Involuntary Community

One of my ongoing concerns with the way churches tend to be gathered today is that people seek to build very homogeneous communities. Pastors or church planters often choose a target audience and attempt to attract primarily that kind of person, gearing all the church does to one particular audience. Many of these churches have seen dramatic growth, but growth that does not show a lot of diversity. Yet diversity is one of the things the church is known for, or at least that the church should be known for. Our churches are meant to reflect the reality that God’s people is made of those of every nation, every tribe and every tongue. The mixture of ages, cultures, and even languages is meant to stand as a testimony to God’s amazing ability and desire to draw to Himself people of all kinds.

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Of course we feel much more comfortable around people who are like us. It stands to reason that we prefer to gather with people who are our age, who look like us, who talk like us, and who we would otherwise be glad to spend time with. As I was recently reading A Journey Worth Taking by Charles Drew, I came across a quote that I found convicting.

“Church” is not an event. It is people–people whom God calls us to love. What is more, it is in a very important sense an involuntary community of people: we don’t choose our brothers and sisters–God does. And sometimes (oftentimes) those people are not terribly compatible with us–not the people we would choose to hang out with. But it is this very incompatibility that is so important, for at least two reasons. First, learning to love the people I don’t like is by far the best way to learn how to love (it’s easy to love people I happen to like). Second, the church is supposed to be a sociological miracle–a demonstration that Jesus has died and risen to create a new humanity composed of all sorts of people.

This challenged me to learn to love and appreciate the people in my community of believers who may not be like me. They may bear little resemblance to me, to my family, or to the way we live. Yet instead of allowing this to keep me from them, I should view this as grounds to learn about them, to get to know them, and to learn to love them. As we build loving relationships between people who would otherwise have little in common, we enjoy just a glimpse of the heavenly diversity we will enjoy for eternity.