I love our chapel services at Southeastern. Every semester, we have the opportunity to hear from some of the most gifted expositors in the country, and this past week was no exception.
In fact, it is too good not to share. And, it has a ton of relevance for our conversation on this blog. Mason’s exposition of Revelation 7 is not only right, but it gives us ample application for missions in a diverse, urban, context.
I strongly encourage you to listen. For a sermon, it’s on the shorter side (30 mins), and it is well worth your time. So, grab a sandwich and settle in for some edification from Dr. Mason. Below, I’ve pulled a couple of his points to whet your appetite.
Eric Mason on Revelation 7:9-14
- We are misusing Revelation 7:9-14 nowadays. Eric baldly claims this passage is not about multi-ethnicity in your local church. He says its purpose is not to push multi-ethnicity in local churches at all. Instead, this passage refers to that beautiful moment when all of the global church’s diversity is displayed in miraculous unity. Unfortunately, this passage, which is clearly about the universal church, is used to talk about what one, singular expression of that global church should look like. That’s bad exegesis. Instead, a proper comparison to the church today realizes the passage is talking about the global church. So, if we consider the global church on any given Sunday, it does look quite a bit more like this end times vision where a multitude of cultures and tongues are praising God around the world today. The difference between now and then is that we are currently scattered across the face of the earth, but one day, we will all be together in one place before the King of Glory.
- There will be distinct cultures in heaven. This is an important point that I think we look over. There are still languages in heaven and John can, just by looking at people, tell them apart as different nations and tribes. So, cultural distinctions are not bad in life or worship. Mason says this, “In eternity, all ethnicities will be distinct yet unified because of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Multi-ethnic strategies should never be about proving a church is not racist. Mason is strong on this point. He forcefully says, “You don’t have to repent of your racism by forcing your church to be multi-ethnic.” This is, of course, a touchy subject for many churches, but I think it does well for us to hear Mason’s warning. Of course, racism is pure evil, and to the extent that it exists in a local fellowship it must be eradicated. However, what would it look like for us to develop relationships with congregations of another culture? I don’t mean formal relationships, I mean real ones, deep ones, where we demonstrate before our communities that we love one another. We worship in different cultural ways, but we profess the same gospel. We help each other accomplish the mission. Dr. Mason may be onto something here.
- This has huge missiological implications. First, Mason points out it is okay (and even necessary) for some churches to be happily mono-ethnic. It is also ok (and perhaps necessary) for some churches to be multi-ethnic. However, a paradigm that attempts only one is insufficient. Mason claims it is missiologically impossible for every church to be multi-ethnic. I would add that it is also missiologically ineffective. Much of this should cause a reevaluation of success metrics. The goal is not to see how many different people groups you can get in your local church. The goal is to see how many gospel witnesses you can get into each culture. That is a big paradigm shift.
- Be good at reaching your culture. Mason states, “Maximize the missions sphere that God has given us without apologizing for it.” We should be unapologetic at our local, cultural expression of the gospel, and we should try earnestly to reach those in our social and cultural circles.
- And find ways to reach others. But that does not mean that our mission is not global. In today’s urban environment, there are peoples and cultures from all over the world. The historic black and white distinction in the US no longer describes our real situation. But, that doesn’t mean the best way to reach different people is always finding a way to talk them into coming to your church. Perhaps we should be planting more churches with very different cultures that meet the diversity in our cities head on and place an inculturated gospel witness in each.
Now, go back up there and click on that sermon!