Summary: What exactly is God's will for the Church?
Back in 2007 we began a shift in emphasis here at Keele as we felt God calling us to get intentional about celebrating and encouraging ethnic and cultural diversity in our congregation.
If you were at Keele at the time, you will remember that we asked various groups, both in the congregation and in the community, to come and share some of their cultural traditions with us. We also created a multicultural cookbook of recipes submitted by people in our congregation which we then gave away as a keepsake to everyone who attended the multicultural celebration.
On the Multicultural Sunday that accompanied our weekend long celebration, I made this statement: “Over the last few years, there has not only been a consensus, but also a focussed effort, to both celebrate our current level of diversity and move towards greater diversity in our fellowship and outreach. It is clear to me that God wants us to touch as many lives as we can from as many cultures as we can and I find that both challenging and exciting.”
We went on to have a Multicultural Christmas the next year, and from time to time I have preached on the topic of multiculturalism, but we haven’t had as much of a focussed emphasis on cultural diversity as we should have had, in my opinion, and I take responsibility for that. It is part of my job as a preacher to cast the vision on a regular basis so that we keep our God-given focus clear. I confess that have failed to consistently keep Keeles’ multicultural focus clear and present in the life of the church. And, a vision that isn’t consistently presented until it becomes part of our collective DNA isn’t a vision at all.
Ultimately, what I have learned as I have prayed and thought about this issue is that seeking cultural diversity takes much more effort, and it is much more challenging, than I first imagined.
I think part of the reason we were so focused on developing diversity at Keele was simply the recognition of the diversity we already had. We wanted to celebrate the wide range of people from the various cultural backgrounds that God had brought to Keele. But, what I have learned is that celebrating what we have is not the same as pursuing a vision of even greater diversity. Celebrating diversity and promoting a church culture that encourages diversity through creating a mood of acceptance and belonging for all peoples are two different things. Developing diversity requires the intentional sacrifice of getting out of our cultural and social comfort zones and making sure that we are connecting with people outside of our own ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
If we have learned anything in the last five years, I think it’s the fact that diversity doesn’t just happen—it must be pursued. It must become part of the DNA of our congregation. In fact, diversity won’t even be maintained without a focused effort. We know that to be true because today we are less culturally diverse than we were five years ago.
There are several reasons and factors that have contributed to this reality, but what I want to do today is to get back on track by giving you the reason why God is calling us to be culturally diverse. You see, I don’t believe it’s enough to want to be multicultural. The vision for Keele must come from God. We must be what He desires us to be. Our sense of cultural diversity must come from Him; and not from our Canadian culture, or any other source.
You see, multiculturalism in Canada isn’t really working as it should because multiculturalism promotes cultural tolerance and cultural tolerance isn’t enough. Tolerating someone is not the basis of a deep and lasting relationship is it? Neither is it a foundation for understanding.
If I get up tomorrow and greet Sheila with the phrase: “Hey dear, I tolerate you!” Something tells me I am going to have a bad day. Tolerance continues the “us and them” kind of scenario. It doesn’t promote understanding or acceptance.
So, as we return to our series in Revelation, I want us to consider what it is that God desires of His church here at Keele? What is His vision for the church?
Please turn with me to Revelation 5:9-10
As you turn there, let me give you a bit of a review of chapters 4 & 5. Both of these chapters are the key to understanding everything that happens in the book of Revelation. What we have in these chapters is a vision of heaven given to John. In chapters 2 & 3 of Revelation, the view has been earthly. And from the perspective of God’s people, things weren’t good. They were persecuted. Some were dying for their faith, others were suffering financially and socially, and others had lost their vision of what the church was to be. They had lost the vision of God’s plan for God’s people. They had compromised with their culture.