The Journey from Babel to Antioch:
Growing in God's Vision for a Multicultural Church
by Valerie Nagel Vogt
I recently heard a sermon on Acts 11 that left me wondering what it means, and what it looks like, to be a multicultural church. The pastor expounded on the significance of the church in Antioch, as described in Acts 11. Not only were Jews coming to faith in Jesus Christ, but Greeks were, too. All were invited to become followers of Jesus. In fact, it was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). Like Jesus, they offered radical hospitality and reconciliation. God’s desire had always been to unite all people and all creation in worshiping God, and in the early church, it was beginning to happen.
I was excited about the sermon and its focus on the reconciliation that, according to scripture and Reformed theology, God makes possible through Christ. Yet, as I looked around at the congregation that Sunday morning (a mostly white, suburban community in the Southeast), I felt puzzled. When the pastor rhetorically asked if they wanted to be an “Antioch” church, many heads nodded “yes.” Of course this congregation wanted to look like the church at Antioch! Who wouldn’t?! It was exciting, dynamic and filled with the Spirit!
Yet I wondered how, not only this church but our many other racially segregated churches, could become like the Antioch church. How did we become so divided by race, music preferences, economics and age in the first place? How do we live into the reconciliation that God has made possible through faith in Jesus Christ? What do we do with the pain we feel because of our divisions, and why is it sometimes so hard to be reconciled with our neighbors?
Find the answers to these questions by reading the full text of this article in the January/February 2009 issue of Horizons.
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Valerie Nagel Vogt attended Duke Divinity School and is searching for her first ordained call in the PC(USA).
Illustration of The Coming of the Holy Spirit, Soichi Watanabe, Japan.
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