudes, world view and view of their place within the world. And here’s where we have an advantage. For our culture enables us to inject ourselves into multiple cultures and deliver a witness that speaks to authentic issues and needs of humanity. Since scripture doesn’t demand that we package the message of the gospel in any specific human culture we’re free to use or not use culture as prudence dictates. More importantly, we can be confident that our witness to our own people doesn’t depend on our willingness to hold fast to and perpetuate our culture. Cow chips you say. Let me give an example. Suppose someone came to you and insisted that the traditional African-American style of preaching that ended with an emotional hoop was absolutely necessary to identify with and reach black folks, even those who weren’t churched. You dutifully employ this tactic until you discover that the majority of black people regularly listen to men who do no such thing. You do some inquiring and find that for the most part the hoop has gone the way of the dodo bird. You then wonder ‘where do I go from here’? Cultural affectations, even cherished ones go out of style. Genuine biblical culture however is always relevant and always useful because it always answers the deepest questions of people from every culture.

Where do we find such culture? Open the scriptures and you’ll find it all over the place. The scriptures provide the key to who we are, why we’re here, what’s ultimately important, to whom we’re accountable to, what makes us significant, where we’re going, where to take our pain, who cares for us, and what in life is worth celebrating. The scriptures also provide the people of God at all times and in all places a choice. We can decide to identify mainly with the temporal interest, issues, and idols of the people of our first birth, or take our place and identify with the eternal interest, issues and God of our second birth. To break it down into our time we can either be Americans whose main interest lie in perpetuating the way of life and overall supremacy of the United States and are willing to claim that God’s on our side for that purpose or we can believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who prize the lifestyle of the cross and reorient our existence around the expansion of His eternal kingdom. We can either be African-Americans who live to equal the playing field for ourselves and grab our slice of the American dream all in Jesus’ name of course or we can be the people of God showing our people and others what real abundant life is as we press toward the goal of extending His kingdom.

How we answer that question may well depend on what kind of church we want to see in the 21st century. So I ask you brothers and sisters: Got Vision?

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor lance


Irwyn said...


Thanks for this post. You make some insightful comments. Let me respond to one.

"So do we start by examining the dominant features of our existing church cultures and seeking ways to blend them together? Nope. We lead with truth. Instead of majoring on the important but transient facets of God given human culture we focus on producing a people who emphasize and embody a distinct, biblically informed, Christ-centered culture."

This is where the rubber meets the road. I wholeheartedly agree that we want to lead with truth and see the development of a biblically informed, Christ-centered culture. But we have cultural baggage that runs deep. I find myself always desiring to lean in a certain direction in terms of cultural expression in the church. And I don't think that you're suggesting that we ought to disregard culture and its valuable distinctives. So, my question to you is how do you see this "leading with truth" working itself out practically in the pursuit of multi-ethnic ministry?


Pastor Lance said...

What's up dbl I? thanks for the comment. nope, I'm not suggesting we disregard human culture. I plan to take this up in a future post by explaining that we should wear our culture loosely to the point where we're flexible enough to shed or embrace aspects of human culture as wisdom dictates. secondly my goal isn't the pursuit of multi-ethnic ministry per se as much as it is pursuing biblically driven gospel ministry in a way that would allow people from multiple ethnicities to join in. what are some practical tips?

we may start with location. thus instead of locating the church in an area that's 90% or more of one group make a decision to locate it within reach of multiple groups. from day one begin highlighting our biblically informed, Christ centered culture by preaching through the scriptures with the view that God has one people, with one history, one purpose and one destiny. use illustrations that validate God's common grace among all peoples. those are a few and i'm sure others could name many many more. thanks again for stopping by and by all means stay cool.


Lionel Woods said...

I have some cynical stuff to say then some real serious stuff to say. Bear with a brotha! LOL.

1. There is too much at stake to migrate our churches.

2. What type of worship will we have?

3. How will we have authentic relationships?

Now to the serious stuff.

1. Until we realize the indicatives to: love, admonish, exhort, serve, spur along, be hospitable to one another, and to look out for other interests, really being the church instead of going to church (you see the false dichotomy births the spiritual/secular mentality) we are in serious trouble. As long as we see the church as an organization/institution we will continue to define churches by buildings, geography, and structure and people will continue to remain secondary.

2. As long as we continue (blacks a bunch) a we mentality this will never work. You see many talk about "we will have a president" we being blacks, "we need to stick together", "we need to buy from one another", "we need our own stuff, place, etc". You see we are not to seperate the spiritual and the secular and when our doors are closed and we are at the dinner table and we talk like this then our children will continue the trend. Whenever blacks or whites say we and they are Christian the only context sould be the Body of Christ. My New Birth supercedes my race. Regardless of the damage, pain, hurt, and destruction slavery, racism, Jim Crow and other such things brought. Is this difficult yes! Is it impossible? Ephesians 2 says otherwise!

3. Next somebody's got to take the lost! Somebodys got to do it. If that is shutting down a worship service every 4th Sunday and assembling with the "white church", "hispanic church", "korean church" or "black church" and partaking of the bread and the cup together over a meal. Or if it is just singing together and praying together. If that is working side by side on some community project. Whatever it is we have to start taking a loss if we want to change. Philosophizing about these things just keeps good conversations going with no feet moving.

4. Finally just as Irwyn nem' did. Shut down some of the "churches" and combine them. Take two churches regardless of size and compact them into one. If it is an organized church so be it. Keep both worship leaders, both pastors, and literally merge the churches together. This would force this type of interaction. But the problem is most pastors don't want to share the spotlight nor do the worship leaders. Most people love their comfort, love their own special race, and their traditions so dying to these things for Body of Christ to be a catalyst for such social change and for Christ to get the ultimate glory is something 99% of the people don't want. You see too many individual plans, goals, and comfort will have to be sacrificied to do something this radical and well nobody likes for God to disrupt their plans. The safe Hippie, Corporate America, Suburban, Urban, Emergent, Pro-Black, Republican, Deomcratic, Socialist, man made Jesus is way more comfortable than the one in the bible so we build our stuff and manufacture Jesus, package Him up and then sale Him to consumers just like they want Him so we have no dissatisfied customers.

Just my two cents brother

Pastor Lance said...

wassup brother L from Big D?!

as usual good thoughtful points my brother. a few things on just two of them.

I don't think our worship expression will be that big of a deal. Why?

1) historic reformed denominations like the PCA have planted churches that tend to have a much more contemporary worship focus.

2) new movements like Sov Grace have introduced even more expressive worship.

3)the growing and gross excesses found in the worship of many black churches. thus those who are drawn to authentic biblical faith and leave those churches also have no problem leaving that kind of worship behind.

4) the wise and humble way that many black led reformed churches are featuring God-honoring, Christ centered worship that resonates with most reformed believers whether black or white.

re: relationships. I also don't know if that will pose a significant obstacle. my guess (and it's only a guess) is that many blacks who go to monstrous mega palaces don't do so with the hope of forming small close relationships with their fellow attendees

also once we begin to emphasize authentic biblical culture our fellowship can really revolve around our new identity in Christ rather than our old natural ones.

thanks for hittin me up