A Waste of Resources? by: Dan Adler
A few years ago, I met with a pastor and was talking with him about the vision for Biblical unity that Heart of the City has been seeking to model and call the Church to for so many years. I spoke with him about how I feel that our segregated congregations don’t reflect Biblical values and that our churches should be multi-ethnic whenever the population around them is diverse.
He looked at me and told me that he sees it in an economic paradigm. He knows that for a certain amount of resources, he can plant a mono-ethnic congregation targeted to a certain socio-economic and generational demographic in the suburbs and grow a church of several hundred in a short period of time. If he took those same resources and attempted to plant a multi-ethnic church, it would grow much slower and would be, in a sense, throwing his resources away. Whoa… That shook me a little bit. Did he just say that? I hear the logic of it and I also understand it in the sense that you want to see your time and money be used in the most effective way it can. But is this thinking a real “Kingdom of God” thinking or is it a “Madison Avenue” marketing kind of thinking?
Numbers and growth, though so very exciting and encouraging, do not necessarily mean we’re on the right track or are creating the fruit of the Kingdom that we are called to. If the only way we can grow our churches is to separate people between ethnic groups and generations and socio-economic groups, are we really growing disciples of Jesus Christ or are we just producing religious clubs that are meant to keep us all comfortable? Is a “growth at all costs” perspective right? Shouldn’t the Church be the ultimate transforming force in society when it comes to breaking down prejudices, injustices and barriers between us? How can that possibly happen if we embrace a model of ethnically and generationally divided churches as the norm?
I told this pastor that, because Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one as He and the Father are one, we pray and work toward even seeing denominations come to a place of doctrinal agreement. He looked at me and said, “As if that will ever happen…” Again, from a human perspective, I totally understand his response. But that is not the perspective we are called to live from. The Bible calls us to such a greater Kingdom and faith-filled perspective in which we are to live and operate. We cannot just look at what is, but at what the Bible says should be and could be!
If this pastor, and so many others who would agree with him, is right, then the message to Heart of the City Ministries is “Go back to your own churches, with your own people, in your own denomination. Quit wasting people’s time and resources trying to bring them together. Quit writing and using music of different cultures in worship. Quit trying to broaden our view of the Church. Let each church focus on their “brand” and the people who like their “brand”. . Let Black churches stay isolated as Black churches and let White churches stay isolated as White churches. Let the Hispanic and Asian churches continue to stay in their corners – separate from other ethnicities. And let all of them stay separate from one another within their ethnicities as well. Let them continue to build subcultures so that people from other churches feel like aliens if they visit their services. Let them continue to keep an “us” and “them” approach to other Christians of different ethnicities. And let them continue to market separate services that divide the generations from one another so that they don’t have to put up with each other’s music. And let us continue to try to present the Biblical Jesus to the world in this tribal, segregated, generationally separated way. We’re doing just fine.”
What do you think? Are they right? Is what Heart of the City is doing worth it? Is Biblical unity even a vision worth pursuing or just a big distraction?