This morning, as I normally do as part of my routine, I go to this website: http://www.ethicsdaily.com. It typically has 3 new articles each morning, 6 days a week. This morning, one of the articles broached the subject of how, even though racial discrimination is illegal, racial reconciliation is still needed. And that reconciliation needs to start in the church for its ministry is to be one of ultimate reconciliation, at least according to the Apostle Paul.
One part of this article really resonated with me – “The church has not, in my opinion, done enough to address racism. During the civil rights movement, many Christians marched and advocated for racial reconciliation. Once laws were on the books, it seems that the church backed off, but the work isn’t over. A recent conversation with a bi-vocational pastor friend suggested that some of the efforts we made were misguided. He told me that he often urged his African-American colleagues to become a part of what the churches were doing in their community. A well-respected African-American pastor challenged him one day with this question: ‘You are always inviting us to join you. When are you going to join in what we’re doing?'”
That reminded me of a conversation I had some years ago with a friend and former colleague. He had concurrently served two small churches which were located close to each other in Maine for a period of years. Neither could support a pastor full-time, but together they could do so. If memory serves me, one church was located across a river and was founded because, “back in the day,” traversing the river was not easy. Now, there is a bridge spanning the river, allowing easy access across the river into town. One member of the “in-town” church commented that he thought it would be a good idea to merge the two churches. The way that this would work would be that the church on the other side of the river would sell their building, come into town, and join with that church. When my friend suggested that this merger be done in the reverse, this man was taken back and adamant that this wasn’t the way to do it. He and his church would never give up their building and “identity,” but he had difficulty understanding why the other church wouldn’t be willing do exactly that. His only thought was for the other to come and join, not the other way around.
For many individuals, and churches for that matter, it is much easier to host than be hosted. I believe this is the case because when one is hosting, while more work, there is a sense of control and there is a level of comfort. When one is being hosted, especially in a “church” setting, there is level of not knowing “how things are done” within that church. Not being sure has the ability to make people uncomfortable. But if no one is willing to be hosted, how can anyone host?
(As a side note, the same can also true in the area of connecting with those who are not believers. There is an underlying expectation that these people come to us in order for the connection to be made. In Jesus’ ministry, I see some of that, but I also see Jesus being hosted by people. In Luke 10, sent out the 70 in pairs and they would be hosted, not host, where they stayed. Christ-followers must be willing to go and be hosted.)
So, as churches and followers of Christ, we must be both willing to invite others to join in what we are doing and to accept invitations to join what others are doing.
But there is also a third thing that I believe is good to happen and this mirrors what God did in the joining of Jews and Gentiles together in something totally new. In the last section of Ephesians 2, Paul talks about a new thing that God created through Jesus which we know as the church, the body of Christ. In this new creation, there wasn’t Jew or Gentile, us or them, male or female, slave or free.
So what is this third option that mirrors what God did? Two churches coming together to create something new. In this way, it isn’t your’s or mine, but our’s.
Personally, over the last 6 months, I have accepted invitations to join in some activities of a local African-American church. I have enjoyed being with and accepted by this church. The pastor of that church and I have become friends and together, we are seeking God’s direction in how He would see us work together to reach our community. This could, very likely, see something new created: not his, not mine, but our’s.
Most people and churches are willing to host, but not as many to be hosted. I pray that all all will be more willing to be hosted and maybe be involved in seeing something brand new begun through which people would encounter and experience the reality of our God as they witness true reconciliation as they observe us.