“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing… have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” – James 2:1-4
Who is comfortable at Wausau Alliance Church when they walk in the door? Who is uncomfortable? If someone very different than the norm were to come into the church on a Sunday morning, would they say we are a welcoming community or that we show partiality? Would they say that they didn’t feel welcomed or that they didn’t feel like they belong? Would they say that we, as a church, are not a diverse group of people who are loving and welcoming, but that instead we are a closed community of people welcoming only the ones with the “gold rings” and “fine clothing?”
I have had numerous conversations with people about this very idea. Many say that church planting is necessary so that new churches can be created to minister to a specific demographic of people. They say that that is why church planting is so successful for evangelism, because you create a church that ministers to a niche of people. However, I wonder if that is really the best understanding of the church. Are churches supposed to be niche groups of people or are they supposed to be representations of the unity and diversity that exists in the family of God?
Galatians 3:28 says that all who have been baptized into Christ are “in Christ.” Therefore, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we are apparently unified, yet the majority of the time churches are divided by race and social class. More often than not, church is not multi-generational or multi-racial. We are welcoming to those we are comfortable with, but have no idea how to interact with those that are different from us.
To be a unifying, diverse church, we need to be people who are first of all loving people. We need to love more than just those that are like us. That means interacting with people on Sunday mornings that are not just the people we are closest with. What if we all looked at our time at Wausau Alliance on Sunday mornings as opportunities to minister to one another? As I write this, my mind is spinning with thoughts and ideas about how the church is to be a picture of the unity that all who are in Christ have with one another. How can we as a church be a picture of that diversity and unity? How can we reach the segments of the population that may be a bit different from us? How can we as a church be welcoming to all people, whether they are like us or not?
Let me challenge you to pray about this. Pray that we would be a church where anyone and everyone would be welcome, even while we seek to be faithful to the whole message of Scripture. Pray that we would not be a country club that only accepts those wearing fine gold. I pray that we would all come to a better understanding of how our primary role as attendees and members of Wausau Alliance is not merely to consume, but to give, to serve, and to love one another.