Tangible Slices of Heaven

From time to time we will have a blog written by a friend of Mission Nation. Dr. William Utech, Mission Executive of the Minnesota South District and seminary professor, reflects on the need for more multi-ethnic churches.

In writing about how to make the gospel of Jesus Christ, real, visible, and tangible to our post-Christian, religiously unaffiliated, and anti-church nation, communities, and neighbors, authors Hugh Halter and Matt Smay suggest the following…

I think we should start by looking for ways to witness to this gospel by bringing tangible slices of heaven down to life on earth, and continue to do this until those we’re reaching out to acknowledge that our ways are “good news” to them. If you’re truly living the good news, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explain the theological aspects of the gospel. But if we continue to lead off with words about the gospel instead of acts of the gospel, we’ll continue to dissatisfy and disappoint people.

I can think of no better way of “bringing tangible slices of heaven down to life on earth” than by doing everything we can to make our congregations look like the church as it is described in Revelation 7:9-10…

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

To this end, Terry Chan, Mark Eisold, and Mike Duchene collaborate, instigate, and advocate for more and more of our congregations to become multi-ethnic congregations, so that, in these days of racial unrest, ethnic diversity, and cross-cultural challenges, the world might witness how the gospel actually knocks down all dividing walls, and takes people who look and sound and act very different from each other, and makes them all one in Christ. To be sure, there are plenty of challenges and road blocks to having this lofty goal become a tangible reality, which is why hearing what these three missiologists have to say is so helpful. If it’s true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then there’s plenty of preventative medicine packed into this short video.

All three of these men have experience in working across cultures and in cultivating new leaders from other ethnicities. They are forming racially diverse leadership teams who will become intentionally engaged in the mission of God alongside each other. And when God’s people, gathered around Word and Sacrament, hear and see that their leadership is as diverse as the people who frequent their grocery store, then they will take that vision of a preferred reality back home to their own families, their neighborhoods, and their communities, and bit by bit the world will see a sliver, and come to experience a foretaste, of the kingdom of God for what it truly is: “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my mountain for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day, the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.” (Isaiah 9:9-10)

If, as religious demographers have been telling us, the most segregated hour of the week in America is 10:00 AM on Sunday when people go to church, then shame on us for not reflecting the joy, the love, and the unity that Jesus gives to all his people through his Spirit, alive and at work in us all. It’s high time, therefore, that we become more intentional about changing that statistic, and this video provides a good first step toward that end.

William Utech