Or: if we would just be more progressive in our theology — Jesus as one of many rather than the One and Only; heaven and hell as creations of pre-Enlightenment minds & not worthy of modern consideration, and it’s high time to re-write centuries of understanding regarding God’s boundaries for human sexuality — would that help ensure local congregations have a wide mix of races, languages, and people groups?
(By the way, my cyber-friend John Meunier has an excellent post on progressive theology that you can read here.)
It’s interesting to me how often our Methodist movement assumes that logic to be the case. That if we would just move to the left theologically and if we have Annual and General Conference delegates who are racially diverse, then our local churches will ultimately become red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight.
Experience shows that the reverse is true.
Old line denominations, such as the Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, continue to have local churches that are for the most part either all white or all black. This in spite of the fact that each group has national level offices or initiatives to address issues around race! The United Methodist version is called The General Commission on Religion and Race.
In contrast, what congregations tend to have a full color array of God’s children? The Pentecostals — a group never known for its progressive theology. Our charismatic and Pentecostal brothers and sisters have been building multi-race churches for years now, all without the benefit or assistance of national programs showing them how to do so. They simply lift up the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit and voila! . . . people of all kinds come.
Close to home, Steele Creek Church of Charlotte — a large, independent, and sort-of-Pentecostal church about five miles from our campus — is the most diverse church in the city. And in terms of theology (not politics, theology), they are among the most conservative . . . probably a couple of steps to the right of Good Shepherd. Many of the steps we’ve taken towards becoming a full color congregation have come as a result of what we’ve learned from them.
I come down on the side that ethnically diverse congregations thrive best in the midst of theological unity and doctrinal orthodoxy.
It’s John 12:32 in real time: But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.
Diversity, then, becomes a result and not a cause.
It comes as the result of lifting up Jesus and the decisiveness of his message. When that happens, He unleashes his unique power to draw all kinds of people to himself.
That’s something I want to be in the middle of.