Observing young children play any sport with a ball is entertaining. Aside from the fact that their hand and feet coordination are still developing, they have little awareness of the other players around them.
When I watch my six-year-old niece play t-ball, I cringe every time I see two or more children sprint as fast as possible towards the ball. It’s only a matter a time before they converge. Holding their breath with tightened jaws, everyone in the audience waits in anxious anticipation while thinking, “This is going to hurt.”
In the same way, life seems like a series of convergences or catalytic events that the Lord uses to conform us more into the image of his Son. These life convergences are a peculiar mixture of pain and joy, suffering and celebration.
After all, as Jesus walked toward Jerusalem, he knew the greatest convergence the world would ever see was on the horizon. He willingly laid down his life that we may know him. And out of the greatest act of evil (pain and suffering) came the greatest good (joy and celebration). The cross of Jesus Christ is where God’s justice and mercy collide, changing the course of human history forever. This is the good news of the gospel: Jesus becomes sin for us, that we may receive his righteousness, thereby allowing us to know God.
The Gospel Proceeds Convergence
The gospel, in its nature, attracts an electric group of people because there are no ethnic, socioeconomic or political barriers of any kind. On the cuffs of Jesus’ ascension into heaven we see “devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) dwelling in Jerusalem, awaiting the Holy Spirit.
The gospel redeems us vertically in our relationship with God and then horizontally in our relationship to one another.
In Ephesians 2:13 the gospel proceeds the convergence of two groups with a hostile history toward one another (the Jews and Gentiles). “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Subsequently, in verses 14-15 they become one under the banner of Christ’s finished work on the cross.
Campus Outreach Ethnic Diversity Summit
On April 14-15, 2014, Campus Outreach (CO), the college ministry I work with, had its second annual Ethnic Diversity Summit. It was a sweet two days of feasting on God’s Word, mutual-encouragement, renewing vision, planning and thinking about gospel implications in multi-ethnic ministry. We prayed about what God could do in and through CO in raising up laborers that have a passion to see God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The passion of Campus Outreach is “Glorifying God by building laborers on the campus for the lost world.” This vision has developed in my heart as the Lord continues to reveal the biblical implications of the gospel as he calls people from every tribe, nation and tongue to himself.
Multi-ethnic ministry flows from the gospel as we are first redeemed to God and then to one another. With the picture of Christ’s multi-ethnic bride in Revelation 5:9-10, the Lord stirs our affections in such a way that we desire to see shadows of that glorious day now.
The college campus is a strategic mission field in its own rights. Nowhere else do you get a group of people, from various backgrounds and families, living, playing, and working together every day. We get about four to five years to train up laborers to be launched into the world for God’s glory.
As we dialogued about the unique challenges and opportunities of multi-ethnic ministry/movements the reality of the convergence of different groups of people became undeniably clear to me. I found myself thinking, much like the convergence of children playing sports, “this is going to hurt.”
Multi-Ethnic Convergences: Pain and Joy
At the CO Ethnic Diversity Summit, I began to dream about the convergence of our students, particularly but not limited to, our black and white students.
I’ve imaged what it would be like to look at the faces of our students at our large group weekly meetings, semester retreats and New Year’s Conferences, and see a variety of ethnicities. I’ve imagined that they would have all things in common; I’ve imaged that they’re closest friends would be those who look like them and those who do not; I’ve imaged them worshiping and doing life together; I’ve imaged them celebrating the mountain top moments and weeping together in the valleys; I’ve imaged them on mission to bring God glory wherever He would call them.
Multi-ethnic movements are a convergence of sorts. Two or more different groups – that otherwise would not come together – converge under the gospel and are adopted into the family of God.
This convergence is beautiful. Although there is the distinct mixture of pain and joy, there is the undeniable aroma of unity without uniformity. Much like the cross, we see the reality of suffering and celebration working together.
There are three indisputable truths of multi-ethnic ministry convergences that stuck out to me at the CO Ethnic Diversity Summit:
It will be hard, sacrificial and costly.
It will require unwavering commitment.
God is worthy and has promised to never leave us.
In the midst of these truths, the vision of the Kingdom of God and him being glorified by all peoples should drive our hearts, reminding us that Christ purchased his multi-ethnic bride at the highest cost — his life.
It is going to hurt, and it will be hard. Jesus tells us that following him will cost our life (Matthew 16:24). But we must never forget that he is worthy, and the anchor of our souls has given us the promise of his ever-abiding presence. And as we labor on this side of eternity, I pray that the vision of Revelation 5:9-10 would drive our hearts and minds to worship God, in spirit and in truth.