Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

To discuss race and diversity, we need an open Bible and a teachable attitude.

When we open the Scriptures, we find a beautiful theology for diversity that ought to be applied practically in our relationships, communities, and church-planting initiatives. We don’t merely find an isolated verse here or there; we see it across the whole storyline of Scripture.

In creation, we find the doctrine of the imago dei. Every person of every ethnicity has equal worth, dignity, and value. To dishonor a human being is to dishonor God himself.

But then we read of the fall. We know our parents’ sin wrecked everything—including relationships and social structures. Division and hostility now exists among genders, ages, races, families, neighborhoods, and nations. Because sinful people lead institutions and nations, no system is morally perfect. Sin has affected us on both a personal and a societal level. Given our doctrine of sin, we should assume racism is not just a problem “for other people out there” but also for “me in here”—that is, in my heart and my church.

As the biblical narrative continues, we see the promise of redemption, and then the arrival of the Redeemer. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father and one another. He has broken down the dividing wall that separates us from God and another, and he has come to bring peace where there was once hostility.

And one day Jesus will return to make all things new. All who are in him will join an assembly that will encompass “every tribe and language and people, and nation,” and we will worship the Savior together.

In the meantime, we should seek to “bring the future into the present” as much as possible. This unity within diversity testifies to the gospel’s power and is a compelling witness to the worth of King Jesus.

We don’t want to merely see diversity for diversity’s sake, or because all the cool kids are doing it, but because gospel-centered diversity magnifies the lordship of Christ and the uniqueness of his church. It helps to clarify what the gospel is and isn’t. And it offers unique perspectives and questions that help to mature us, shaping us more into the image of Jesus.

We have a theology for diversity, but we need to apply it—personally, corporately, and in the work of church planting.

So today I’m thrilled to have you listen in on a conversation about the gospel and race with my dear friend Walter Strickland. Strickland speaks on diversity around the nation with great grace, wisdom, and civility. He’s currently the first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and is associate vice president for diversity and theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

You can listen to this episode here.

Editors’ note: We invite you to join the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition at a special upcoming event, “MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop,” taking place April 3 to 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Register today: MLK50conference.com.