Hundreds of small groups in churches throughout the United States are using the new book In Church as It Is in Heaven: Cultivating a Multiethnic Kingdom Culture. In case your church is considering using this book, I wanted to make certain that you’re aware of the free six-week curriculum that we’ve produced in partnership with InterVarsity Press.
The goal of this curriculum is simple: we want to enrich your experience of studying this book at no expense to your church.
You can download the curriculum in PDF by clicking the link below:
If you’re not yet familiar with the book, here is an excerpt from a recent review at The Gospel Coalition:
Changing a congregation’s culture isn’t a quick task. In Church as It Is in Heaven encourages churches to do a few basic things to create a multiethnic culture, trusting God for the results. When rushed, a well-meant pursuit of multiethnicity may result in tokenism. Leaders find a person who “looks right” to help their church pass the multiethnic sniff test. But quick-fix solutions ignore how the consistent pressure of sin breaks in and deforms cultures. Any solution needs to be applied consistently through time. Cultivation begins by breaking the ground. In the case of racial reconciliation, we need to identify the real problems in the past and the present. For the U.S., this includes recognizing the sanctioned oppression of African Americans that lasted late into the 20th century, with effects that continue today. Once a problem is identified, transformation can begin. Transforming a culture requires developing patterns of behavior, which the book calls liturgies. These are habits, such as lament and generous sacrifice, which are embodied in congregations to enable change.
Williams and Jones don’t call for Christians to repent for the sins of their ancestors. They do argue we should lament the way some Christians have historically abused the faith to justify racial sins. We should have a godly sorrow over those abuses and the enduring divisions that remain. The way a congregation responds to sorrow both shapes and reveals a church’s culture. Lament goes beyond responses to racialized events in the latest news cycle. It is “for those who struggle daily through the shadowlands of depression” (37); it’s a fitting response to couples struggling with infertility or to any sort of tragedy in our world. But lament does include sorrow over the ethnic segregation that continues to dominate our churches. In Church as It Is in Heaven encourages us to slow down in the face of sorrow and ask, “How did it come to this?” We should be unwilling to accept easy or dismissive answers. Sorrows run deeper than data. It does no good to tell a childless couple that most people of a certain age can conceive. Similarly, news of racial tensions can’t be silenced with an appeal to statistics that seem to minimize the problem. Sitting with our sadness shapes us into people who feel as we carefully think. As a pastor of a multiethnic church, I’ve seen firsthand how lament softens the heart and primes the soul to cry out to God. Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness. Until we’ve learned to lament evils in this world, we haven’t truly learned to love. Practically, this involves churches encouraging prayer within their worship services to mourn with those who mourn. . . .
This book avoids common traps in the conversation by focusing on the right sources. It rejects approaches that seek to “solve spiritual issues based on un-Christian and even anti-Christian ideas” (21). The authors build their understanding of a multiethnic kingdom culture on Scripture, with help from theologians like Augustine. This approach begins with the gospel and seeks to create a culture that puts God’s love on display. Jones and Williams recognize that “diversity itself should never be our ultimate goal” (20). Instead, “diversity is an implication and a result of gospel-driven love. . . . The goal is faithfulness that embraces the unity God has already accomplished in Christ through the power of the gospel” (21). Diversity within a congregation can be a powerful apologetic for the power of the gospel. Christian love is challenging, even for those who share every demographic with us. However, “multiethnic and multi-socioeconomic churches present the world with unique evidence for the truth of the gospel. . . . There is a glory glimpsed when God’s people gather in all their diversity that’s hidden when we remain apart” (13). As the church seeks to grow into the vision of the diverse multitude before the throne in Revelation 7, books like In Church as it Is In Heaven offer a meaningful way forward. For church members and church leaders looking to expand their congregation’s vision for a diverse body, this book will be an excellent resource.