Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Faces of Heaven


For the past 16 years I have served the Lord as a pastor and church planter in Vermont. Vermont is the least churched state in America, so there is much work to be done. Vermont is also the second "whitest" state in America, with 95.2% of our population being white. Only Maine has a higher percentage of white people than Vermont.

But as our minority population in Vermont has grown ever so slightly in recent years, my own heart has been burdened to reach out to our non-Anglo neighbors in the name of Christ. It is actually a lot harder than it sounds because we can't exactly put up a sign in front of the church that says "non-white people wanted!" How does a middle aged white pastor attract minorities to his mostly Anglo congregation? Not knowing what to do, mostly I've just prayed and asked God to help us connect with minority groups. And when God has sent someone to our church who was not white, I made a point to ensure they felt welcome. I have tried to work this theme into sermons when it was appropriate. I have tried to encourage the handful of minorities that we do have in our church to bring their friends. Not exactly the most ambitious plan, but it was the best I could do given the racial make-up of our state.

Over the past five years we have had a small presence of minorities in our congregation and God has been answering our prayers as that portion of our congregation has slowly been growing. But I guess I did not realize just how much God had answered my prayers until this morning. Leaving an elders meeting, I walked past one of our children's Sunday School classes and realized that the Anglo children were only 1/3 of the attendees in that particular class. The other children were African American and Asian American. I stopped in my tracks and just stood looking through the window into the class thanking God for showing me a picture of what the faces of heaven would be like. Thinking that class might be an anomaly, I walked across the lobby to look into another class. My smile got bigger as I realized that class was evenly split between Anglo children and African American children. We only have three children's Sunday School classes at our church, so I decided to go look in the third class and see what it looked like. I was pleased to notice that it was evenly split between Anglo children and Asian American children. Admittedly, these three classes are all small, so the total number of children in them was limited. But the racial mixture represented must be something like the faces we will see in heaven and it was deeply moving to me as a pastor.

I am reminded of what the Apostle John wrote in Revelation 7:9-10, "After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God."

My prayer of gratitude today is, "Thank you Lord for showing me the faces of heaven! Help us be faithful in serving You as one people."

19 comments:

  1. What an encouraging insight! Thank you for a vision to pray harder to the Lord of the Harvest that He will bring a little bit of Heaven to our congregation, also.

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  2. Praise the Lord!! How I would love to see this in my church here in the south!!

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  3. Amen & Amen! This area is a wonderful way in which God has blessed The Bridge. A small congregation of around only 28-30, but with African-Americans, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Native-American, Hispanic, Caribbean Islands, and Caucasians all being represented! PTL! May He continue to gather faces of heaven to worship and serve Him all over New England!

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  4. Randall Runions, Prison Chaplain, TennesseeMarch 22, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    I liked this report.

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  5. Margaret Champion, Spartanburg, SCMarch 22, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    PTL, Terry! Awesome! God is showing you results of your labors.

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  6. Amen, Thank-you for sharing your heart and how God has blessed your prayers. It reminded me that sometimes in our attempts to figure out how to attrack the minority we forget the one who can make it happen.

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  7. They all just want to be treated equally. Love it that a pastor cares enough to stop and look at each SS class on Sunday morning. SS teachers don’t get paid. They are faithful. They don’t often get feedback about the spiritual growth of each student. They almost never get praised or prayed for in public.

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  8. Great post and we hope that there are more families and children to come!!! Our church is a home to all who want to know the savior Jesus Christ. I pray blessings over our little church.

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  9. Hi Terry, I could relate to what you said in your article. When I was a pastor, the Deacons came up with this idea. "Let's promote a 'Friends Banquet' & invite every person in our small city to come free of charge & this banquet will be in your honor." No mention of race, color etc, just as friends. Strangle as it might seem we had around 60 to show up, & the majority had called either the church or the person in charge & signe up to attend. We had black, asian, two of chinese decent just to name a few. Yes, we were able to enlist some of these in our Bilbe Study, & even more for the worship services. It paid off very well as I remember.

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  10. This article was posted on Baptist Press on April 26, 2010. You can read it here:

    http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=32812

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  11. awesome, Terry. Well done.

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  12. Very Nice!!!!

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  13. Thanks, Terry.

    I re-read it and it spoke to me again.

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  14. I like this too.

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  15. I enjoyed your article in Lifeway about the minorities Faith is reaching. That is great!!

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