Let us assume that a multi-ethnic church is the design of God. We can discuss issues like demographics and segregation, but I want to expand the categories to mean an integrated church in the sense that it is capable of crossing boundaries in a way that embodies a fellowship that transcends the dominant culture and ethnicity of a given local church.
This post is but a very brief sketch of some talks I gave at Zephyr Cove Presbyterian Camp to the Faith Presbyterian church of Sacramento, and follows up on some talks last year, and both of these sessions are connected to a book of mine to be available this Spring from Zondervan called A Fellowship of Differents. (A book shaped by Paul’s understanding of the Christian life in the context of local church life.)
What can we do? I suggest these four strategies:
1. The church develops a radical commitment to be a loving fellowship. The word “love” is much easier to applaud and affirm than to embody and enact. So a integrated church is made up of Christians who are committed to loving others.
2. The church learns the practice of names. That is, it learns the “name” of someone unknown and behind that name the person and the story. The simple act of learning the name and story and person can be the singular most important act that makes integration possible.
3. The church practices — as the ground level of fellowship — reconciliation — between individuals, gender, race, et al. Which means it names the truth, it repents, and it pursues both forgiveness and eventually peaceful, loving reconciliation.
4. The church practices exposure to the radiating Spirit. The Spirit of God transforms (2 Cor 3–4) but we are to expose ourselves to the radiance of the Spirit — in prayer, in Bible reading, in open heartedness and in listening to the radiant Spirit present in others.
5. The church practices Table — in two senses but they are not wholly separate (even if our current practices in many churches separates them): first, in Eucharist as the space of repentance, forgiveness, grace and restoration as well as reconciliation and, second, in regular table fellowship where we extend the eucharist Table and expand the Table to include fellowship with others. (I’m not talking about sharing Eucharist in our homes, but seeing our home tables as extensions of the fellowship and restoration and reconciliation of the Eucharist Table.)