Diversity in the Church


By Heath Jarrett

Several summers ago, I went to India to minister among people I had never met. Although our cultures were starkly different, our fellowship was immediately strong. We had a shared bond in Christ from the start. The saints in India were using the same Bible, praising the same God and even singing many songs we sing in our congregation. Because we all are part of the same church, we enjoyed a great sense of unity in the Lord together (the subject of last week’s article).

Unity, however, does not demand uniformity. Culture, clothing, music style, economics, skin color, age, gender, giftedness—all of these breed division in society but shouldn’t in the church. Paul uses the beautiful analogy of the “body” to illustrate both the church’s unity and diversity. Far from being at odds, diversity actually enables the body to function properly. The church “does not consist of one member but of many…. If all were a single member, where would the body be?” (1 Cor 12:14, 19).

As I wrote previously, the church reflects the Trinity. Just as the unity of the church reflects the unity of God (there is one God and one church), her diversity also stems from the variety of functions each member of the Trinity does. Though there is one God, there are three persons in the Godhead. As they work in harmony together, the functions of the Father, Son and Spirit can also be distinguished. In other words, there is diversity of function with the persons of the Trinity.

Unity and diversity can live happily together. Consider, for example, the earthly ministry of Christ. It is God the Father who sent the Son; it is God the Son who took on flesh; and it is God the Spirit who empowered the Son’s ministry (John 3:16, John 1:14; Luke 4:18). This is a picture of the variety within God.

While the Trinity continues to baffle us in the church, we’re liable to miss Paul’s point. Trinitarian theology is meant to be extremely practical. Human relationships emulate divine ones. When we study the intricacies of God, we are informed about how we should relate to one another. As the church grows together in unity while maintaining diversity, we become more like Christ. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor 12:11).