reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ephesians and the Homogenous Church Issue

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 8 comments
Ok, so Phil Evans asked for a Biblical defence of my position on homogenous church.

I think the main place that I would go for my understanding on this issue is Ephesians 2.

First - an important issue to get clear, is that of "the fulness of God". In Ephesians 1, Paul says that the fulness of God is to be found in his people, the church. So even though God "fills everything in every way" his fulness is to be found in the body of Christ, the church.

Paul makes another reference to the fulness of God in Ephesians 3 - he prays that the Ephesians would grasp the love of Christ, so that they may be filled to the meaure of the fulness of God.

What does it look like for the church to become, or be filled with the fulness of God? Paul tells us in Ephesians 4: 13 - we attain to the measure of the fulness of God when we reach unity and maturity.

The upshot of all of this is that the church displays the power of the Gospel, and the very fulness of God himself when people are brought together in unity under the Gospel. So - displaying unity in the way that Ephesians describes (and we'll come to that in a second) is an important issue: because astonishingly, the fulness of God himself can be shown in the church. Amazing.

So: what is unity in Ephesian terms? It is the bringing together of Jew and Gentile into one man through Christ. Spiritually, he himself is "our peace", he has made the two one and destroyed the barrier between us, so that we can be built into God's house - that is, so the fulness of God can be displayed, not just to the world, but to all the spiritual powers in the heavenly realms: Ephesians 3: 10.

I suppose the question is, then, does the principle extend beyond this particular Jew/Gentile divide, or is it specific?

Now, it seems to me that the principle must extend to the church crossing ethnic barriers. It must have a mixture of ethic backgrounds, or at the very least be open to those of a majority of ethnic backgrounds; if it doesn't then we are failing in our task to display the fulness of God, God's huge wisdom isn't being displayed how it should be. All white churches, or all black churches are not right - in setting up churches that are for only one ethnic group we are failing to do the work of the Gospel justice, and the church fails in its' task to display the fulness of God. Now, I imagine most of us would agree with that: although some of the homogenous churches set up that I have read about are specifically because two ethnic groups are unable to get on together and so couldn't reach each other with the Gospel. That cannot be right.

Does that theological reason stretch to other types of groups as well? Well,it seems to me, it must do. Why? Because the actual practical instructions Paul gives for how this is to be worked out in Ephesians 4-6 aren't just Jew/Gentile things - they are just the normal bread and butter of different types of people getting on together in a church family.

So, the upshot: churches should be aiming towards diversity in every area - and where that makes life difficult and we have to be humble and patient and gentle with each other, speak slower, have a translator, or put up with music that we don't like, where we have to be friends with people who aren't like us, where we have to submit to decisions we don't necessarily agree with; that's when we show the fulness of God who fills everything in every way, and display his manifold wisdom to the spiritual authorities. And if we aren't doing those things, well, then we don't. Which seems to, according to Ephesians, defeat the purpose of there being a church at all.