Our church will go through a renewal in 2017 in which we explore our congregational identity especially as it relates to race and ethnicity. We are guided by the vision of Revelation 7:9-10.
“I looked [into Heaven], and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
God is calling HillSong to be a Revelation 7 Church. Evangelical Christianity has, in recent years seen the rise churches based on Biblical projections. There are “3rd day churches,” “8th Day Communities,” and “Acts 29 Churches.” These movements come from understanding scripture and understanding the church today as the continuation of the resurrection community that began in the days between Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). God is calling HillSong to a new metaphor and a new understanding of church, one especially needed in 21st century America.
Ethnic tensions abound as extremists in other countries have struck fear and suspicion in the hearts of many Americans. We find ourselves suspicious of Muslims and of Arabs (not all of whom are Muslim) and of people from the Middle East (some of whom are neither Muslim nor Arab). Instead of loving our neighbors, we mistrust and prejudge. The same happens with Mexican in the United States as there is talk of building a wall and the presumption that certain people must be in this country illegally. Of course most people of Mexican descent were actually born in the United States or are here as citizens, the same way people of British descent (like me) are American citizens. But that doesn’t temper the immigration hysteria that grips us. Tension is also building between Americans who are black and white. For some, the black-white divide has never been wider.
Followers of Jesus are called to love all – Arab, white, black, Asian, Mexican, Muslim, Jew, atheist. Our Lord expects us to sacrifice our own convenience for the sake of loving our neighbors – all of them. But too many American Christians are just as xenophic and racist as Americans who are not Christian.
In this climate rife with fear, we are called to be God’s church, proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, and generous givers of God’s love. How do we do that? The New Baptist Covenant is one movement that gives some help. Beth Roberts shared at the HillSong Elders August meeting that in our country, there are over 60 different Baptist groups:Cooperative Baptists (like HillSong Church), Amercan Baptists, Progressive Baptists, Old Regular Baptists, Independent Baptists, Southern Baptists, and Free Will Baptists just to name a few.
In 2008, President Jimmy Carter gathered Baptists from nearly all these traditions to try to begin bringing people together by bringing Baptists together. One of the main areas of focus for the New Baptist Covenant (NBC) was racial reconciliation. This continues to be a focus. At the summit in Atlanta, Georgia, September 14-16, Baptists from different traditions will gather to learn how we can join forces in the name of Christ to bring peace and harmony to America as we proclaim the Gospel.
Please be in prayer for this event. And please prayerfully consider joining the HillSong contingent that is going. Heather Folliard, Beth Roberts, and I are attending and we hope many others from HillSong Church and Baptists of all shades from the Chapel Hill area will join us. Ask God if He’s leading you to go. If you cannot go, prayerfully consider contributing to the cost of the trip. Registration is $125 ($65 for ministers under 35 years old). Hotel fees are $139 per night (a total of $278). Plus there will be travel and meal costs.
I believe this event will propel our church toward a deeper understanding of our goal of becoming a worshipping family that reflects the vision John sees in Revelation 7 - a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Our participation in this even is one step toward us becoming a Revelation 7 Church.