The genius of the gospel is that when persons declare Jesus as Lord they experience a new unity which transcends their social boxes. True church growth uses the best insights from social science but also calls different kinds of people together under a new Lord. A gospel which only calls people with the same socioeconomic characteristics together is a perversion of the good news which bonds together Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white. This does not mean that these social characteristics are taken lightly or considered irrelevant. Just the opposite. They are taken seriously as very real determinants of social life. Church leaders need to encourage their uniqueness and emergence and a tension between homogeneity and heterogeneity needs to be maintained. The natural tendency is to seek only homogeneity – groups where everyone is homogenized together. The good news of Jesus Christ welcomes newcomers to small homogeneous units – small groups or house fellowships of similar persons, but it also integrates them into a larger body of siblings from very different backgrounds.
“The Upside-Down Kingdom” By Donald B. Kraybill, page 256, 257
About four years ago, as a brand new ‘out of college’ youth pastor, I decided to play a big field game with my youth group in our neighbourhood. We were joined by other Mennonite youth groups in our area and as we played, a few ‘community kids’ joined us. While our churches were made up of predominantly middle class white folks, our neighbourhood bordered on a poor area with a large First Nations and immigrant population. So we had a blend of kids from various backgrounds playing together.
It was a great scene. They were invited to continue attending our events, but in the long term it proved to be unsustainable. They just stopped coming.
This is not in any way a critique of my youth group kids. Quite the contrary, if anything it was a critique on my ability to facilitate a community that transcended socioeconomic realities.
The natural tendency is to stick with what we know and what we feel comfortable with. Churches run the risk of becoming comfortable in the homogenous sweet spot where everyone comes from very similar backgrounds and experiences. It’s safe and comfortable.
The homogeneous sweet spot has dangerous consequences for missionality. For when we attempt to be ‘missional’ from that place we cease to engage all with the gospel and merely seek out those who would ‘fit’ and keep our community safe and comfortable.
Transcendent unity is a call to divine community. A community which moves beyond the natural barriers of our world. A community where First Nations, middle class Caucasian, LGBTQ, homeless, male, female, immigrant, etc… can be united in Christ. It takes work but it is worth it. It is work that takes to heart the severe importance of relationships. It is a call to love God and love neighbour.
How about you? Are you pursuing missional initiatives with those whom you feel most comfortable? What have you learned in your experiences with attempted transcendent unity?