by: Linnea E Carnes
INCLUSIVE PREACHING IN A DIVISIVE WORLD emerges from my experiences as a pastor in Chicago. Every Sunday I would truly see the Kingdom of God in living color. Within four years the church I was serving was transformed from twenty percent first-generation immigrants to sixty percent. As many as fifteen nationalities were present on any Sunday. Culture and language issues forced me to look at ministry and preaching in new ways. There were also people with a variety of special needs and from various educational backgrounds. The words and illustrations a preacher uses in such a diverse gathering must be easily understood and inclusive to all people. The life and ministry of Jesus demonstrated how he empowered those who were powerless in society. Jesus tells his followers how to treat the "least of these." Yet, unless we are willing to engage them and hear their stories, we cannot get to know people. Listening to people from other parts of the world gives us a far better understanding of the awesome grace and love of God.
Underlying all of the areas of diversity in the church is God's command that we become one body, one people who are committed to unity. Perhaps we forget that Revelation 7:9 tells us that the Kingdom of God is comprised of every nation, tribe, people and language. Every pastor and church should see the people who walk in their doors, regardless of their color or dress, as a brother and sister in God's family and welcome them. To genuinely welcome people who look different, speak a different language or come from a different church tradition requires that a pastor learn new skills. My hope is that others will read of my experiences and be better prepared to preach in a multiethnic context.