is a New Testament Church what we’re called or commanded to be?
I will state up front that this was never a thought in my mind. I was not worried with the whether-or-nots, but merely the can-we’s. My question was, in essence, can a church call itself a NT church if it is not diverse or striving to that ends? But I will answer the question posed to me anyway.
I do indeed believe that we are called to be “New Testament churches.” And I believe this for once simple reason: Scripture. What better example to follow for how we “do church” than the Bible? And in the Bible, the only place where we see any rules or examples of how the Church is supposed to function is the New testament. So, I deduce that we should indeed be New Testament churches in that how we do things should primarily come from the New Testament.
11am on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of America’s week.
This is how our culture does things. The black people go here, the white people go there, the Spanish-speaking people get this special time of the day, same with the Russians, and the Emergents have stopped meeting altogether and are sitting at Starbucks reading the morning paper and discussing politics. And so goes the story. Is this right? Is this wrong? I’m not here to answer those questions.
But, if we try to do things like another culture does things, we may end up looking just plain silly. Not to mention we will be completely out of touch with our own culture.
But the New Testaments admonishments and examples transcend culture; any and every culture. The New Testaments statements regarding how the church should be, in fact, should serve to unify all cultures under one banner. Just look at what happened on the day of Pentecost:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:1-11 ESV)
The Spirit descended, and everyone heard the same message. All the different cultures represented heard the message together, under one roof so to speak.
And I think this is a perfect example of how the church should be even today.
I may have been too restrictive when I narrowed my question down to speaking of race, so let’s take a typical American scene.
In America, in many communities, there are not multiple races represented. But, I assert, that there are many cultures represented in the various classes. The poor have their own culture, as do the rich and everyone in between. In this typical of American scenes, a NT church would be welcoming and would, in fact, have all of the social classes represented and the message would be understood by all of them.
I think this is the kind of picture that God wants us to see when we read the New Testament. Mixed in with all of the rules and regulations regarding women and sexuality and general morals is a call to uniformity. Uniformity in both practice and message. The implications of this are huge, and I am not going to venture into those territories at this time.
My point is that we will never be the kinds of churches that God wants us to be if we are not seeking to be New Testament churches. So, to reiterate my original answer, I really do believe a New Testament Church is what God has called us to be.
Now the question becomes, What is a New Testament Church? I have hinted at some things today, but we will seek to more completely answer that question next time.