One of the great blessings of leading Oklahoma Baptists is the privilege to see the great diversity among us. While Oklahoma Baptists are predominately Anglo in our makeup, be assured that with each passing year, the color palate becomes even more diverse. I would suggest that today our convention looks more like Heaven than ever.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the joy of worshipping with and seeing firsthand some of the amazing people who make Oklahoma Baptists such a great people. On one Sunday, I preached and worshipped in a church where Hispanics, Zomi, Chinese and a multi-ethnic congregation came together. What a beautiful moment when we shared the Lord’s Supper together! It was a wonderful foretaste of the day when we shall eat the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Heaven—one people from every tribe and nation.
On another Sunday, I preached to a congregation that was red, yellow, black and white. This church family has learned to set aside racial differences to focus on their common bloodline in Jesus. The praise team was a kaleidoscope of color, but our voices were raised in one accord to our Savior and Lord. I have to believe the God of Heaven looked over the portals of glory with a smile.
The next Sunday, I worshipped with one of our Native American congregations. I listened to testimony of the sacrifice of the people in providing Christmas gifts to Native American children on a reservation in the Dakotas; then we sang a hymn in a tribal language. After the service, we did as most of our Native congregations regularly do and enjoyed a Sunday meal together. I admit, it is tough duty to eat the Indian fry bread!
This Sunday, I will be privileged to preach in one of our African-American churches. We continue to plant new African-American churches, and with each church planted, Oklahoma Baptists become more reflective of God’s great design for His family.
I am pleased that over the years our cooperative work has become more diverse as well. This year, we elected one of our fine African American pastors as president of the BGCO Pastors’ Conference. We have had elected leaders from multiple ethnicities serve the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. We have had, and presently have, Native American, Asian, African American and Hispanic members on our boards. The same is true of BGCO employees. All this diversity has taken place, not because the government demands it, but because we have grown in our commitment to picture on earth the way things are in Heaven.
But we must take greater steps to diversify our congregations. More and more I see the hue of color growing in individual churches. As our communities diversify, so must our churches. Every person, no matter what the color of their skin, should be welcomed and loved as a cherished part of the family of God as expressed in the local church.
It is a fact that the most segregated hour of the week is 11 a.m. on Sunday. Among Oklahoma Baptists, that fact is changing, and it should! While there may be linguistic reasons to worship in separate congregations, there must never be a doubt that all people, white or of color, are welcome to worship in our churches.
The church does not need to be color blind, rather we should be color embracing. God made us with black, brown, yellow, red and white skin. I would suggest that, as members of the family of God, we should embrace and applaud the beauty of the variety and vitality that comes when people of different races find unity and harmony together in the body of Christ.
I rejoice in the growing diversity among Oklahoma Baptists, and look forward to the day when diversity is not the exception, but the rule.