Tag: Diversity

Being a Kingdom Ambassador

Recently, someone shared with me how they used to get angry when hearing about negative social incidents involving their race. However, this person said he now feels more compassion and understanding toward other racial groups after attending Come Together, our racial unity event we hosted.

In April, the church journeyed through a series called “The Culture of Heaven: A Biblical Perspective on Diversity.”

THE SERMON SERIES ENCOURAGED BELIEVERS TO MODEL HOW PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT RACIAL, CULTURAL OR ETHNIC GROUPS CAN LOVE AND SERVE EACH OTHER.

The four-week series concluded with four additional weeks of people meeting in Come Together dialogue groups to talk in a deeper way about the messages.

Feedback from the groups included people making new cross cultural relationships, cultural lessons being learned and even some conflict ensued about issues which can contribute to forging meaningful relationships. One of the ten groups spontaneously decided to continue meeting and inviting others to be a part of their community. Another group decided to occasionally visit churches of other minority racial groups. Almost all the groups communicated a desire to do more to increase racial and ethic unity in some way.

Second Corinthians 5:17 says we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

THIS MEANS WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO SERVE AS AMBASSADORS BETWEEN GOD AND MAN.

This also means we are called as ambassadors between people groups. We can represent God to the world when people see believers love, respect and honor each other; especially those who are different from us in ways such as race or ethnicity.

Because I have developed racially diverse relationships throughout my adult life, I have had experiences of people around me saying God has convicted them of a prejudiced or racist attitude toward some other person or group of people. In all these cases I never spoke about diversity, but it seemed that my presence among people outside my own race had a meaningful impact on those around me. If we can be present among people who don’t look like us it creates an opportunity for God to do a work of unifying people.

LET’S KEEP COMING TOGETHER.


IN RESPONSE

As we continue to move forward, I encourage you to find places where you can be a Kingdom Ambassador. Whether it means inviting your neighbors over for dinner or engaging with someone different than you at work, we have the ability to bring Kingdom culture into every sphere we’re in.

By Vincent Carpenter – Adult Pastor

How to Pray for Our City

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14

I’m convinced Waco is a city set on a hill. The Lord has spoken words of life over Waco time and time again, and we have the opportunity to partner with Him to see the glory of God magnified in this place.

In the early 1900s Waco was known as a place of hope and healing. People would travel from all over to visit the artesian springs that supposedly had healing powers. The springs are long gone, but healing, restoration and hope is still something that marks our city.

WEEK AFTER WEEK PEOPLE POUR INTO WACO WITH HOPE AND EXPECTANCY.

Waco doesn’t only hold an expectation for physical healing it has also poised itself to be a place for people to find restoration and life in Jesus. Years ago revival was evident at Baylor University. At a conference, students were stirred by the presence of God and found themselves with a desire to be completely sold out to God. This desire is still alive in people all over our city. Last week we hosted Nights of Revival, and the Auditorium was packed night after night as people encountered the presence of God and hungered for more.

Driving around Waco, it is evident our city is filled with different cultures. Our city is painted with diversity, and it’s not only beautiful, but needed. As we’re unified throughout our city, God is glorified. Two years ago churches across the city came together to host The Gathering, a city-wide worship celebration. The culture of Heaven was on display at McLane Stadium as people were unified to worship Jesus.

Waco is a place marked by God, and through prayer, we have the opportunity to believe for His Kingdom to come in our city.

HOW TO PRAY FOR WACO

  • Hope and Healing // Whether someone is in need of physical or emotional healing, pray for God to miraculously heal those needing a touch from Him. Pray for hope to be ignited throughout Waco, and for the hopeless to find fresh life.
  • Revival // Pray for a move of God to spread across Waco, and for people to deeply encounter the presence of God. Pray for those in our city that don’t know Jesus to meet Him in a real way.
  • Unity // Pray for the culture of Heaven to be a reality in Waco as we learn to celebrate the diversity of our city. Pray for the churches in our city to lead out in being unified.
  • The Gathering // This Sunday, April 9th, our city will come together to host The Gathering at McLane Stadium once again. Pray for the leaders and speakers to be covered, and for people to fill the stadium and find hope and life in Jesus.

