Closer than we are
By Nick Sigur
I have been in a lot of Acadiana churches recently. I have been warmly welcomed, heard some good preaching and participated in uplifting worship. However, in no case did the assembled look like heaven. The gathered were far too monochrome, mostly white or mostly black.
Reason we gather
My wife and I particularly enjoyed one of the black assemblies. On the way out, my wife remarked, “Sometimes I think I was meant to be black.” I smiled in agreement. I’ve thought a lot about that. It was funny and had a bit of truth to it. The traditionally black preaching and worship seemed very right to us. However, the real truth is that skin color or cultural traditions aren’t supposed to make a difference.
I don’t think we are going to have gatherings that look like heaven until we dramatically change the reasons we gather. We are called to follow Jesus—to become fishers of men. We concentrate far too heavily on the other fishermen. What are they wearing? Do they look like us? We care more about the boats in which we gather than about the fish we’re called to harvest. For Jesus, it’s all about the fish.
I have only participated in one gathered group that looks like heaven to me. I have worked in Kairos Prison Ministry at Angola for decades. At first, the team was mostly white and main line denominational. We saw God move greatly among the residents of Angola who are predominately black, but we felt we could be even more effective if we could get more black team members.
It took years of hard work to get non-main line, principally black churches interested in the ministry. It has been very worth the effort. Our gathered teams look very much like heaven and Jesus has miraculously blessed the ministry, helping change Angola from the bloodiest prison in America to one of the biggest, gated Christian communities on earth. I have gained beloved brothers and sisters of varied color and church tradition.
Focus on fish
It’s all about focusing on the fish and not the fishermen. We gather as churches in comfortable groups. We go to be fed. We want good motivating, familiar-feeling sermons, comfortable fellowship, and uplifting worship in forms we know and with which we are comfortable. It’s all about comfort.
We need to gather with a focus on the communities we wish to serve and the fish we want to harvest. By that I don’t mean the traditionally white Southside of town or the traditionally black Upper Lafayette. We need to have a broader community focus. If we want churches that look like heaven will, we need to focus on a world that’s just as diverse.
The key in Kairos is that a diverse group meets with a common passion—prisoners. Jesus gave us hints as to other potential focuses of our passion: widows, orphans, the hungry. If we can get excited about groups who really need Jesus, we will gather others who feel the same, not noticing they come from different backgrounds and have skin of a different hue.
Leave comfort behind
I think back on the black church where my wife and I were so comfortable. We weren’t the only visitors that day. There were dozens of high schoolers, and almost all of them came forward to accept Jesus. There was a lot of fishing going on and the nets were full. That’s why it felt like heaven. We have said we would go back, but we haven’t. The desire for comfort is strong.
The call to be fishers of men needs to be taken much more seriously. We can’t have heaven on earth, but we can get a lot closer than we are. We need to leave comfort behind and move into real ministry. We need to focus on fish and get passionate about it, gather with others of similar passion, regardless of skin color. Passion, not color, should draw us together and move us forward.