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Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Gospel of Ethnic Inclusion

While at this church plant/young church conference in Orlando, I was challenged by a fellow pastor: In order to last in remaining committed to the vision of a multiethnic church, a leader's heart must be seized by the conviction that God wants His church to be multiethnic wherever possible. 


Well, living in Cayman...it's possible. I cannot think of a place in the world with a population under 60,000 people that has as many nationalities and ethnicities represented as Grand Cayman. And lookie here, it' happening even at SCC. Our challenge is not just to have it present but make sure we are seized by the conviction that such inclusion should not only happen but that those who might otherwise feel like outsiders experience and wholeheartedly believe they are fully included.


Origins of an inclusive gospel. It's hard to read the New Testament and not be convinced of the power of the gospel to bring persons into reconciliation-- even, no, especially persons of different ethnicities. We see this happen in the largest church in the New Testament, where people are first called "Christians" and from which missionaries are sent out to the known world (Antioch -- see Acts 11 and 13). Christianity first exploded in what is documented as the most multi-ethnic, multi-national city in the first century Roman world. 


We also see this in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 2: 11-22 speak of Jesus destroying dividing walls of hostility between Jew and Gentile. The world will take notice when Christ is the glue that bonds the most unlikely of persons. No doubt, I'll be preaching on this passage at some point in the near future. If the reason isn't obvious, you're not from Cayman, or you just moved to Cayman and this point wasn't covered New Resident Magazine, I'll tell you why: There are some tensions in Cayman between the Caymanian and Ex-pat population. Why? There are various reasons but much of it centers around $$$$, like most social struggles of this nature.


There is much I want to say here, more than I can in this blog post, but a commitment to our church being increasingly multiethnic and multinational through the power of the gospel is not really a matter of if or even a matter of when, but a matter of how. 


A deeper conviction. My heart is seized by this conviction. I want to briefly share how this conviction settled deeply into my heart this week during some mornings alone with the Lord. Through two of the most important and powerful verses in the New Testament, both of which reside in Ephesians 3. "The manifold wisdom of God might be known" (Eph. 3:10) and "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20). Aren't those great verses. One pointing to how wise, how awe-inspiring the gospel is. It is multifaceted wisdom. The second gives reaffirms what we've seen in prayer, to ask by faith but God often does more, and gives us further confidence that He'll continue to do so. 


But what's the context? The context is the gospel, specifically (as Paul talks about 'his' gospel in Ephesians) a gospel of ethnic inclusion.


Let's check it out. From here on in, it's all Scripture baby...hang tight:

  • "For this reason, I, Paul a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles..." (v.1).
  • "This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the same gospel" (v.4).
  • "To me, though I am the very least of the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (vv.8-10).
  • "For this reason I bow my knees..." (v.14)
  • "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us" (v.20).



Do you see it? The manifold wisdom of God is how the gospel includes and unites radically different people into the same promise of life and the same family of everyday living. God being able to do more than we ask and imagine (in Paul's mind and hopefully ours) is seeing people who would otherwise never relate, relate more regularly and fervently than two soccer moms, diving buddies, or financial gurus. 


If this is going to happen, the power isn't going to descend impersonally but it's going to be within us (v.20) and, specifically, it's going to happen through the church (v.10).  


I'm not sure this is the key to church growth. But I am sure God wants to do it, He can do this and more, and we have the opportunity to display the manifold wisdom of God to not just the world but spiritual beings. Let's aim to please Him and trust Him to provide the rest!! 

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