Tony Jones is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rich Hill, MO. Editor’s note: Rich Hill is on the southern end of the same county of my church (northern end). Rich Hill’s population is 95% white, and Bates County clocks in around 96% white. (Mike Bergman)
I am, at this moment, sitting in the main lobby of Children’s Mercy Medical Center in downtown Kansas City. I live in Rich Hill, Missouri, a town of approximately 1500 residents which, until approximately 35 years ago had a sign that warned black people not to be caught in town after dark.
I hope the title of this post shocked you, because as I sit here, I am shocked. Rich Hill is a nice place to live. I enjoy the slow pace of life, but I am afraid that I am so far removed from the mainstream of everyday American life that I am missing something. I can’t put my finger on it as I sit here, but I’m missing something. Maybe I should revise that last sentence to say, our churches are missing something.
Revelation 21:26 reads, “And they shall bring the glory of the nations into it” (The New Jerusalem), and a couple of chapters before in chapter 19, John writes, “I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God.’”
I have been sitting here for an hour. During that hour, I have heard four languages, not including English. I have been seated next to a young lady who is probably from an African country, though I am only guessing by her clothing. I have smiled and talked with Mexican parents. I have heard a man with a Caribbean accent, and I have spoken briefly with an Irish Catholic priest. I have seen and heard what the gathering around the throne of my God will look like, and what scares me? I have no idea how to interact with this world. I have no idea how to interact with what will eventually be my permanent home.
I can’t be the only one who has no idea how to interact with the nations. I believe many of our churches do not know how to interact with our society. I believe many of our churches are dying and the cause of Christ suffers because we cannot interact with the nations.
How is that so? Allow me to be very practical. A young couple wants to move from the city to the suburbs. They want to raise their children out of the fast paced environment of big city life. They also want to raise their children in church. The church they came from is multi-ethnic. It really resembles their former community. This couple expects that same attitude from their new church. They don’t expect their new church to be multi-ethnic in a community that is not, but they do expect the church to have a heart for the nations and at least know how to interact with the nations. I believe, more often than not, that this young couple would be sorely disappointed.
We have cloistered ourselves, and we are dying as a result. What can we do? I know what we can’t do. We cannot continue to fool ourselves into thinking that our lily white churches will survive more than another decade. America is changing for the better and those churches that embrace that change will be the churches that carry on the cause of Christ into the next generations.
What can I do? Maybe I should come and sit in the lobby of Children’s hospital more often. I’m starting to enjoy it. Oh, there goes a Chinese American woman. I believe that’s the only nationality I haven’t seen around here. Then again, we’ll have all of eternity to figure out who’s who, and who’s from where when we’re worshipping around the throne. That is, when we get finished worshipping with all nations.
This post first appeared at: http://thespiritualwoodshed.com/2015/05/29/help-i-still-live-in-white-america/