We will improve our reach to the poor and disenfranchised and create a normalcy for multicultural ministry by rewarding and celebrating churches that minister to the hurting, broken and people unlike themselves.
By David Roller
Embracing All People
Some folks are easy to hug – others, not so much. The easiest ones to hug are those just like us; they talk like us, dress like us, spend like us and even hug like us. That’s just human nature, to accept those like ourselves; but shouldn’t Christians live a supra-human nature?
There’s that “image of God” thing that instills in us that “love of God” thing, that drives us to that “mission of God” thing. That’s why We embrace those who are different, and especially those who can’t reciprocate, who have nothing to offer us. We love them and embrace them simply because they bear the image of our Creator and are included in the redemptive work of the Son. If they were worth Jesus, they’re worth us. If Jesus loved them, we’ll love them; if Jesus came to rescue them, we’ll at least sit next to them in church!
We embrace those who are different, and especially those who can’t reciprocate, who have nothing to offer us.
Let’s make this practical, on a personal and church level. On a personal level, it’s “unnatural,” but on a church level, it’s even harder to break the normal sociological barriers that keep us with those like ourselves. The walls of this sociological corral are normally constructed around matters like race, language, economic level/class, culture and even sport teams. But we see past the dividing walls that separated us, to the image of God and the work of Jesus that unite us.
We see past the dividing walls that separated us, to the image of God and the work of Jesus that unite us.
Embracing those not like us means we intentionally begin conversations, join clubs, take snacks to, sit with and enjoy persons who support your team’s arch-rival, persons with different skin and hair, persons who talk “funny,” persons who ride bicycles to work and persons who voted for the other guy (or lady) for president.
And as a church, we’re veritable outlaws when it comes to the unwritten laws that separate us. Churches break cultural rules if the rules don’t measure up to God’s cultural standards. We do what “normal” groups don’t do. We love those unlike ourselves. We welcome those who can’t “contribute.” And then we teach those new embraced people that we don’t accept the rules of the dominant culture, and soon they too begin to see the beauty of living by God’s cultural rules.
Shirley Elosh understands special needs well. Her son Jonathan, 28, has multiple needs which require unique care. Elosh’s parenting experience has prepared her for ministry to people with similar needs. “I was starting to think about what the Lord was putting on our heart about special needs,” said Elosh. She began to think about starting a church designed for people with special needs and disabilities.
Samuel Lopez wants to equip Hispanic pastors for multiethnic environments. He has personal experience in that area because his English-speaking congregation is primarily Caucasian families plus several attendees of Asian, African and Hispanic descent. Lopez’s call to pastoral ministry led him to Minnesota from Texas, where he had served as an administrative assistant to the conference superintendent and acted as a liaison between Hispanic and Anglo congregations.
Well, it’s kind of easier for us, since we established our church for that purpose. It’s kind of built into our DNA. So, most of our time is spent in after school activities in the arts, for at risk kids and children of families who have “less”. Our evenings are designed to do the same for adults and teens. Then, our weekends are spent in eating with our new friends, and talking about God and His Word. Different, for sure.
We have a quarterly clothing ministry. People bring clothes to share and take clothes they need. It is not a requirement to bring clothes. We have a weekly worship and teaching service for developmentally disabled adults. Several local agencies bring people every Wednesday night. Several people from these agencies attend Sunday morning services as well. Three will become members of the church this Spring.
We started “The Matthew 25 Project” which is reaching thousands every month through our food pantry, clothing drives, etc.