Diversity and unity seem so opposite and contradictory. The message of church growth pundits was homogeneity as the key to growth – birds of a feather flock together. Human experience does suggest that there is truth to this teaching, but is it a true expression of God’s realm? Although it seems to cut against the grain of conventional wisdom, diversity and unity are deemed to be hallmarks of the Spirit endowed community of faith.
Although American ideology suggests that we are to find unity in our diversity, we find it difficult to truly embrace this message. For one thing, many have embraced an ideology of “rugged individualism.” We tend to honor those who “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” so that square-jawed John Wayne represents the vision of the “can-do” American spirit. But is that the vision that Jesus has for his community? Unfortunately, many American Christians have embraced this Americanist vision, and so finding unity in the midst of our diverse gifts has been difficult. Although the entrepreneurial spirit, with its attendant encouragement to take risks, try new things, and blaze new trails, is important to the welfare of the community, there is a danger here in the tendency to go it alone. There is value in this spirit of adventure, but the church isn’t simply a gathering of independent individualists. It’s a community gathered and formed by the grace and love of God. It’s a body, a system that is more than the sum of its parts. Although it is very diverse, it is one body of Christ.
Excerpt from Unfettered Spirit: Spiritual Gifts for the New Great Awakening, (Energion, 2013), pp. 41. Unfettered Spirit was named a Top Ten Book for 2014 by the Academy of Parish Clergy.