The church is growing increasingly diverse—but what does this mean for our Sunday morning services? One of the foremost thinkers trying to answer that question is Sandra Maria Van Opstal, a writer, speaker, and pastor at Chicago’s Grace and Peace Community who’s also a leading champion of multiethnic worship. In pursuit of her calling to mobilize Christians for reconciliation and justice, Van Opstal has led worship for organizations from Willow Creek to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; trained missions leaders at colleges, churches, and conferences across the country; and recently written a groundbreaking book on why cross-cultural praise is an experience meant for everyone.
Like all ministers, though, Van Opstal knows well the challenges that accompany her calling. Getting the church to join together in manifold witness is hard work, after all—especially when you have to juggle day-to-day concerns with the demands of mission:
Those of us that are in ministry know the difficulty of the call—just being given the honor and the privilege, but also the responsibility of shepherding people, of walking through life with people and all the things that come. Just since the beginning of the year, we’ve had multiple funerals, we’ve had family crises, we’ve had a lot of things happen.
And just to walk through life with people is difficult . . . to try to cast vision for mission as a preacher, as a pastor, while people just feel like they’re trying to keep their lives together. You’re trying to go somewhere, trying to give them an opportunity to hear God’s voice and to hear God’s call to witness; you’re preaching to your congregation about sharing their faith, about being a light in their workplace, and all the while they’re just trying to keep their lives together. They have kids that are struggling with depression. They have parents that are aging. They have teenagers that are rebelling.
All these things are happening, and you’re trying to give them a vision for how the church can transform the neighborhood. So you think to yourself, “Well, I’m crazy. I shouldn’t invite people to these things. I shouldn’t cast vision for the transformation of our community.”
The call is hard, and I think sometimes we shrink back. As church leaders and as preachers, I think we shrink back from inviting people to the full call of the gospel, in all of its—hugeness. I have no other word for that. I think I would say to younger myself, “Don’t be afraid.”
Sound familiar? Then you’re in good company. Join CT managing editor Richard Clark as he talks with Van Opstal about her calling to mentor leaders, invigorate worship, and uphold the needful beauty of a diverse church.
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The Calling is produced by Richard Clark and Cray Allred.
Theme music by Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons 4.0.