Churches that pattern diversity reflect the gospel, says Louisville pastor
Churches need generational and ethnic diversity to display the gospel, pastor Brian Croft said in a Feb. 24 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Croft, senior pastor at Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and senior fellow for the seminary’s Mathena Center for Church Revitalization, addressed whether future pastors should plant or revitalize churches. Croft suggested sinful reasoning can affect either decision.
Church planting usually seeks to reach young people, while revitalization generally involves pastoring older Christians who have attended a dying church for many years. Croft said he fears that men decide which to pursue based on which group they would rather serve. A young man might choose to plant a church because he is not patient with older people or to revitalize an established church because he wants a stable income.
“In an amazing irony,” said Croft, “it seems the most zealous, it seems the most faithful, it seems the most hard-working of those in the older and younger generations of these churches actually agree on something: they agree that one of the biggest hindrances to their growth in ministry is the other.”
Croft showed from Titus 2 that God’s design is a “diverse, multi-generational, multi-ethnic local church that’s made up of all kinds of different people who display the gospel … through denying ungodliness and worldly desires and live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
The chapter in Titus lists three groups that Paul assumes will be present in every church: old and young, men and women, and masters and slaves. “We must pursue this design in each local church, regardless the size, regardless the age of the people there … if we’re going to effectively plant and revitalize local churches that are going to display the gospel to the world,” Croft said.
He gave five ways churches can follow this design, one of which is for the old to mentor the young. Often older saints feel they have nothing to offer, but Croft pointed out “the most important thing is to be available, and when you are approached by them for counsel and for wisdom, make time for them.”
He told of a 107-year-old woman at his church who did not teach him theology but taught him a great deal about life. Croft said many young people do not think they need help, but it “is arrogant and it is foolish to be married five years and think you know more about marriage than someone married 40 [years] because you may know your Bible just a little better.”
Raising the issue of worship styles, Croft argued churches should be content-driven with their music. Music style divides churches when the leaders cater to a certain group, but Croft pointed out that the congregation “should compromise out of love for each other.” When he began pastoring Auburndale Baptist Church, they sang hymns and the average age was 85. Eleven years later the average age dropped to 35. The music changed in some ways, but the congregation still mainly sings hymns. He encouraged pastors to ask, “Do people leave a service at our church talking more about how the music was done or about what wonderful truths we just sang?”
Croft said pastors also must embrace socio-ethnic diversity within the church. Revelation pictures heave with people from every tribe, tongue, and nation gathered to worship God, and this is the church’s goal, Croft said.
“We’re supposed to get a little taste of that now,” he said.
Pastors must also trust the power of the gospel to unite their congregations, Croft said. He read Titus 2:11-14 to show that the gospel motivates and empowers the fulfillment of commands given at the beginning of the chapter.
In the end, Croft did not give an answer to whether revitalizing or planting churches was better. Instead, he hoped wherever pastors work, they “would see the unifying of generational and ethnic diversity as something to celebrate, something to embrace, see it as something to even pursue in that church … something that will powerfully display the gospel to those around you.”