Below is a wonderful message from Dr. James White. Dr. White offers some encouragement for the local church, and a challenge to all believers concerning the recent sin problem involving the skin color of believers.
“We have long prayers at my church. Well, at least the pastoral prayer on Sunday mornings. I normally lead that prayer. We start off with “a few moments of silent prayer.” Ever noticed that ‘a few moments’ is normally like about twelve seconds? We seem to be very, very uncomfortable with silence, and so it drags by slowly. Now, I have never stood there for a ‘few moments’ literally in silence. I can’t imagine I’ve ever gone over ninety seconds. But for most folks, it is an eternity.
Including the silence at the start, I would say the average pastoral prayer on Sunday mornings runs between ten and fourteen minutes in length. Yeah, that’s pretty long. But, it is the major meeting of the church, the most members are present, and there is a great deal to pray about!
Last Sunday before the prayer I looked out over the congregation. It was an average Sunday morning, and given the firestorm that I’ve been walking through, I did what I did not ever want to do: I looked at ethnicities. Now, for some, I just don’t know. European backgrounds can be hard to determine or detect. I do not know visitors, of course, and even some members I do not know the ethnicity of their ancestors. That’s one of the reasons why the ‘white’ label is so worthless (and hence so used)—it means next to nothing as it cannot possibly cover the full extent of the range of ethnicities that do not have particularly distinctive physical features. So anyway I scanned the brothers and sisters gathered in our little church. Two black families, husband and wife and kids. One black young man (single). One Chinese family, only the husband present as the wife is recovering from a stroke. Our long-time Filipino family was present. We have a number of Hispanic families. One Vietnamese brother was present. I am uncertain of the visiting family (they jet so fast after the service I never get to talk to them!), but they are generally ‘Asian,’ though I am not sure which specific nationality. We have one fine Indian lady as well. And a brother with a fair amount of Native American blood. The rest are a mixture of Eastern European, Italian, and then plain ol’ ‘mixed’ folks, along with some fairly Scottish folks, like me.
Now, how did we get such a diverse representation in a group of about eighty folks? Did we buy into one of those survey companies that ‘help’ churches determine how to be properly ethnically “diverse”? Anyone who knows my fellow elders is chuckling heartily at the very idea. No, we did not pursue some kind of ‘ethnic diversity program.’ So how do we have such diversity without specifically making it a goal, a target?
I was just reading a recent article by Darrell Harrison about ethnicity in the church and I was struck again by a simple yet profound reality: all this hand-wringing and survey-taking and history-raising stuff is missing a really basic point. We have diversity in our congregation simply because God draws men and women from many different ethnicities, placing in their hearts a love of God’s Word and a desire to hear it consistently and deeply opened, explained, applied, and proclaimed. In other words, having a focus upon consistent exegetical proclamation of Scripture, based upon an unflinching confession of it being God-breathed, the very speech of the Almighty, draws those who have that very thing as their highest priority. We do not draw the folks looking for children’s programs, fancy facilities, shuttle services to the door, music programs and fancy lighting. We have none of that. We draw only those who are willing to forego what might otherwise be just fine additions for what, in their convictions, cannot be missing: the consistent teaching of Scripture.
In other words, our diversity grows out of unity: a unified dedication to the proclamation of the whole council of God in each gathering. You are not going to grow too many mega-churches with that as your commitment. But we’ve been at it for many decades now, and that is why we are what we are.
It is a shame that today we hear so many voices that once would have given a hearty ‘Amen!’ at such an observation who today hesitate and then say, ‘But…that is not enough. We are now woke to the rest of the story.’ Well, you may be, but it wasn’t the Scripture that made you ‘woke.’ Admit it: it was the embracing of a sociological theory that has led you to your current position. It was the insertion of concepts of intersectionality and oppression and privilege and systemic barriers and economic disadvantage and equality of outcomes and all that language. It was not the consistent focus upon the centrality of the proclamation of the whole council of God. I would assert that our diversity is a Spirit-born diversity because it arises from the Spirit’s blessing of His truth. And that is the only diversity we should be looking for.”
~ James White