This blog post is the first in a series that we will be posting to highlight the 6 aspects of our vision as a church. Pastor Bland shared these in a message on September 11, 2016. Here’s the statement from our vision document regarding diversity:
Diversity | Justice| Generosity| Multiplication| Mission| Network
IMAGINE…. A church with radical DIVERSITY yet uncommon unity.
We live in a country where racial tensions and systemic racism threatens to further divide us and our city is not immune. Boston has strong economic and racial lines that divide the city. A gospel-centered church displays the power of the gospel to unify people from diverse ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds. God has uniquely positioned City on a Hill as a racially and culturally diverse community in the city. Our community groups are at the core of how this happens and must continue to press out.
Sounds amazing, right? The gospel does indeed tear down the “dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14), and we celebrate the ways in which our community is growing in its diversity.
However, there is a reason this is a “vision” statement. We have not arrived. Think, right now, of who your best friends are within our church. Are you good friends with anyone in church that is radically different from you in race, age, are of origin, or life stage? Why not? Be honest with yourself. Is it because it’s a hassle? Because it’s hard?
It’s supposed to be hard. We see throughout the New Testament that the Holy Spirit continually urged the apostles and the church to pursue reconciliation and unity between Jew and Gentile. These were not small differences. They ate different foods. They had different customs and habits. They spoke different languages, even. They lived life very differently, but it was God’s plan to bring them together into one body.
Let's be honest: while this is not always bad, many of our community groups seem to be clumped around people of similar life stage, ethnicity, and other demographics. It looks nice on Sunday to see the diversity of folks worshipping together, but can we say that we’ve arrived at “uncommon unity”?
I’ve had my own hard time with this at City On A Hill over the years. People at CoaH don’t socialize the same way as the majority of my church life growing up. We don’t tell the same jokes or eat the same food. People often seem to be overly focused on their individual lives. Some have made weird assumptions about my culture or assume that my culture has no bearing on our interactions. I’ve realized recently that if I’m going to pursue close friendships with certain people, it’s going to be because I intentionally made the effort. It’s not going to happen naturally, because my sinful nature wants to start rebuilding the wall of hostility and just group together with people I relate to easily.
Perhaps you are reading this and have felt alone as I sometimes have in our church community. Don’t let yourself be discouraged! Christ Himself has felt our alienation and more, when He was alienated from the Father on our behalf. If you have grown bitter, confess this and continue to reach out, asking God for the power to endure.
Perhaps you are reading this and have realized how narrow your circle within our church body is. Confess this to the Lord and prayerfully consider how you can change this pattern in your life.
Church, let's pursue deeper relationships with one another. Prayerfully consider going out of your way to befriend and get to know one another in patterns that the world does not understand!
IMAGINE…. A church with radical DIVERSITY yet uncommon unity. Now let's rely on God to pursue it with our time and energy with otherworldly power.
- Mike Hong