What kind of church does God use today to change the world?
We read in Acts 13:1-3, “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
What were the features of this world-changing church? We could talk about the diversity of gifts (“prophets and teachers”), how the people spent time seeking the face of God (“while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting”), and how they were responsive to God when he spoke (“The Holy Spirit said…so they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”)
There was also ethnic and cultural diversity. Barnabas, a Jewish man from a religiously elite family. Simeon, who was presumably a black African. Lucius of Cyrene, who definitely came from North Africa. Manaen, who is said to have been “brought up” with Herod the Tetrarch, so a man well-connected with the powerful. Finally, we read of Saul, whose family came from the Greek-speaking city of Tarsus, but who described himself as “a Hebrew born of Hebrews.”
God still delights in using racially diverse churches today. Christ died not only to reconcile people to God, but to reconcile people to each other. In a world torn by strife, the church can demonstrate the power of the gospel to transform hearts and relationships.
When the Grace family comes together at a Sunday service, and we have people from dozens of ethnicities and nations worshipping Jesus, we proclaim to a watching world, “Behold the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!”
This weekend, as our nation remembers the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his voice still resonates: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”