How Does the Church Achieve Diversity?

This week, Pastor J.D. answers a question in his recent sermon: “How does the church achieve diversity?”

Show Notes:

We must seek to reach all people in the Triangle, not just one kind. 

  • It’s clear from what Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 9 that he was focused on reaching different kinds of people in Corinth, not just one kind.
    • You had Jews and people under the law; you had Gentiles and those outside the law. He was trying to reach them all. And that was HARD.
  • Do you know how much easier it would have been for Paul to just focus on one kind of person? To go to one side of the city and plant a church focused only on reaching Jews, and then go to the other side and plant one that reached Gentiles?
    • To the Jews, he said, I became like a Jew: Which means, I did Jewish things. I ate Jewish food. I listened to Jewish music. I entered into Jewish struggles. I wore Jewish clothes.
    • He made all of these cultural adaptations to reach people. 
    • Jesus died for all peoples at all stages of life. And to reach them, we all have to be willing to turn down certain things and lean hard into other ones, and, I’m going to tell you, that’s hard.
  • It also means all of us are muted on some of our perspectives to keep from causing unnecessary division in the body. In 1 Corinthians 8-9, Paul was willing to be quiet, or muted, on secondary convictions he was fully convinced were right, because he thought the unity of the church and it’s evangelistic mission were more important than maintaining a uniformity of perspective in all things.
    • We have people leave this church all the time because we don’t say exactly what they want on some political or social issue. We say too much about some issue. We don’t say enough. I’m not saying all perspectives are equally valid, and I’m certainly not saying we are ever muted or unclear about injustice or wrong—the sanctity of life; the evils of racism, equality under the law
  • We see a great example of this philosophy at work in the early church. It’s such an important example, but so overlooked by so many when they read Acts.
  • In Acts 15, Jewish and Gentile believers were so divided over a cultural issue that they could no longer worship together.
    • Churches led by Gentiles were experiencing a “Jewish flight” and vice versa.
    • So the church leaders came together to try to work something out. Their solution, however, at first, seems rather confusing. They basically said that Gentiles should (a) avoid sexual immorality and (b) avoid eating things that had died by strangulation (both of which were regularly practiced by Gentiles) (Acts 15:29).
    • The reason for the prohibition on sexual immorality seems clear—stop going to prostitutes! But the prohibition on eating something strangled? Of the entire Hebrew law, that is the regulation they thought was essential to enforce?
    • James explains the reasoning for these two regulations: “‘For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him …’” (Acts 15:21).
      • In other words, in every city there were a lot of Jews; lost Jews—who needed to be reached for Jesus. And when Gentiles were in the parking lot barbecuing things that had been strangled, that would produce a major stumbling block for the Jews. The Apostles knew that if these unsaved Jews came into the church and Gentiles were in the back choking the gophers and throwing them on the grill, the Jews would not be able to stomach it. And then they wouldn’t get a chance to hear the gospel and be saved.
      • The Apostles said, “Yes, you Gentiles have a right to eat choked gophers if you want, gross as it is, but we are asking you to forgo that right so that more unsaved Jews in your community can hear the gospel.”
      • And then James, leader of the Jerusalem church, wraps it up by uttering one of the most important phrases in the whole New Testament for a church’s mission philosophy: “… we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles [or Jews] who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19 NIV). 
  • Some of you are passionate about politics and which solutions are best for society—and I want to be clear: that’s a good thing. But in the church let’s not let a secondary, culturally-shaped perspective on the best strategies or candidates or particular interpretation of an event become synonymous with the identity of the gospel, because what’s when the gospel suffers and people stay lost.
  • We do all this for the sake of the gospel, “that we might save some!”

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