Diversity the World Can’t Achieve

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Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.”

The same is true for the church.

If abandoned to being a stagnant pool, it will quickly lose its purity and vitality as it becomes polluted with narrow, self-serving homogeneity.

Plan

God’s plan has always been to reach ends of the earth with his message of hope and forgiveness. We can trace this plan from the first gospel glimpse in Genesis 3:15, through God’s promises to the Israelites, culminating in the promised Messiah—and right down to today, seen in the ever-expanding body of Christ. Church planting puts the glory of God on display as it creates new communities that reflect the diversity of his creation. 

Church planting puts the glory of God on display as it creates new communities that reflect the diversity of his creation.

If we are to see biblical diversity, then we must labor to see the gospel spread to all people. And this gospel message is transformative. Let me suggest a twofold framework: gospel imperative and missional imperative.

Gospel

The gospel imperative is foundational to a biblical expression of diversity, because it builds on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. As Jesus declared, “I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18).

This promise from Christ gives us all the confidence we need. His church will be built—against all odds, no matter the cost, in the face of sinful rebellion and satanic onslaught.

Coupled with this great promise are commands that inform the life of God’s people. “What is the greatest commandment?” the antagonistic Pharisees asked Jesus. He replied:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. (Matt. 22:37–38)

Jesus was dead against first-century Jewish exclusivity. The people of God must be united in love for God—which is expressed in how we love our neighbor. Love for God fuels love for neighbor.

The gospel imperative, then, is the catalyst for the missional imperative: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We cannot be content in the stagnant pool of self-made individualism. We must go, bringing the fresh water of the gospel to all nations.

As the gospel spreads through the witness of God’s people, the diversity of the church comes alive and flourishes in every local expression of Christ’s body.

As the gospel spreads through the witness of God’s people, the diversity of the church comes alive and flourishes in every local expression of Christ’s body.

Mission

The gospel imperative and missional imperative fulfill what God promised in the Old Testament. Jesus championed the diversity of God’s new family. And the book of Revelation brings heaven’s plan to its crescendo:

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God,

who is seated on the throne,

and to the Lamb! (Rev. 7:9–10)

We cannot overstate the significance of Revelation 7. This will happen. The diversity we long for—or should long for—will be achieved.

By God’s grace, we’ve seen this happen in our church in Camden, New Jersey. We haven’t devised a clever formula or strategy. We haven’t done anything particularly special. What we have done is prayed and acted

One thing we’ve done is call our people to move into—not just visit—specific neighborhoods. One such area is Cramer Hill, whose population is more than 70 percent Latino and nearly 25 percent African American. We’ve sent people into Cramer Hill with gospel intentionality; and by God’s grace, we’ve seen many from the area put their faith in Christ.

For many years, we held our annual church Christmas party in the home of one of our suburban members. We invited people from the hood and the suburbs; many of these folks have never meaningfully interacted with the other group in their lives. They’ve never had reason to rub shoulders with people so unlike them. But because of the gospel, we had upper-middle-class Christians alongside Christians who live in the hood, both groups intentionally bringing their unbelieving friends together. It was remarkable. But then again, that’s what the gospel does.

True Diversity

The world imagines it will see diversity spring from a culture that promotes individualism. But true diversity will only come as we die to ourselves and prefer the needs of others. We must re-evaluate our personal preferences, political leanings, socioeconomic status—indeed, our very lives—in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The world imagines it will see diversity spring from a culture that promotes individualism. But true diversity will only come as we die to ourselves and prefer the needs of others.

As the people of God, we ought to intentionally pursue diversity—meaningful diversity. How do we do that? We plant churches. Jesus died to purchase a diverse people; why wouldn’t we pursue that now? Yes, there will be challenges. Yes, we will make mistakes. No, it won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

May we never yawn at something for which our Savior bled. Instead, may we labor and long for the future that awaits us: the most diverse community in the history of the world, gathered as one around the throne of the Lamb.


Acts 29’s Diversity Initiative exists to strengthen and reinforce the ambition to be a “diverse, global family of church-planting churches.”

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