Interchurch Reconciliation and Why it is so Hard by Phil Kesler

More and more churches in the cities of the USA are realizing that it is high time that something be done to reconcile the divide between traditionally Anglo and Afro-American communities.  It is a great thing that at least there is a feeling that the divide as it stands must not continue. Why is it so hard to find a way to bridge this gap?

Unlike most of the rest of the Christian world that regularly gathers together in small groups — many American churches have lost the vision, if they ever had it, for true KOINONIA. Most traditional churches DO church and many religious activities but never really fellowship deeply with each other in their own church. People gather for meetings and know each other professionally but rarely encounter each other socially except for programmed social events. In other words, people in traditional churches rarely if ever open their homes to others for breakfast, lunch, dinner or meet someone from the church just to encourage one another and get to know each other. The exception to this rule is when the church has an active cell church / house church ministry where regular KOINONIA takes place. The author has been a member of two different churches since returning to the USA and, while he has invited people to his home – rarely if ever has he or his family been invited to the home of another church member just for KOINONIA. If Christians are “too busy” to meet with each other and get to know each other in a deep Koinonia sense in their own church – how will we ever get to know people from other churches that are of other races/ ethnic heritages?

It should go without saying that ministers and staff must model KOINONIA among their members of all ethnic groups so that others in their congregations will follow.

Another significant concern is that few traditional churches are evangelizing in the neighborhoods where they are based. Many don’t even realize that the demographics have changed right around their church – and in fact – other races / ethnic groups occupy what used to be the “church community”. This pattern is common in many downtown areas in cities around the world.

It is noble that pastors want to have meetings to get to know each other, trade pulpits from time to time, march together, attend conferences that address race relations – but if we as the church do not regularly practice KOINONIA – praying for each other, bearing each other’s burdens, becoming more Christ like, and reaching the lost — we will continue to become more and more irrelevant amongst ourselves and in the communities we ought to be serving.

If real change is to occur within and between churches, then pride and power must be put aside in favor of KOINONIA and Kingdom advance. Developing a Kingdom focus to do God’s will in unity should be THE priority.  The model is one of servant leaders working together to promote, create, and model KOINONIA and Kingdom advance within their congregations regardless of ethnic heritage. The author has been privileged to work for leaders in several different countries with various ethnic backgrounds – and has seen firsthand how God blessed those relationships and God’s mission multiplied!

What can be done (if there is a genuine commitment and will do to so):

  • Sharing meals with each other in our own church
  • Actively inviting others that come to our church to lunch / dinner – especially those from other ethnic groups
  • Purposely look to meet and eat with members of other churches – to get to know them.
  • Purposely have joint celebrations, worship in the park, etc.
  • Purposely look for joint mission projects where we can enjoy each other and enjoy serving Kingdom expansion together.
  • Purposely seek to conduct joint mission mobilization and mission training events.
  • Purposely share leadership in sports evangelism like Upward Basketball, Upward Baseball, etc.
  • Prayer-walk, evangelize, start Bible studies in homes in multi-ethnic pairs when possible.
  • Purposely seek to unite social ministry projects /outreach (meals on wheels, recovery groups, counseling, teen pregnancy, etc)
  • Purposely seek to develop cell church networks together
  • Purposely plan and conduct mission trips together with shared leadership
  • Purposely plan and conduct marriage retreats together – perhaps develop ONE marriage enrichment group.
  • Purposely plan and conduct pastoral / ministry enrichment conferences together
  • Purposely seek to develop a colorless staff – where leaders are selected and serve based on spirituality, leadership competence, trust, and shared Kingdom focus.
  • Purposely seek to send out missionaries not as one church but from the mission team /pastors of the city. The author has seen this in practice overseas. It really does work!

As we start heading in this direction – brothers and sisters of different ethnic groups will leave behind days of having to tip toe around each other. Instead, we will genuinely know and love each other, work together regularly, see each other as disciples making disciples, and watch the Kingdom grow in partnership.

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