Diversity: The Fourth Layer of our Foundation

It takes all sorts.

I love that phrase. “It takes all sorts.” Because while it’s a wonderful play of veiled snarkiness, it also contains a tacit (begrudgingly respectful?) recognition – no one can do it on their own, and you might just need the help of those you least expect. “It takes all sorts” sounds like it should be an insult – it clearly recognizes that other people are, well… otherly. Different. Packing a very different set of skills than you yourself bring to the table; skills you might not value, since you don’t have them.

Yet it almost always comes across as a humble assessment (I can’t do this with my limited skill set) and a willful defense (Don’t discount those other people – we need their help too). You don’t say this when you want to dismiss someone, but rather when you want to defend someone. And Rogue Millennials are in the business of defending those who most people would rather quickly dismiss. Just like Jesus.

It takes all sorts

God has blessed the Kingdom with incredibly diverse sets of gifts, perspectives, insights – even theologies. No two denominations believe exactly the same.

At the core, where it often matters, we all believe rather similarly. Try to find something in Mere Christianity that isn’t believed by most denominations and you’ll get my meaning – we generally agree on the essentials.

At the fringes, where it doesn’t often matter, you’ll find a wonderfully variegated array of contrasts. A theological kaleidoscope (someone please name your band that) with diverse traditions, customs, rituals and observances; each denomination with its own heroes and saints, hymns and praises, favorite verses and heartfelt convictions. Over here, a church that focuses on the homeless. Over here, a ministry for the deaf. Over here, a house church that visits prisons. Over here, a campus program for young adults. Over here, a mission to Siberia. We all care about unique concerns of our time, place and passion – and that makes us more beautiful. We look more like Christ, who cares about them all.

Diversity

The Body of Christ, that Church universal, is incredibly diverse. Where previous generations would see fractured disunity, Millennials see beautiful diversity. Look at your church and ask if it would appeal to a village in the Guatemalan jungles, a house church in persecuted China, or even a Christian family the next street over. Probably not. And that’s okay. We all worship differently, we all commune differently, we all learn and serve and grow and heal in different ways. The diverse nature of Christianity, of Christians, and of how Church is expressed has made the faith the most adaptable (that means changing, for all you hardliners against “adapting to the times”) movement the world has ever seen.

This has been true for 2,000 years. Judaism really didn’t become popular in most of the Roman world; and here today, it’s still a very small minority faith. Because it doesn’t adapt to its culture or times – it forces YOU to adapt. It asks for compliance, it requires a person adopt its rituals and customs, from dietary restrictions to tassels on your clothes. It sets your holidays, your worship experiences and so much more into conformity with the community.

Islam is the same. You find Muslim communities all across Europe, in every city. Because Islam doesn’t integrate. It doesn’t adapt. It conforms its adherents instead, to look like Islam. Your dress code, the words you pray with, the times you kneel, the way you treat outsiders all dictated by the communal code. These are faiths designed to create a set apart community that looks radically different from the outside. To become part of the inside, you must conform.

Christianity, on the other hand, adapted quickly to every new context. What does a Christian wear? What can a Christian eat? How does a Christian worship? What words does a Christian pray? None of these questions has a uniform answer – because we’re all different and Christianity in my context may look radically different from Christianity in your context. A Christian in Korea, South Africa, Germany, Peru, and Canada all belong in the same fold but they’ll often worship on different days in different ways in different building styles (Jews have synagogues, Muslims have mosques; Christians have… cathedrals, churches, basilicas, abbeys, chapels, oratories, parishes, houses, not to mention cloisters, monasteries, convents, friaries – even “the Kirk” is a term for a church building).

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Don’t get me wrong. Christianity is also about creating a set apart community that IS radically different, whether or not it LOOKS radically different. Christianity isn’t about sporting your Christian tees and bumper stickers; it’s also not about a defining way of dress that brings us all into recognizable conformity. Because it’s not about the outside. It’s about the inside.

Let’s be honest – Christians are all very different and that is okay.

It’s more than okay. It’s beneficial. It’s beautiful. It’s intentional. And it’s biblical. What would the Christianity Body have to gain if we were all left hands? We don’t just need each other. We need each other to be different. I need your gifts and you need mine; I need your wisdom and you need mine; I need your support today and tomorrow you’ll need mine. The Church is only functional and strong when we work together, pooling all the blessings God has given us.

youve-got-to-reach-a-hand-of-friendship-across-the-aisle-and-across-philosophies-in-this-country-quote-1In a world where we desperately need to see more hands “reaching across the aisle,” Millennials are the ones most likely to realize this. Growing up in the most diverse generation America has seen, Millennials bring a tolerance and diversity back that the Church once prized. And that tolerance extends to how we gather and worship.

“Church” has been expressed in incredibly diverse ways through history. From house churches gathering throughout the Roman Empire for 350 years until the first institutional churches began appearing on the scene. From the gathering of coworkers before clocking in, the family praying over dinner, the friends grabbing coffee, the preaching tentmakers in the marketplace to the traveling rabbi in a distant jungle to an online community of Believers – there is no limit to where God will show himself. Not only is he present uniquely where two or more gather in his name, but he also indwells each of us.

We are better together. We are Church together. So we lay our fourth layer on the foundation: diversity. It takes all sorts to make the Body functional and strong; and God expresses his Church in many forms, church businesses being just one.

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