You’ve possibly already seen this piece by John Piper circulating around the Web. I’ve been sitting on it for the past couple weeks, pondering its implications for my church and the parachurch ministry for which I work.
Piper, the popular author, theologian, and pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has been one of the evangelical movement’s more courageous voices on issues of racial reconciliation. Here, he explains why and how his church is committed to diversity. What I like about the article is that Piper moves the discussion beyond the realm of theory and inspirational platitudes and attempts to formulate a cogent biblical argument and intentional strategy for ethnic diversity in the church. How do we build multicultural congregations? Piper’s ideas might be a good place to start.
He begins the piece by listing four biblical reasons why we should value and embrace ethnic diversity in the church. For example, “It displays more visibly the truth that Jesus is not a tribal deity but is the Lord of all races, nations, and ethnicities.” He then goes on to offer four ways for Christians (and their institutions) to pursue ethnic diversity. He writes:
[T]he admiration we feel for this diversity in the New Testament should carry over into the desires we have for the visible church today. It seems to us that the local church should want these things to be true today at the local level where this diversity and harmony would have the greatest visible and relational impact. For us, this has implied pursuit. If we admire it and desire it, then it seems to us we should pursue it. What does that imply?
Four things: Prayer. Preparation. Probing. Preferring. These steps become increasingly controversial. They would be easier to simply avoid. We have chosen to take the risk.
I’m eager to hear your responses to Piper’s ideas. Is his church’s intentionality to be commended and imitated, or do you stumble over the “affirmative action” aspect of his strategy? Some might argue that this level of intentionality sets up the possiblity of a quota system that minimizes the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing the “called” leaders that God has for a particular ministry. What’s your take?