Posted by: chuckbumgardner | December 30, 2007

Fee on Homogeneity, part 2

Our pastor, in preaching from Revelation 5 today, was bold to proclaim the rightness of having a non-homogeneous church to reflect the unity found in Christ.  In doing so, he echoed to some extent the comment from Gordon Fee which I posted on November 19:
“I don’t think you can have a homogeneous church and be biblical.”

Our pastor also noted the difficulty of this in the suburbian setting in which our church is planted: Elk River, a Twin Cities exurb which is (demographically speaking) 98% Caucasian.

I don’t know that we should bus non-Caucasians in to Elk River.  But it occurs to me, however, that heterogeneity may be reflected not only in race, but also in other areas such as income level, family size/status (single, divorced, married without children, married with children, empty nesters), etc.

In addition, our church — as most conservative churches — has a doctrinal statement which (implicitly) excludes people of certain theological beliefs.  We labored over our statement of faith, wrestling not just with how to state what we believe, but also with what to include and what to exclude.  This was necessary because a person who denies any portion of our doctrinal statement is not eligible to become a member in our church.

However, there are certain things which characterize our church (for better or worse), which can bring about the lack of homogeneity which Fee (and our pastor) deplores.  For example, our documents say nothing about the methodology of educating our children.  At the same time, the vast majority of our parents with school-age children have chosen to homeschool.  As a church, and as individual families, therefore, we have to be careful not to exclude those who would be in line with our doctrinal statement and covenant, but who have not subscribed to precisely the same educational choices as most in the church.

Our commonality in the church is first of all Christ and His gospel.  In addition, we have agreed to a certain theological understanding of how the Christian life is to be lived and how a Christian church is to be ordered.  There are certain issues, however, which may provide a homogeneity where heterogeneity may prove more healthy for the body.

A discussion which is at least related to the above is found in Romans 14.  Paul does not divide the congregation into two congregations — those who eat all things, and those who eat only vegetables.  Instead, he tells each group how they are to relate to the other group.  This was a heterogeneity within the congregation which was apparently acceptable to Paul, although it was based on personal conviction, not physical characteristics such as race. 

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