First Corinthians circa 2005
I am preaching on First Corinthians tomorrow. When we speak of restoring the New Testament church, the church at Corinth is NOT the one we are referring to! Yet, with all the problems there, Paul still refers to them as brothers, beloved, and fellows in Christ. Regardless of the serious issues that plagued the Corinthian church, they were regarded as Christians, sons and daughters of God and, therefore, Paul's spiritual siblings.
After our three AM services I will take a prospective youth minister and his family out to lunch and then return to the building for a 3PM special event. African American churches from Detroit and Pontiac are coming up to our building to join with us and other area congregations in Oakland County for an hour (or two) of prayer, praise and then a special contribution to the victims of Katrina. We are expecting around 2000 people for this event -- and for most it will be the first time they have worshipped with their brethren of a different race. That is shameful enough, but there is more to mourn.
My associate minister and son-in-law, Joshua Graves (www.joshgraves.blogspot.com) has been calling all area Caucasian churches and asking them to join us in this historic event, but most have turned him down. Here is a quote from one that was echoed by most of the others: "We aren't happy with the direction of Rochester College so I don't think we can support this. We will probably do something on our own for the hurricane victims."
It is hard to describe just how wrong that attitude is. First, we are not Rochester College nor has our congregation ever been called the official church of that college. We are next door to it and many of the professors and students attend here (yeah!) and the college president will be one of the MC's at this event. That's it. Second, if Paul can still treat the Corinthians as brothers and sisters and rejoice that they are fellow laborers in the Lord... why can't these brethren work with us? Third, when the chance comes to break down racial walls, just how little does it take to make us turn aside and refuse to participate in the reconciliation? Fourth, we will "probably" do something for the hurricane victims? What is the church? Is it a glorified Masonic lodge with oaths, ceremonies, and attendance rules and expected dues or is it a transformed community living out the story of Jesus, putting their own desires and lives on the cross for the Kingdom's sake?
Two last things: FIRST: this may not be smart to say, but I said it last week from the pulpit and our African American members came up and hugged me so I'm going to say it again) If it takes a hurricane to help us break down the barriers of culture, distance, and race then thank God for Katrina. While we will rebuild homes and cities, let us never rebuild the walls that kept us apart.
SECOND: Snowflakes are fragile things. Try to examine one or do anything with one and you find that it collapses and disappears. But put enough snowflakes together and you can stop a bulldozer. Too many brethren insist on staying snowflakes. They consider isolation and weakness to be their badge of honor. "I can't join with you to do good because you -- use multiple cups, sing the wrong songs, don't use enough Scripture, use the wrong version, read books by a guy I don't fellowship, etc. ad nauseum. I'll just stay a snowflake and try to impact the world that way." Good luck. God insisted on unity, even within the Corinthian church. What makes you think He wants something different today?
Be a part of God's blizzard. By yourself you're, well, just a flake.