Join us at The Gathering, this Sunday, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at McLane Stadium. It will be a powerful time as we worship and hear from Pastor Miles McPherson, Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew and musical artist Anthony Evans. Doors open at 4:15 p.m. and the event is free, but we encourage you to bring canned goods to donate to Caritas and Shepherd’s Heart food pantries. Learn more, including information on where to park at thegatheringwaco.com.

By Destiny Gonzalez – Communications Coordinator

The Culture of Heaven: A Biblical Perspective on Diversity // Part 4

Today Vincent Carpenter wrapped up our Culture of Heaven series with a message on unity. Throughout the Bible we saw Jesus respond to crisis with unity. Each one of us carries the culture of Heaven within us, and we have been sanctified by God to be in the middle of crisis and bring unity. Check out some of our takeaways from today’s message:

  • “If we will be present with one another, God can use us.”
  • “The culture of Heaven starts with the person of Jesus.”
  • “When Jesus and His mission are clear in our hearts, everything else can fall into place.”
  • “Jesus simply responds to crisis with unity.”
  • “We create unity in our culture when we give everything we have.”
  • “When we give our life, we find life.”
  • “We have been set apart for a divine purpose.”
  • “God wants His people to be right in the middle of crisis.”
  • “When we pray, Heaven touches earth.”
  • “When we are unified, God is glorified.”
  • “The culture of Heaven is not an idea or a sermon series, it’s a present reality.”
  • “We carry the culture of Heaven.”
  • “God has called us all to be bridge builders.”

IN RESPONSE

  • As we continue to move forward, we encourage you to find ways to create unity in your sphere of influence. Whether it’s befriending your neighbor or talking to a new co-worker for the first time, we believe that when we step out and create unity, the culture of Heaven comes to earth.
  • You are invited to join us for Come Together. Come Together is an opportunity for members of Antioch and the Waco community to meet in small groups and share our hearts on the topic of racial unity in our community. You will be placed in a racially diverse group of about 6-10 people that will meet in a home in Waco on April 10th, 17th and 24th. On Monday, May 1st all the small groups will gather in the Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate the progress that has been achieved through these groups. Learn more and sign up to join a group here.
  • God is moving in our Spanish ministry and we encourage you to be a part! The Spanish service meets at 5 p.m. on Sunday evenings. All of the sermons are translated in to English. Learn more about our Spanish Ministry here.

Resources on Diversity

This Sunday we are wrapping up our Culture of Heaven series. These past few weeks we have taken a look at diversity with a biblical perspective, and and we’ve built a foundation of ways to bring the full Kingdom of God to earth. We encourage you to continue addressing what it looks like to celebrate diversity in our community with a Kingdom mindset.

CHECK OUT SOME RESOURCES ON DIVERSITY AND THE CHURCH:

 Divided by Faith: Evangelical Faith and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith

Divided by Faith takes a look at the issue of racism in America and how the Church can make a difference. Through extended research, including 2,000 phone calls and hundreds of face-to-face interviews, Emerson and Smith provide an in-depth analysis of how racism is still affecting our society, but there is hope in the way we, as the Church, respond.


United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race by Michael Emerson and Curtiss Paul Deyoung

In this book, DeYoung and Emerson discuss the idea that the Church holds the key to unlocking the issue of racism in our nation. Diversity is beautiful and we need it in our congregation. The Church has an opportunity to bring healing and racial reconciliation to our nation by embracing diversity.


People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States by Michael Emerson and Rodney Woo

In People of the Dream, Emerson and Woo study how multiracial congregations can be a reality across America. They discuss how diversity in the Church not only builds bridges, but also facilitate cross-cultural relationships that wouldn’t naturally come together. Diversity in the local church has the power to restore and bring hope to a community.


One Body One Spirit by George Yancey

In this book, Yancey provides practicals for people committed to bringing cultural, ethnic and racial reconciliation into their congregation. As the Church, we want to be equipped to minister to every tribe and tongue, and Yancey goes into how we can do that.

