“What if no one else within DCC is like me?”
If you’ve asked this, you’re not alone.
More than one of you have asked this very question – and it’s a good one. Maybe you’ve thought, “There is no one like me here.” Or, “No one is interested in the same things.” Or, “No one is in my season of life.” Or, “I’ve tried but just don’t seem to connect.” Those thoughts inevitably leads to other thoughts like, “Maybe I should go somewhere else.” Or, “I should be with people who are just like me.” Or, “Perhaps Christianity isn’t for people like me.” My concern is for where the initial question may lead, not with the initial question itself.
We have a new, growing and very diverse church.
We have younger and older singles; younger and older marrieds; couples with and without kids; college, post-college, and no-college; rich and poor; out-of-shape and in-shape; tattoos and no tattoos; healthy and sick; employed and unemployed; extroverts and introverts; mature and immature; consistent and inconsistent; faithful and unfaithful; recovering drug addicts and current drug addicts; Christians, non-Christians and I-potentially-want-to-be-a-Christian’s; white, black, latino, asian, and native american; and more. It doesn’t surprise me if you may feel a little different or out of place. I feel different and out of place.
But, don’t miss what Jesus is doing in you and us.
Only the saving, forgiving, reconciling work of Jesus Christ could bring such a diverse group of people together. Jesus is creating a people for him, out of all the people of the city of Seattle, and we get to be part of that work, together. The very thing we find challenging (i.e. our diversity) is the very thing that brings Jesus deep joy and glory. It’s the very thing that causes visitors and newcomers to ask, “What in the world is going on here?” I love that question. The answer? The gospel of Jesus Christ is at work. Listen to how the Apostle Paul describes this work in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
“[Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we [all] have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Eph 2:17-22
When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sin and life with God, we simultaneously become part of a new people, the church, with a new identity. Paul says we are “no longer strangers and aliens” to God and to one another, rather we are “fellow citizens”, “members of the household of God”, and a “holy temple” of living stones “being built together”. In other words, in Christ, we are now citizens of the same kingdom, members in the same family and living stones in the same building. We are a new people and our identity is found in him, and one another, before it is found anywhere else. Read this story that highlights this point so clearly:
“Listen to how the fourth-century Roman historian Eusebius described one early Christian named Sanctus, when Sanctus stood before his torturers in the year AD 177: ‘With such determination did he stand up to their onslaughts that he would not tell them his own name, race, and birthplace or whether he was slave or free. To every question he replied, in Latin, ‘I am a Christian.’ This he proclaimed over and over again, instead of name, birth place, nationality and everything else, and not another word did the heathen hear from him.” Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, p32
You might say, “Ah, but Pastor Adam, does Jesus know what it is like to be so different, misunderstood?” Yes. God became man in Jesus Christ. God. became. man. Literally, there was no one like him. Talk about feeling out of place. Yet, he humbled himself for those who were very different and had nothing in common with, entered our story, died for our sins and rose again to new life in order to rescue and create a new redeemed people out of all the peoples of the earth. You and I are part of that great redemptive masterpiece of God, in Christ. Our diversity is a sign that Jesus is at work. Don’t run from that, embrace it.
So, practically speaking…
First, many of you are new to Downtown Cornerstone. That is great! Though we work to create a culture that is warm, welcoming and hospitable, you will also have to step out in faith to pursue others, start serving, join a community, etc. to begin to enter into the lives of others.
Second, we all have to work to create the culture we want – that Jesus wants. If we wait for our ideal church to appear, we’ll be waiting a long time (read: forever). So, if you wish folks would invite you over for dinner; start by inviting them over. If you feel misunderstood, try first understanding others. If you feel out of place, try making others feel at home.
Third, make a decision to embrace the diversity, and the accompanying difficulty, as good. The diversity within our church is from Jesus and he wants to use it to continue to form more of himself in you (cf. Rom 8:29) for your good, the good of others and His glory.
Fourth, demonstrate a holy violence against all relational bitterness, division or disunity. Our enemy loves to undermine the work of Jesus, particularly through the use of Jesus’ own people. Hebrews 12:15 says it well, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Bitterness effects the entire church, particularly at our stage.
Lastly, remember we are all, individually and corporately, a work in progress. Above, Paul says we are “being built together” which means we are still under construction. This calls for grace, patience and prayer.