I had the privilege of visiting one of the churches I work with from time to time. I’m something of a student of church culture, so I always treasure the opportunity visit, talk with leaders and volunteers, and just generally get a feel for what God is doing in and through a local congregation.
This church is in a southeastern state. The city is 65% black, but the suburb the church sits in is 90% white. Interestingly, in visiting every Sunday school class for all age groups, I saw only two African Americans. You can do the math. To accurately represent the demographics of their suburb, I should have seen approximately 90 people of color among the 1,000 people present, and as many as 600 to more accurately reflect the city.
There are lots of reasons why this was the case, but it’s not the purpose of this post to examine all those reasons. We all wish that our churches looked more like heaven, and this church longs for it, too. And that is what I want this post to do for us: long for our churches to look like heaven.
In Genesis 12:2-3 (CSB), God announced the subject of the entire biblical narrative. To Abram the Lord said:
2 I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
This reality is brought to fruition in the Book of Revelation, where we see a picture of God’s people from every tongue, tribe, and nation worshiping before His throne.
9 After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!
11 All the angels stood around the throne, and along with the elders and the four living creatures they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength
be to our God forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 7:9-12, CSB).
The idea that God’s people are a blend of all peoples is not a secondary or tertiary issue when it comes to the gospel. Rather, diversity is core to the gospel. God invites His people to join in His overarching plan to redeem all people. As a redeemed people, we are included in His work to share the gospel to those who are lost. Jesus urged His followers, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20, CSB).
May we feel the weight of this, and may we make a concerted effort as individuals and as churches to live out the gospel in this way.
Rob Tims has been married to Holly for 17 years. They have four children: Trey, Jonathan, Abby, and Luke. He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at LifeWay Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.