Ethnic diversity and ethnic unity in Christ to the praise of God is one feature of the age to come when all sin and sadness fly away. Not only that, this feature of the future kingdom of Christ will be one of the things we sing about:
They sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you [O Christ] were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
It is our joy and burden to work toward this vision of diversity and unity now in the body of Christ. I doubt that we will ever arrive in this age at a level of interwoven ethnic multiplicity that will satisfy my heart or adequately reflect the glory of the age to come. That is part of the sadness of slow sanctification—personally and corporately. But a long time ago, I settled it for myself: I will keep working toward it till I die. I am deeply thankful to be surrounded by comrades on the staff and council of elders who share this joyful burden.
Let me tell you of one small step the elders recently took to help us move forward in this dream. This decision is part of the larger, ongoing effort of the council to lead our church into growing ethnic diversity and joyful, Christ-exalting unity rooted in a deep doctrinal commitment expressed in the Elder Affirmation of Faith. On October 17, the council of elders voted to approve one of its members, Melvin Brown, as “Part-Time Pastor for Church and Neighborhood Relations.” This is a one-year, quarter-time, elder appointment beginning November 1, 2006, through November 1, 2007, renewable by elder action. Melvin has moved recently into a partial retirement situation from decades with the IRS and therefore is in a position to serve us on a very modest stipend.
As the job description states, we will look to Melvin
- To promote good relationships between Bethlehem Baptist and African-American pastors, churches community leaders in the Twin Cities and across the United States.
- To spread the doctrines expressed in the Bethlehem Elder Affirmation of Faith through teaching, preaching, mentoring, networking, conversation and promotion of The Bethlehem Institute (TBI) teaching opportunities and Desiring God conferences.
- Work in coordination and glad cooperation with other pastoral staff and be available for general pastoral duties as assigned.
- Work in conjunction with the pastoral staff to expand our pastoral search recruitment, TBI recruitment, and Treasuring Christ Together (TCT) church planter recruitment among African-American networks.
- To consult with the pastors and elders on moving Bethlehem forward in racial harmony.
- Attend staff meetings as requested.
Melvin’s role is much like a church and community ambassador for Bethlehem. So his activities will include personal visits, church visits, and networking pastors and churches with Bethlehem. We pray that the position will bring about new avenues for relationships with black pastors and churches in the Twin Cities and across the United States as well as assistance in neighborhood relations for the Pastors for Neighborhood Outreach (one for the North Campus and one for the South Campus, who are both being sought right now). We believe that this simple addition of another African-American to our pastoral staff will help us in more ways than we can foresee in the advancement of racial harmony at Bethlehem.
We hope that you will pray for Melvin and connect with him as you have dreams and ideas about ethnic relations in our church and in the Twin Cities and beyond. I count Melvin a precious friend and significant partner in ministry. It will be my joy to work with Melvin as I grow with you toward all the fullness of Christ.