Unity in Multi-Categorical Diversity in the Church

Four categories--in addition to ethnicity and spiritual giftedness--where there is a need for greater unity among the diversity of members in the church

However, there tends to be a propensity for those in the church to form friendships exclusively on the basis of having similar interests with particular members of the church. When friendships in the church are formed predominantly on the basis of mutually benefiting one another socially–to the exclusion of forming spiritual friendships with others in the church–there is a unity problem that needs to be addressed. This is the essence of the problem of cliques forming in a church.  

 

Without in any way wishing to take away from the ongoing conversation about the dire need for the church in North America to focus on attaining unity among ethnic diversity by means of the Gospel, I have long felt the challenge of fostering Gospel-unity and fellowship among existing diverse categories of people groups in the local church.

Having been in ministry now for nearly a decade, I have observed a series of what seem like insurmountable obstacles to uniting diverse members of the church in fellowship. It is incumbent on pastors and church members to pursue growth in specific areas where Scripture calls for spiritual growth and vitality in the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had this in mind when he charged the members of the church in Rome, Corinth and Ephesus to use the diversity of gifts that God had given them for the building up of the body as a whole (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4). As I survey the landscape of the church in our day, I see four categories–in addition to ethnicity and spiritual giftedness–where there is a need for greater unity among the diversity of members in the church:

1. Socioeconomic. The Scriptures have much to say about the implications of the Gospel on financial diversity in the church. The early church modeled what it looks like for the Spirit of God to work among the people of God of differing socioeconomic standing (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32). One of the great pastoral problems with which the Apostle James dealt in his epistle was the issue of the rich in the church showing disdain for and partiality to the poor in the church (James 1:9-11; 2:1-13). The Apostle Paul also warned against the way in which the rich in the church of Corinth had begun to discriminate against the poor at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:21-22).

The Gospel unites rich and poor when both groups recognize that they need the same atoning blood for the redemption of their souls. When we come to the law concerning ransom money in the book of Exodus, we read, “The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves” (Ex. 30:15). Both rich and poor need the precious blood of Jesus as the ransom price of their souls. The Law of God also revealed how showing partiality to the poor in his dispute (Ex. 23:3) or perverting the justice of the poor in his dispute was wicked in the sight of God (Ex. 23:6). The rich and the poor are to be dealt with by the same need for redemption and the same standard of justice. God shows no partiality in meting out justice to rich and poor.

Unity of fellowship between the rich and the poor is not easily accomplished in the church. The poor of the church must not distance themselves from the rich in the church out of a sense of shame or pride; and, the rich of the church must not distance themselves from the poor in the church out of a sense of superiority or desire for status. In the church, the rich and the poor need one another. After all, the Scriptures reveal the following: “God has chosen the poor of the world to be in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love him” (James 2:5). The rich of the church often have much to glean from the spiritual-mindedness and example of faith from financially impoverished members of the body. By way of contrast, the poor in the church must allow themselves to be cared for by the generosity of the rich in the church. What a beautiful expression of Gospel unity when these things begin to take shape in a congregation of believers.

2. Personality. There is a need for us to pursue unity among diversity of personalities in the church. Herman Bavinck once made the astute observation about how God sanctifies and uses individual personalities in the body of Christ.

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