By Paballo Thekiso –
Last week we published part 1 of Diversity In Christ. You can read it here.
Today, Paballo continues with part 2.
Let me start by confessing. Back in 2012 when God first placed this burden of diversity in churches on my heart, I didn’t get it.
During what we thought was our last church service at Montecasino, God spoke to both my wife Refilwe and I clearly.
His command went something like this, ‘I want to use you to bring diversity in this church so do not leave’.
We were both frustrated at God because the easiest thing was to leave and never had to deal with what looked like mission impossible.
One of the big things for us was that every time we invited friends to church they would never come back. When we tried to invite them again they would say ‘Your church is too white’ and this used to bother us because this was our home yet we couldn’t invite our friends.
They felt everything was too western and they never felt ‘accommodated’ in anything. From style of music, to the culture.
Like Jonah (read the book of Jonah) I wanted to go the opposite direction. I was frustrated at God for giving us a task such as this one.
All my wife and I wanted to do was leave the church in secret and hope that no one would notice. With all the changes that took place and some friends leaving we felt like we didn’t FIT IN anymore.
Though we were not happy with God’s command, we chose to obey His voice and stayed.
But instead of going back to God to ask for wisdom or His plan for us, we saw this as an opportunity to voice out our feelings and be the voice for ‘our people’.
Because we didn’t seek God, our agenda, our approach and our motives were wrong and selfish. We took God’s command and used it as an opportunity to bring a ‘revolution’, we saw ourselves as heroes who were going to bring change to the church and never realised we were sinning against God.
We thought it was about us and our feelings so we started communicating those feelings and frustrations to the leaders but there more we voiced our feelings the more things remained the same and we got even more frustrated.
But I love the God we serve who never gives up on us even when we lose the plot. His grace kept us going.
And one day after many years of ‘fighting’ against the ‘system’ Revelation 7:9 got revealed to us and we realised we missed the plot all together.
Revelations 7:9 says After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
After reading this we started to understand that what God was calling us to was bigger than our feelings and we repented.
All along we were blinded by our selfishness because day after day God revealed scriptures that speaks on His diversity.
From Genesis we saw that He has been a God of diversity and to Revelations He remains a God of diversity. His agenda has always been to reconcile all His people of every nation and tribe and language to Himself.
The challenge is how do we do this here on earth as we prepare for our future home.
The reality is that if the church (people who believes in Christ and are redeemed by His precious blood) cannot model this diversity here on earth and use our gatherings to model and reflect God’s plan to the world, the world will never know the possibility of what a diverse people can look like.
The challenge we have in South Africa, and I suspect churches in other countries such as America who are also striving for diversity, is that we have a sad history.
And this history is made present by everyday stories of racism and hatred that emerge and instead of building and focusing on the future, we find ourselves trapped in the past.
So what are the practical things that we can do today to experience this diversity in our churches? First rule is, let us obey God’s word. Secondly, we need to be intentional about it and make it a priority.
The Bible is full of scriptures that tell us what to do, but due to our selfishness and laziness to put effort, we are afraid to be uncomfortable and therefore ignore scriptures that provoke us.
If we indeed understand that in Heaven we will as people from all nations and tribes and language gather at His throne and worship Him, then we ought to be living out this implication of the gospel every time we gather.
We need to sing in different languages, we need to put more effort in ‘attracting’ people of all nations and tribes in our churches and stop thinking about how uncomfortable this will make other members.
We are more worried about how others feel than realizing that this is a God agenda and as His followers we need to do our best to prioritize His agenda first and not prioritize man’s agenda.
I am happy that as City God has started us on this journey of diversity and the people of the church are starting to enjoy and experience the beauty of His diversity.
We need to constantly ask ourselves this question, what can we do better to reflect God’s diversity in our churches?
This can be anything from diverse music in style or language, through diversifying the pulpit both in race and gender or through anything that can eventually give God glory.
Though things are not perfect yet, my wife and I are no longer frustrated. We are enjoying the journey God has taken us through and we experience His grace and love everyday as we do our best to obey His command.
Here is the thing: if we don’t have the willingness to accommodate one another, to see ourselves as ones created by God, willingness to accept and take responsibility for our past, willingness to say I’m sorry and mean it, willingness to seek true diversity, willingness to unconditionally love and mainly to have our hearts aligned with God’s agenda, we will forever miss His heart for us.