I’m a NorCal girl, turned PNW girl and in the last ten years, have become southwest girl…more specifically a Burqueña (an Albuquerque local). So in my humble opinion, West Coast is the best coast!
The western region of the United States is the largest region in the US and the most geographically diverse, featuring rainforests in the northwest; beautiful beaches of California; the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas, the Grand Canyon and the deserts of the Southwest. The West also includes global cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Portland and Las Vegas. In addition, it is also the region with the largest number of minorities in the United States. All this to say that the West is difficult to define. We are many things and represent many people.
I love the diversity that this side of our country displays, and I love the creativity that this reveals about God. I imagine he had a lot of creative juices flowing when he spoke into existence the landscapes of Yellowstone, the Southwest mesas and the Redland Forest. God himself is a God that displays diversity in his very being. He is the triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Three in one; each with a different role but in complete unity.
This same unity, despite diversity, is God’s desire for his church. And what an opportunity we have in the West to display His desire and design with so much variation at our fingertips. Church planting in the West is a prime opportunity to display the power of Christ to unify us as one; one body with many different parts.
For those planting churches in the West, this is both a privilege and a challenge. It’s a privilege in that God invites us into displaying the kingdom the way in which he designs. It’s a challenge because living in and creating a community that is different from one another and sees the world differently is not easy. Homogeneity comes natural to us finite humans and has been the overarching pattern of the American church, but the difficulty of diversity should not prevent us from pursuing it.
In Ephesians 2 Paul talks about how we are God’s ‘handiwork’ and how Jesus destroys the dividing wall of hostility. Christ himself: his life, death and resurrection is what unifies us as one body, ‘fellow citizens’. Jesus began this Christian movement that is inherently a destabilizing movement into whatever region or culture it enters. Not by proposing a new system of beliefs but by a group of people creating an alternative culture. One where your race, ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic status is irrelevant.
The West needs (and deserves) church planters passionate about and devoted to seeing diversity represented in the church. This takes humility, a willingness to lay down any ideas of superiority. Whether that be cultural, ethnic or theological, it takes humility to lay down your agenda, purpose or plan and learn from others; hear their story and pains and allow them to inform the way your church looks and feels.
This also takes sacrifice. It is easier to gather like-minded people who have similar life experiences to form a church. So are you willing to sacrifice the easy? To sacrifice the measure of success that you may have measured in the past by numbers of attendance or giving? Are you willing to sacrifice members of your church when they stand against others in prejudice against their way of worship, who they voted for or their legal status?
When church planters in the West passionately pursue diversity in their churches through humility and sacrifice, we will see the handiwork of God reflected in the body of the church. That is the true kingdom of God, one where ‘every nation, tribe, people and language’ worship God together throughout the beautiful and wide stretching lands of the west.
Emily is a Project Manager with Stadia. After years of preparing, planning, and praying, Emily and her husband, Abiel, planted Ciudad de Gracia, a Spanish-speaking Stadia church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in January of 2017. Having first-hand experience of starting churches, Emily’s desire is to partner with church planters to help them be the very best for their community. Her other full-time job is being mom to the very best four kids: Gabriel, Lucas, Liliana and Marco.