John Stott, writing about the foundation of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:6-40), says ‘it would be hard to imagine a more disparate group than the business woman, the slave girl and the gaoler. Racially, socially and psychologically they were worlds apart. Yet all three were changed by the same gospel and were welcomed into the same church.’ (Commentary on Acts, P 268)
One of the most amazing things about the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it takes disparate groups of people and draws them together into the body of Christ. There is really no reason to assume that the church is made up of one kind of person and definitely no reason to think that the church should be full of one age group, one racial group or one class of people. Diversity and variety should be the hallmark of every church, because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all people. Church needs to reflect the diversity of our society and so should be a multi-generational, multi-racial and multi-faceted group of people. After all, Jesus is declared ‘worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’ (Rev 5:9) If every tribe, language, people and nation will be purchased for God by the blood of the Lamb, then we have no reason to expect or promote exclusion in any form within our churches.
The gospel ultimately has the power to reach a wide diversity of people and has a unifying effect (it binds together those who may have little else in common as members of God’s family.) We who live in an era of social disintegration need to understand and exhibit the same unifying power of the gospel as experienced by those in the church founded at Philippi.