Glimpses of heaven are meant to give us hope, and a vision of what it might begin to look like for the Lord’s prayer to be answered “may your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
One of those glimpses that has captured my imagination is found in Revelation 7:9 – “…a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” What a powerful picture of a multiethnic worship community enthroning Jesus Christ…may it be increasingly found on earth as well! And in a growing number of communities heaven is coming to earth.
This past weekend I spoke at the Spiritual Life Conference at Stoney Creek Community Church, located just north of Detroit. It’s one of a growing group of congregations intentionally seeking to reach and join together the nationalities who surround them. For Pastor Mick Veach it begins with reaching the nations in their neighborhood, then being present in the very center of Detroit, and going to the ends of the earth. Providentially Mick, who served as a missionary in the Turkic-Arabic region, now is located adjacent to the largest Arab community in the U.S.
I recently heard it said that John Wesley proclaimed “the world IS my parish” and many churches across North America can now say “the world IN my parish.” I know that became true in the community where I served as a pastor for 30 years…in that time our school systems went from 98% Anglo to having over 70 nationalities on the birth certificates of children enrolled. It was both a challenge and a joy to pursue a church family whose ethnicity reflected our community, and to know it was also reflecting heaven. That journey continues at Kentwood Community Church today under the leadership of Pastor Kyle Ray, who has embarked on the additional adventure of being an African American Lead Pastor in a congregation that is still majority Anglo.
The good news is the proliferation of resources in the past decade that help churches to navigate movement toward this heavenly vision. Pastors like Mark DeYmaz are developing networks (MOSAIX Global Network) and resources (Building A Healthy Multiethnic Church)to equip leaders and churches. Certainly the prevailing patterns of racism found in this sinful world make this heavenly pursuit more complex and frustrating, and yet it remains profoundly fulfilling.
Does your church reflect your community, and more importantly, heaven?