Culture of Heaven: A Biblical Perspective on Diversity // Part 3

Today Susan Peters continued our series with a message on honoring the women in our lives. There is value and significance in the roles of both men and women, and we, as the people of God, are called to honor and empower all people. Check out some of our takeaways from today’s message:

  • We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in His light and carry the hope, healing and peace of Jesus in the midst of a broken and hurting world.
  • Our world needs to see the living God in the midst of these painful issues.
  • When men value and honor women with no agenda, they bring the culture of Heaven to our broken world.
  • God made male and female in His image. Gender is a part of God’s design, and He says, “It’s very good.”
  • The Gospel points us toward honor, restoration and dignity of all people.
  • Instead of complaining we need to resolve to serve.
  • My goal is not to fight for my place, but rather surrender my life and serve others.
  • We will never walk in the fullness of our spiritual gifts if our goal is self.
  • It’s amazing how free we can be when our eyes are not on ourselves. This is the Kingdom way.
  • The law of God’s love restores honor.
  • Women are diverse; there is not one “right” model for women.
  • We can honor the differences we each have through Jesus because He has made each of us unique by His glory.

IN RESPONSE:

One way we can bring the culture of Heaven this week is by honoring the women in our lives. Think of one woman you can honor, empower and make a way for, it could be someone in your workplace, in your home or in one of your classes.

The Culture of Heaven A Biblical Perspective On Diversity // Part 2

Today Vincent Carpenter continued our Culture of Heaven series with a message on engaging and empowering those around us. Many times, it can feel like the issue of racism is so big that we can’t really do anything. As the people of God, we have the opportunity to embrace diversity and engage and empower people, regardless of their race. Check out some practicals and takeaways from today’s message:

  • We all have to come to the realization that we are made in the image of God.
  • When we’re secure in our identity, we can live sacrificially and the Kingdom of God moves forward.
  • When the mission is clear, the culture of Heaven easily becomes a reality.
  • Racism does not always express itself through individual relationships. Often, racism expresses itself through our systems and cultural structures.
  • We need to challenge the systemic issue that keeps us apart so the mission can be accomplished.
  • God wants to give us a revelation that peoples’ differences should not diminish their value
  • The revelation we need from God is that the right way is not always the White, Black or Hispanic way.
  • We get to play a part in seeing the Kingdom of God advance, and that gives us our worth.
  • You engage with someone when you go beyond what is expected of you
  • If everyone in your world is just like you, you are actually the person in need. We need diversity.
  • If one person dominates, there cannot be authentic relationship.
  • We have opportunities to engage and empower those around us.

IN RESPONSE:

Today, Vincent gave us two practical ways that we can respond to the issue of racism.

  • 1. Engage Diversity // Think of a couple of people that you can deeper engage with in your sphere of influence.
  • 2. Empower Diverse People // As people of God, we have authority to speak in to peoples’ lives and call them up to something greater.

Responding to the Cultural Crisis

My wife Tonja loves to sing and has been involved in choirs her entire life. When she enrolled at Baylor University in 1987 she wanted to continue worshiping God through music, so she auditioned for the Baylor Religious Hour Choir (BRH). The BRH ministers in a formal style of singing. Tonja, like most African-American singers, minister in song through a more informal, intuitive style. Due to these differences, Tonja was not invited to join BRH.

While some might feel rejected or offended, Tonja simply decided to re-audition for the choir the following year. In the meantime, she decided to start a Gospel choir which would give her the opportunity to sing until the following year. Tonja went to the director of the university’s student ministry department with the idea of starting the choir and found out that the director had been praying for an African-American student with a desire for ministry because the university had no outreach among black students at the time. The meeting between Tonja and the student ministry director birthed the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir. The choir was embraced by African-American students, grew quickly and started ministering on the Baylor campus and throughout Waco. At one time, more than 100 students joined the choir. The group has recorded a couple of CDs over the years, and is now multi-racial and sings contemporary Christian as well as traditional Gospel music.

A SITUATION THAT COULD HAVE CREATED RACIAL STRIFE ACTUALLY BECAME A GOD-HONORING AND BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL EXPRESSION.

Today there are many opportunities for strife between various group of people in our community and nation. The violence between minorities and police has heightened hostility between blacks and law enforcement. The presidential election has led to feelings of fear and anger in some people and insensitive behavior in others. While these crises are threatening new levels of division in our nation, there is also a great opportunity for God to move and create a beautiful expression of unity. Racial and political groups rejecting each other will lead to more violence, fear and division, while a right response can lead to unity.

