One of the most noticeable things about our Sunday worship gatherings is that we are kind of an eclectic group. We have teachers, doctors, lawyers, homemakers, creative folks and people who work with their hands. But even above our resumes and tax brackets, we come from different walks of life, cultures, ethnicities and worship traditions. The fact that we come together at 10am on a Sunday morning is already something that makes Open Table a bit unique. After all, only 2% of churches in America are intentionally working towards diversity.
But that in and of itself, and certainly as an objective of Open Table, would be short-sighted. The intentional work to be ethnically, socio-economically, generationally and otherwise-diverse is to keep us all in check about the church we think we want, so that we might have something even better – a church where God is glorified above and through all those differences.
I know that sounds typically idealistic coming from me. But here’s why I think it’s important enough to keep in mind and not leave up to chance: left to our own devices, we naturally incline to our preferences, our comfort level, our ways, our notions of success, beauty, and holiness. And the dark side of that is our blind spots, our weaknesses, and deficiencies left unaddressed. In a church with no diversity, with people whom we like, who fit our likes and dislikes, who pray like we pray and think like we think…also sin like we sin. And ultimately we don’t get a church that God wants per se, but rather a church that where we worship our own ways and wants. That’s the danger if we don’t pursue to have a worship gathering where people unlike ourselves gather.
But I admit, it is difficult. The skill sets to really worship together and become a church where differences are tolerated, understood, and appreciated are difficult to learn. It takes time and patience and we might get our feelings hurt. But how else would we learn forgiveness? How else can we engage in hospitality in real and meaningful ways? How else would we fully understand how Jesus stepped into a world that was foreign and even offensive to his holy nature?
We may not get the church we want, but perhaps we will get something better — the church that God wants.