Recently we talked together about our Core Value of diversity. To us diversity means more than being multicultural, it also means crossing social boundaries and being multi-generational. This allows us to see how God is at work in different people. It deliberately seeks out people who can see into our blind spots.
This value is more than just a dream but a pressing need for us every day. This week I especially felt the need for wiser older men in our church as the pressure of planting and the passion for our vision overwhelmed me with the feeling that we aren’t growing fast enough, we aren’t engaging enough people. Yet we were reminded that we have only been doing this for a few weeks. No church achieves their goals in three weeks. Younger people have passion and energy to go after a vision, but older people have the wisdom and insight to guide youthful passion into a positive direction. We must have a long-term focus while we do the daily and weekly plodding along in the basics.
But what are the basics? How do we get to where we need to be? God’s plan is quite counterintuitive, but its results are far more dramatic and longer lasting.
A new friend this week challenged us to focus on two things: taking good care of our families and being generous. We wondered at first if he even heard us clearly when we asked how we will grow toward our vision. Yet he reasserted that a strong family bond flowing out in hospitable generosity toward other families must be the foundational steps to get this massive vision rolling.
It is interesting that the qualifications for a church leader (1 Timothy 3:1–7) include things like: “husband of one wife,” “manage his own household well,” and “hospitable,” exactly what our friend was saying. Yet we like to focus on “able to teach” (the part we went to seminary for) and think that quality (which is rather distinct from the other character qualities) is the one thing that will grow our church.
We had a huge blind spot and our new friend was able to show us what we couldn’t see. Did I mention he was West African?
The need for diversity shows itself again. The majority evangelical culture has a huge blind spot that so many other cultures take for granted. Other cultures think we are strange for being so individualistic. Sure, our churches say we are about families, but we split up into our own age groups for discipleship, we retreat into isolation throughout the week, we abandon responsibility for one another when things get difficult.
We are missing something vitally important if we think we are going to build a church on awesome children’s ministries, persuasive preaching, and good coffee. Marriage is one of the most visible and powerful pictures of the gospel in the world (Ephesians 5:22–33). The family displays the committed love that the more permanent church family should have in Christ (Matthew 19:29; John 13:35). Opening our homes is how we model to the world what God did for us bringing wandering, suffering strangers in as his own family (Leviticus 19:33–34; Ephesians 2:11–19).
The way we are going to build a church isn’t with fancy programs and pretty people. We do it by displaying God’s generous love toward us in generous love toward one another in our own homes (in our marriages, parenting, and hospitality toward our neighbors). It is a long and often painful process, but the resulting joy is far greater and much longer lasting. It often takes a resolve to push through the discomfort and fear of learning something new, of hearing someone else’s perspective. But this push is what stretches us to receive fuller joy from our shared heavenly Father.
John Piper, preaching on Romans 12:9–13, commented: “Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to the Gola farmers in Tahn, Liberia. Don't ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!”