THE FIRST AND BEST RESPONSE TO ANY CRISIS IS TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD.

James 4 says if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When people are in pain, feeling discouraged or facing other challenges; God talk might sound trite or even dismissive of the problem but our God is not a theoretical concept nor is He symbolically powerful.

OUR GOD’S PRESENCE AND POWER IS REALITY.

Therefore, we must go to Him in any situation we are concerned about. During times of crisis, a powerful way of looking to God is to simply write on a piece of paper or say out loud the phrase, “God what are you saying or doing in my life through this?” After your statement, just wait in silence for a minute and allow God to bring His thoughts or a Scripture to mind.

THE NEXT RESPONSE TO CRISES IS TO DRAW NEAR TO COMMUNITY.

When we are hurt we often pull away from the people closest to us. God is often present in our lives through people, so if we pull away from people we pull away from His method of being present in our lives. Sometimes the person we are closest to is the one who hurts us most. These situations are difficult and there is no way around the fact that people we love or trust can and do deeply wound us sometimes. However, we don’t get healed by getting disillusioned with those who disappoint us but we get healing from hoping and trusting in a God who is bigger than any person, political party or race.  During a time of crises, simply go to those you are closet to and share your anger, hurt or fear and ask those people to dialogue and pray with you.

ANOTHER RESPONSE TO CRISIS THAT MAY NOT NATURALLY COME TO MIND IS DRAW NEAR TO THOSE WE HAVE DIFFERENCES WITH.

Jesus said to love our enemies. He said anybody can love someone who is like them, but a Christian can love those who are not like them. When the world sees people who are different reaching out and loving one another I believe God will be exalted like never before and people will come to Christ like never before. Therefore, we have a great opportunity in these days of cultural controversy to expand the Kingdom of God in an incredible way. When you have crises that are related to a person who does something that is the opposite of what you are doing then go to that person with the heart to understand them and what they did.  A productive statement could be, “I’m not clear on what happened. Can you help me understand?”

For eight years, my family rented a house in the South Waco area near Robinson. Some years ago the person we rented the house from passed away. A family member of theirs told them that at one time they distrusted African -Americans, but since we lived in their rent home those eight years they had developed a different attitude toward blacks.

In a season where people in our culture are experiencing pain, anger and fear of people who are different from them, the people of God can transform that pain through a sincere effort to draw near those different from themselves.

By Vincent Carpenter – Adult Pastor

The Culture of Heaven: A Biblical Perspective on Diversity // Part 1

Today we kicked off our new series, The Culture of Heaven: A Biblical Perspective on Diversity. Jimmy Seibert and Vincent Carpenter shared on the beauty of God displayed through diversity. We, as the Church, should be the model for what diversity looks like in our society. When we come together, we see the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth. Check out some of our takeaways from today’s message:

  • If you only live in one segment of society, then that’s all you know and you begin to build prejudices off the commentary of others. – Jimmy
  • When you build relationships, and get to know people, your whole world view changes. – Jimmy
  • There is no one that is not a direct expression of the image of the living God, that makes everybody beautiful and of value. – Jimmy
  • We have to deal with sin in order to bring redemption or reconciliation in any area of life. – Jimmy
  • The mission of Jesus is to heal our hearts, restore our lives and bring us back together. – Jimmy
  • The mosaic of God is the glory of God on the earth. – Jimmy
  • It is God’s plan to use the Church to change society. – Vincent
  • We, as the Church, are supposed to be the model of what diversity looks like. – Vincent
  • Jesus gave His life, and therefore all of humanity is risen to new life. – Vincent
  • In the Kingdom, there is always an abundance. – Vincent
  • The culture of Heaven becomes reality when someone chooses to make a sacrifice. – Vincent
  • If we sacrifice, all of us move forward. – Vincent

IN RESPONSE:

This week consider what sacrifices you can make to make the culture of Heaven a reality. It might be reaching out to someone at work or exposing yourself to a different culture in our community, whatever it is, we’ll see the Kingdom come in each of our sacrifices.