History was made in Taylor County, Georgia during the high school prom of 2002. For the first time in thirty years the prom would be racially integrated. For over three decades this South Georgia town had held two proms, one white and one black. The school was approximately half white and half black, and the kids were conditioned to simply go along with the way things had always been. That was until a seventeen-year-old African American girl by name of Gerica McClary stepped up along with others in her class to campaign for one prom. We are not talking the South of the 1960’s. This was 2002. For the first time, blacks and whites and all ethnic groups could step onto the dance floor together.
This is my vision for the church. I imagine a day when all God’s people will join together as one body, one church, and one people to proclaim the name of Christ together. I imagine a day when the color of our skin or the culture we identify with no longer serves as a dividing wall for the church. Instead those differences are celebrated as what makes us each unique and united in our proclamation of Jesus as Lord.
What the church needs is more prophets like Gerica McClary. We need those who are not afraid to call it what it is – the church is one school attending two proms. Why is it that families who live in the same neighborhood get up on Sunday morning, dress themselves and their children, pile in a car, and drive to their white Churches, black Churches, and Latino Churches? Is there are any prophets out there among us willing to call us all to God’s dance floor? Is there are any dancers available to show us what the dance of God’s amazing grace looks like? When the Jewish Peter stands before the Gentile Cornelius to share the Gospel, he begins, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). He proclaims this because God had shown him in a dream that he is not to call “anyone profane or unclean” (10:28). So, where are the dreamers among us? Where are those who are not afraid to preach reconciliation?
The apostle Paul declares to the racially diverse congregation in Corinth, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (I Cor. 12:13). I have a vision of Church as the one body of Christ. I have a dream where race, social status, or age does not divide. But as long as we continue to think more of ourselves than we should as Paul tells the church in Rome, it isn’t going to happen. As long as the privileged of society drown out the voices of the underprivileged and the wealthy stand over the poor and we don’t have ears to hear what the young people are trying to say, we will never be a church that is united in Christ.
I love Liberty Hill Church because we are a church that cares for the poor, where race is identified as a person’s uniqueness in Christ and not used as a dividing wall, and where the voice of the next generation matters. We don’t always get it right. We are broken people. We need the Christian practice confession and forgiveness because at times we can be racist, judgmental, and threatening.
We cannot live out this thing we call church without you. While God may have individually spoken to you, called you, and saved you, you have been joined to a body, the body of Christ. We cannot be Christian without being joined to the body of Christ. The author of I John will go as far as to link salvation to fellowship. He believes there is no salvation outside of fellowship with God and with one another. If you think that you can be a Jesus follower without making your connection to the body of Christ a priority, then you have fooled yourself.
My grandmother has this bad habit of giving away gifts that were once given to her. If our family gives her a night gown and slippers for Christmas, someone next year will get those same slippers. Sometimes she won’t even open it. She will ask, “What is in here?” and then put it aside. We will find it in the same wrapping paper under the tree the following Christmas.
It is frustrating and yet, comical. But this is what the apostle Paul tells us to do with the gifts that we have been given. We discover our gifts within the body of Christ and in return we use those gifts in the body to build one another up. The gifts and talents that the church helps us figure out are to be used to shape the church into being who God has called us to be.
Paul could have used a variety of metaphors to describe the church. He could have used family. We are family who stick by one another in tough times. He could have used team. We work like a team to fulfill our mission. And yet, Paul uses the metaphor of body. We all know that we can take a break from the team. We can say, “I am not playing this year” or “I am taking this season off from the team.” We all know that we can go on vacation without the family. We see the family all the time, we have dinner with them, we celebrate holidays with them but sometimes we say, “You know, I love you but I need to take a break from you.”
It is hard to take a break from the parts of your body. The right arm cannot say to the left arm, “I need to take this season off.” The left leg can’t say to the right leg, “I need a break. Can you pick up the slack?” If that ever does happen, we don’t give excuses to parts of the body for not being what it suppose to be. Instead we go to the doctor and say, “My leg is not working right or my arm is not functioning.”
The church is a body that belongs to Christ. We are the body that gives Christ a face to the world. We are his voice. We are his hands and his feet. We cannot do it without you. You matter and Liberty Hill Church needs you.
And you need Liberty Hill Church. You need us to be Christian. You need us to mature in your faith. You need the church to know what love, grace, and forgiveness is all about. Some claim they don’t need the church to be Christian or simply they don’t think the church makes a difference in their Christian walk. This is unbiblical and self-centered. If you think that life is better lived in isolation from the community of faith that has been shaped by a great cloud of witnesses then you are claiming to know more than Jesus and the biblical writers. I don’t want spiritual insight from someone who sits around trying to be Christ-like alone. I want someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community. I am not coming to you for prayer and Godly wisdom if being Christian among other people is not important to you. When I need someone saying a prayer and encouraging me, I want it to be someone who has lived out the faith with other people and not someone who claims to do it in the comforts of their own selfish lives.