Here is the brief conclusion I offer to the previous 4 posts, as well as some suggestions of areas that deserve further thought ( – language, welcome, race, gender, preaching).
It is true that any church of God, no matter how homogeneous, stands as a testament to God and his actions in this world. Any church, even one made up entirely of a bunch of whiteys who look pretty much the same, have the same background, like similar things etc etc – this still declares the greatness of the God who gathers people under his Son. However, the diverse local church could be classed as a megaphone of these things. The diverse church is the closest this side of Christ’s return to us being who we will one day be in perfection.
Should we seek it?
I do not think that it is wise to push to an imperative at this point. The imperative is to make disciples of all nations, baptising them into the One name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And, this can be carried out without being in a particularly diverse church. There is scope for that.
Based on some of the things we have seen, if the conclusion isn’t an imperative then what is it? I think that the language which must be drawn on is, instead, the language of invitation. Our eyes must be lifted to see the wonderful opportunity to display the Triune God and his salvation wrought in Jesus. We have the opportunity to display what God is doing in this world (Post 2).We have the opportunity to be a part of something which is for our good (Post 3a). We have the opportunity to be a powerful witness in this world of the unity achieved in Jesus as people watch us, God’s people, God’s church (previous post 3b). We have the opportunity to delight in the differences and the people which can be united under Jesus. It is an imperfect display and enjoyment now before Christ returns, but it is still powerful and delightful – and praise God for that! It is the language of invitation that in turn invites us to prayerful creativity and intentionality as we work out the practical implications of being the diverse church of God in the here and now.
There is so much more that needs to be said on and around this topic of diversity in the church. In particular, there are a few key areas that need more elaboration. These are areas into which it would be delightful to accost with that prayerful creativity and intentionality. So for example:
- A practical theology of language. Language appears to be the major practical barrier to the multiethnic church ‘working’. So, how might that be overcome? Actually, how do different languages operate within the scope of Scripture’s narrative – the fact that there are different languages, is that good or bad? A blessing or a curse?
- A practical theology of welcome. How do we welcome people into the church who are different to us? What kind of mindset do we need? What kind of questions can we ask? How do we overcome our fear and love? And again, what about language differences?
- A theology of race. I alluded to this in the first introductory post, is ‘race’ even a legitimate term for us to use? In my mind, there is only one race – the human race. Ethnicity is a far better term to be using.
- A practical theology of gender. Gender is one of the major markers of division and diversity. There would be benefit in spelling that out more and perhaps engaging with writers such as Storkey, Coakley, Milbank and Tanner.
- A practical theology of preaching. How, for instance, does having a church of diverse people impact how we preach. Can we go ‘And have a look at verse 7’ when we have a dozen people in our church who cannot read? Should we make better use of narrative – stories seem to work for everyone? How do we craft a message and application that can impact the hearts of a completely diverse set of people?
A starting point: Robert Calvert, ‘Why Become a Rainbow Church?’, Exchange 34/3 (July 2005): 177–84.
 So: Elaine Storkey, Created or Constructed?: The Great Gender Debate (New College Lectures (Sydney, N.S.W.); Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2000).; or Sarah Coakley, ‘Why Gift? Gift, Gender and Trinitarian Relations in Milbank and Tanner’, Scott. J. Theol. 61/2 (January 1, 2008): 224–35.