As I stood on the platform at Transformation Church in Charlotte NC (I think the church building is in SC) and looked into the audience that Sunday morning I saw something I have rarely experienced. TC was planted by Derwin and Vicky Gray, and from the start there was a plan: It was to be “Jesus-centered, gospel-shaped, multiethnic fellowship of believers who participated in Jesus’s redemptive mission.”
I could not from the platform discern the Jesus-centered or gospel-shaped, as those take time with the people and among the people. But what I could see was that TC was multiethnic.
It’s not hard to see.
The place was speckled with color in every row – not like the pre Civil Rights days of busing in different parts of the sanctuary. No, it was a multiethnic church on each row.
Derwin writes about this in the tribute volume: Nijay Gupta, Tara Beth Leach, Matt Bates, and Drew Strait, Living the King Jesus Gospel: Discipleship and Ministry Then and Now.
In fact, he weaves his chapter in out and out of our relationship and why he came to Northern and our time together in Israel where he read the David and Goliath story in the valley, his voice booming off the hills. So much of our story does he tell that reporting on his chapter would be talking too much about You Know Who. So I want to draw your attention to two things.
First, I love to hear from our students why they came to Northern. We don’t often talk about this in classes and sometimes we hear smidgeons of the story over lunch or at breaks in the class, or sometimes in phone calls or in emails. But Derwin caught onto my Jesus Creed when he was church planting and it impacted their church to focus more on loving God and loving others. If that’s not a good foundation for multiethnicity I don’t know what is.
Second, more to what I want to say. Multiethnic churches. This is Derwin’s passion and he’s not afraid to ask others how diverse their churches are. It can be a bit uncomfortable at times. He doesn’t mind that and he’s not being hard-headed about it. Just wants us all to remember what he worked on for his DMin thesis: the Abrahamic covenant/promise was for Israel to be a blessing to all nations, not just the white guys.
These words from Derwin’s chapter struck deep tones in me:
Sociologist Michael Emerson and his team of researchers discovered that in homogenous local churches … inequality is reproduced, oppression is encouraged, racial division is strengthened, and political separation is heightened. The very people that God has on earth to be his ambassadors of reconciliation are in fact a part of the problem.
How is that white evangelicals overwhelmingly vote Republican and black evangelicals overwhelmingly vote Democrat? Both groups of evangelicals read the same Bible.
How is that white evangelicals and black evangelicals see police brutality differently?
What if black and white evangelicals (and Asian and Latino, for that matter) were members of multiethnic churches, eating meals together in each other’s homes, serving each other the Lord’s Supper, reading the Scriptures together, praying together, caring and crying together? Proximity creates intimacy, “Into Me You See.”
Derwin’s burden is the Abrahamic covenant to be a blessing to all nations.
The multiethnic church has the potential to embody that blessing.
May 2022 be the year.