How to Live and Lead Compassionately in Diverse Communities

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Our redemption as the people of God—our story as first the conciled ones, in relationship with Him, who then fell out of relationship through sin, and who were then reconciled—gives us the road map to healing our ethnic tensions. We can provide a Kingdom preview of ethnic conciliation because we live this high calling of reconciliation as the people of God.

But while this is our positional reality—this is what God has equipped us for in reconciling us to Himself—we don’t live in this reality well as a church. Ethnic conciliation will only become evident within the church when the members of the body of Christ stop withholding the compassion of Christ from one another. The areas of compassion God is calling the American church to focus on are our character, our communication, and our communities. If the people of God begin showing each other the compassion of God in these three areas, we’ll see ethnic conciliation bear fruit in our midst. The question for today is this: How are we to show compassion in our communities?

Prescription for God’s Saints

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commissions His followers to make disciples of every ethnicity—not only in Jerusalem but also in Judea, in Samaria, and all over the world. In the United States of America, God has brought the nations to live in many of the neighborhoods in our cities, yet many churches—in both laity and leadership—do not reflect the demographic of their immediate community. This doesn’t mean churches should manufacture diversity if the surrounding community lacks it. But if the demographics of the community start changing, the local church should begin prayerfully diversifying their high-level leadership to reflect the new diversity of their transitioning community.

I’m not only speaking to churches led by those of European descent. I’m speaking to any church in a transitioning community. I’ve spoken with Spanish-speaking pastors about the need to hire qualified leaders of the ethnicity that is moving into their community. Some established African American pastors, dealing with gentrification in inner-city communities, are looking to hire a pastor of European descent because of the recent change in demographics.

If we as the body of Christ are going to participate in ethnic conciliation, our churches should first assess our understanding of the imago dei by asking whether we see all people from each of the ethnicities in our community as equal image bearers of God—and whether our actions communicate what we say we believe. If not, we must confess our sin of partiality and our supremist views, renounce them, and repent for not loving our neighbors. We must also realize God has sovereignly determined the nations to land in our neighborhood (Acts 17:24-26).

Next, pastors must communicate the truth of John 1:12-13: that salvation is not a result of one’s ethnicity, fleshly will, or personal desires but rather is a gift from God. Consistently communicating this truth will refute the ethnocentric cults that have capitalized on the church’s blind spot to partiality for over a century and a half. Pastors must shepherd their people and lead them well by helping them understand that, according to Romans 1:16-17, the gospel transcends all cultures and ethnicities. No one ethnicity, denomination, gender, or social class holds a monopoly on the gospel. The church must steward this message of hope so that all people from all nations may hear of God’s plan of redemption in ways they can understand and be given an opportunity to embrace Jesus as Savior.

Lastly, the church must strive to embody Galatians 3:26-28. The local church should show no economic, ethnic, or gender favoritism. If Jesus saves sinners from every nation, tribe, tongue, gender, and socioeconomic class, the church should be a community of the diverse, representing each of these demographics in our communities where they live, move, and have their being. When both leadership and laity of the local church embody this passage, the gospel’s power is visibly displayed.

People of Compassion

God is calling His church in America to lead a solution-based conversation about the ethnic tensions in our culture. Ephesians 2:11-22 provides the church with a clear and direct framework: Our positional reality embodies ethnic conciliation. American churches have the opportunity to be a brochure of heaven for their local context. If they can reflect the Kingdom diversity of Revelation 7:9 in real time, they will present an extraordinary preview of the Kingdom that is coming. Imagine the credibility the local church can gain when they display a pathway of functional diversity that could even lead to the nonbelieving community to insights on healing and conciliation.

Each of us must pursue God, asking Him to highlight our blind spots so that we can approach ethnic conciliation with open and humble hearts. As we do this, we will move increasingly into Jesus’ command to make disciples—not just converts—of every ethnicity around the globe. When the church in America does this, we will be known for our ethnic conciliation.

You’ve been reading with D.A. Horton from his new book- Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World. Get the book or keep reading with a free excerpt here. D. A. is a Mexican-Choctaw-American church planter and speaker who engages with the tensions between our racial realities and the truth of the gospel. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at California Baptist University and pastor of Reach Fellowship in Long Beach, CA.

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