I’ve been writing over the past few months about how the Biblical church in Antioch provides a model for us today. So far we’ve seen how the church was distinctly Christian, radically innovative, a teaching and leadership-developing church, and a church that practiced Spiritual disciplines. Now, let’s look at how the church in Antioch, and the early church in general, was captivatingly diverse.
In Acts 13:1, you see the diversity in the leadership. Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus. He had been sent by the Apostles in Jerusalem to help the church in Antioch. Simeon, called Niger, we know nothing about, but based on his name we assume he is African. Lucius of Cyrene, we know nothing about, but given his name and birthplace we guess to be Greek. Manaen had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch which means he was an aristocrat, used to power, wealth, and political intrigue. Then there is Saul, who like Lucius, was from Cyrene, but had been raised and trained in Jerusalem. Thus you have in the leadership of the church an amazing diversity of races, economic statuses, and religious backgrounds.
This diversity caught people’s attention. We know this because Paul lifts it up and fights for it to be preserved in many of his letters. Paul writes about Christ having brought down the dividing wall of hostility and boldly says that in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. Many from the ancient world wrote about how striking the diversity of the early Church was. The unity found in Christ amongst such diversity was a significant draw for people and greatly helped grow the early Church.
How sad, then, that Martin Luther King, Jr. called Sunday morning the most segregated time of the week. Friends, if we want to live into our core value of willingly submitting to the Bible as God’s word, let alone grow as a church, we must become more diverse. I want us to pray and work toward ethnic diversity, and in a place with over 50 languages spoken in the city schools, there isn’t a lack of opportunity.
I want us to work and pray for more economic diversity. We need to work and pray for generational diversity, especially to draw in more folks between 18 and 30 without kids in the home if we want to be truly diverse. There are many of that age in town.
This type of diversity is Biblical, and because it is a vital part of growing the church. May God help us do so.