As I walked into 217church this weekend, I met a man born in Nigeria, his name was Castellanos. He has been coming for over 4 years and I asked him why he comes. He said, “I love the different kinds of people, black, white, asian, hispanic, the music, the friendly people. I think this is what heaven will look like!” BAM! He hit the nail on the head! Every week I get to meet with an amazing diverse group of people as 217church. When we started the church over six years ago, we wanted it to look like the neighborhoods we planted in. This meant we were going to be diverse. And wow, did God make us diverse. Yesterday as I looked out over the people of our church, here is what I saw. I saw people from almost EVERY CONTINENT. People from South Korea, Nigeria, Uganda, China, Venezuela, Great Britain, Philippines, Ecuador, India, Mexico, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Chile, Kenya, Poland, and of course the United States. People from the rural areas and people born in urban Brooklyn, the Bronx, Newark and Trenton. Because of our diversity of background, it helps us to appreciate and celebrate our differences. Something that is sorely lacking in some communities and people groups. We are striving to understand what it means to be a missionary to our culture in the way Jesus.
“God never gives up on His people.”
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11
Our Gospel Work…
At our church we are simply, IN CHRIST. Because of the differences already represented in our people by their cultural background, we are living a Gospel where all are accepted and where peace reigns supreme. We have become a beautiful expression of the Gospel. I have been experimenting and praying over this idea for some time now. While I believe the Gospel must be brought into individual cultures to be expressed in a way people understand in their native cultural framework, the Gospel also must be experienced in a way where we lay down our preferences and celebrate the different ways God expresses Himself through a redeemed people group. We have become and are becoming an “local international church” in the heart of New Jersey. Whereas one hundred years ago we had to travel thousands of miles to reach the nations, now in 2016, the nations have come to us. As opposed to “working hard” to reach people who are different than us, we are finding that the GOSPEL DOES THE HARD WORK OF ACCEPTANCE.
These last few days, seeing the exhibition of racism, intolerance and disregard for human life has made me sick. Absolutely sick and totally disappointed. Certain people are using these terrible circumstances for their own benefit but through it all, there IS HOPE!
Even in the midst of murder, chaos, racism, deception, betrayal, pain, and loss, the church today must preach Jesus. We must celebrate the Gospel – Today is a day of healing – Today is a day of restoration – Today belongs to God and all that is in it – Today We celebrate Jesus redefining the sabbath – Sunday is a reminder of the resurrection, pure and simple. The indescribable, unrelenting, mysterious love of God through his son Jesus, crucified, RISEN, that we may be forgiven and extend that same forgiveness to others. The love of Jesus takes my breath away.
No matter what we look like, what happened this week, what our background or preferences. The Gospel demands and calls that we come together and proclaim peace and humility forgiving one another. Maybe the most important thing you do this next week will be to start the week in the presence of the Holy Spirit, surrounded by the body of Christ, caught up, receiving communion together. If even for just a moment, in the Glory and awe of the power, the protection and the power of Jesus is felt and recognized, THIS – IS – LIVING!
What is the Point?
Could it be that the church, not politics, not media, not a social action group, should be the way for us exert the maximum leverage on the issue of racism and oppression in our communities? I believe it is. I’m not talking necessarily about just the institution of the church, but the uncontrollable, unstoppable, formation of God’s people at work in the community, praying, fasting, serving the community relentlessly, bringing the restorative narrative of the Gospel to the people one act of love at a time.
For more on this idea: Listen to last Sunday’s message here: God Never Gives Up On His people
This Sunday July 17 – “I Don’t Approve, God”
Josh Conn is the founding pastor of 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ. 217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00. Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday. If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us. Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here