Letter From Pastor Trent GriffithDiversity—It’s a characteristic of a healthy church
Gospel City family,
Diversity describes the heavenly scene in Revelation 7:9-10 of the redeemed church of God. “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”
Diversity also describes the unique American culture our church sits in. The recent school enrollment form I completed asked if my daughter was, “American Indian or Alaskan Native”, “Asian”, “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander”, “Hispanic or Latino”, “Black/African American”, or “White”. Apparently the school recognizes the diversity that makes up our community.
In case you haven’t noticed, you are part of an increasingly diverse church. I’m thrilled to see more people of color in our congregation. You are seeing them leading in worship and discipleship. This year we installed our first black elder. And our first black pastor is planting a church like ours in the most diverse neighborhood in our city.
Why are more people of color finding a home within our church? I believe it is because we are unified around the gospel above all that could potentially divide us. We find our identity in Christ Jesus and we align ourselves under the authority of the Word of God. That means we listen to God speak. Whatever else we have been told—or told ourselves—is subject to the authoritative correction of God’s voice.
Diversity creates complexity for pastors. How do you keep people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives unified through a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and racial tensions ALL HAPPENING WHILE WE CAN’T MEET TOGETHER AS A CHURCH BODY? Lord, help us!
One of my greatest burdens for you—my sheep—is knowing that there is no shortage of voices who would like to lead you in how to think during this time. If you are like me, you tend to gravitate towards voices with whom you agree and who affirm your assumptions. Yet, how many of the voices you are listening to are even Christians, or better yet gospel-centered, bible-saturated, spirit-filled pastors who are faithfully leading diverse congregations?
As your pastor, I have invited you to join me in lamenting the injustices we have seen in the world, listening and learning from diverse voices, and leveraging our influence for the good of our city for the glory of God.
Here are some things I’ve learned as I have been listening this week:
I have learned that where I stand on social issues has been greatly influenced by where I sit.
I have learned as much as I try to understand what it’s like to live as a minority in a majority white culture, I will never fully understand.
I have learned that uncomfortable conversations with people different than me are more helpful to my discipleship than living in an echo chamber with people who think like me already.
I have learned I can affirm and appreciate faithful law enforcement while calling for those who abuse their power to be held accountable.
I have learned I can advocate for black lives without endorsing an ungodly political agenda.
I have learned I can work for the good of the city, without losing focus on the gospel.
I have learned no amount of legislation can bring racial harmony.
I have learned laws can’t make people love one another.
I have learned only the gospel can change the hearts of sinful people like me.
I have learned there is no entity more uniquely positioned to bring racial harmony than the church.
I have learned there will be no unity in the church where there is no humility.
I have learned you can’t lament what you cannot see.
I have learned that only Jesus can open blind eyes.
In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus met a blind man that begged him to touch him so he could see. After Jesus touched him, he asked, “Do you see anything?” The man said, “I see people but they look like trees.’ After Jesus touched him a second time, “he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Many Christians live between the two touches. We see some things, but we are still in need of seeing people more clearly.
I have learned I have a lot to learn.
Lord, touch us and give us eyes to see clearly what you see.