Editor's Note: Pastor Derwin L. Gray of Transformation Church, "a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina," recently tweeted: People are mad at #DonaldSterling, yet the Church is America's most segregated institution. Gray's response to the recent controversy over racist remarks by Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner, also included a link to his article that can be read below.
What was the first major church dispute?
Was it over Calvinism, Arminianism, or Molinism?
Was it over speaking in tongues, prophecy, or healing?
Maybe it was over worship music styles? Those Jews just couldn't stand those Greek worship leaders wearing tight, skinny leg jeans.
A Third Race of Humans is Born Out of the True Human: Jesus
The first major church dispute was over how fast multi-ethnic churches were growing outside of Jerusalem. These (ethnically) racially diverse congregations were blowing up the mental and cultural circuits of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
These 1st Century, multi-ethnic churches (Jew and Gentile) were filled with uncircumcised Gentiles (Africans, Arabs, Greeks, Syrians, Asians, Romans, Persians, and more). See Colossians 3:11, Ephesians 2:14-16, Galatians 3:24 and the rest of the Bible.
Sure, the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 was about circumcision and food, but it was also about race (ethnicity). The Gospel of grace is so glorious; a new humanity is birthed and humanity is reconciled to God and to each other (2 Cor. 5:14-21).
Before Jesus, there were two ethnic groups on earth: Jew and Gentile. After Jesus' resurrection, a new ethnic group made up of Jews and Gentiles was birthed. This new ethnic group is called the Church; the one "new man." Ethno-centrism gives away to Christo-centrism.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV
Theologian Christopher J.H. Wright in his marvelous book, The Mission of God, page 191, insightfully writes:
"If only all the theological disputes in Christian history had been caused by successful mission and rapid church growth. Undoubtedly the first dispute was. The first major council of the church (Acts 15) was convened to consider a knot of problems caused by the success of crosscultural church planting efforts. These had been initiated by the church of Antioch and carried out among the predominately Gentile and ethnically diverse peoples of the Roman provinces that made up what we now call Turkey. Paul and Barnabas, who had been entrusted with this initiative, were not the first to cross the barrier from Jew to Gentile with the good news of Jesus Christ. Philip (Act 8) and Peter (Acts 10) had already done that. They were, however, the first to establish whole communities of believers from mixed Jewish and Gentile backgrounds―that is, to plant multiethnic churches."
Be Like Paul
As a church planter of a multi-ethnic, local church, it is so beautiful to see ethnically diverse people loving Jesus and each other as one voice glorifying God.
Are you concerned with multi-ethnic church planting? You should be. The Apostle was. And it's God's heart.
Marinate on that,
Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead Pastor of Transformation Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to his role at Transformation Church, Pastor Derwin speaks at conferences nationwide and is recognized by many as the "Evangelism Linebacker." He is the author of Hero: "Unleashing God's Power in a Man's Heart," and "Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future." On the Web: DerwinLGray.com