Thanks for bearing with me on having not responding to several of the comments on my last post on “Why Focusing on a Group Is NOT the Way to Build a Church.” Much food for thought. Instead of responding one by one to the comments, I thought their insightful questions deserved further clarification at a top level rather than embedded in a “comments” section. So here we go.
What I am not saying: “Do not target a group of people who need to hear the Gospel.”
What I am saying: “Target a group of people who need to the hear the Gospel in perpetuity.” OR “Do not build your church in such a way that preaching to that target group defines your church in perpetuity.”
In other words, in New York City there are a myriad of cultures and languages. There are cultures that speak the same language (Goths, hipsters, bohemians). There are cultures that speak different languages (Hmong, Puerto Rican, Italian). It would be foolish to say that we must transcend culture in some way so that we speak a language (both literally and figuratively) that transcends those differences. For example, I heard of a church where the pastor preached one sentence in Spanish and then translated that sentence into English. Since Babel, we have to suffer the consequences of judgment for our ancestor’s hubris. Differing languages are a fact of Babel.
HOWEVER, this does not mean that we have the liberty to begin planting any kind of church that speaks a certain heart language–i.e. Goths, hipsters, bohemians. There may be a period of time that this kind of targeting needs to happen. Say, for example, the warring tribes in Africa I mentioned, or a gang of Crips and Bloods. For the sake of argument, say the “target group” (x) speaks the same language as another “target group” (y). I think the missionary is right to for a period of time reach out exclusively to x insofar that he has in his mind to move it closer to y.
To leave a body of redeemed people happily worshiping at First Church of X, while Second Church of Y is down the street worshiping the same God in the same language, misses the implications of the Gospel–namely reconciliation with God and men from different cultural backgrounds (in the Apostle Paul’s context, Jew and Gentile–who spoke Koine).
What I fear is that for the sake of reaching a group, we let inertia determine only preaching the Gospel to that group. In subsequent posts, I hope to look at how a multi-cultural might look.
In the meantime, does it not seem strange that African Americans and caucasians, who speak the same language but have a different cultural background, should be worshiping the Triune God without a view toward being unified?