These are outstanding words from Don Carson, found in his chapter (“Challenges for the Twenty-first Century Pulpit”) of Preach the Word, a collection of essays on preaching in honor of R. Kent Hughes (edited by Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson). In one section of his chapter, Carson talks about how the United States and Canada are becoming more and more ethnically diverse. He says it is something we as preachers (and churches) can appreciate and something we should be aware of.
“The last thing the church needs in a city like Toronto or New York is a church that hunkers down into ethnically and culturally pure enclaves. That is wrong biblically and stupid strategically.”
“Preachers who serve in most of our large urban centers, and even in many small centers, will face increasing cultural diversity in the populace where their church is located. Woe to the church that lags way behind these demographic changes, for it is destined to become a narrow (and narrow-minded) enclave, instead of joyfully anticipating the day, in the new heaven and new earth, when men and women from every language and people and nation will gather around the throne.”
“Churches comprised of believers from diverse cultures will include different tastes in food, different views on how to bring up their children, different perspectives on individualism and family identity, different traditions with which they choose to identify themselves. Yet what unites them in Christ Jesus is far richer than what divides them. The preacher sensitive to these changes will be eager to establish a growing, empathetic, and biblically faithful distinction between ‘the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’ (Jude 3 NIV) and an immense array of cultural differences over which it is unwise to divide.”
Carson also notes the danger of a church trying so hard to preserve the language and ethnic culture of its members – it is dangerous because preserving people’s language and culture can sometimes push the gospel out of the center. In other words, a church has to be careful not to let its traditions, culture, or language trump the gospel.
There’s a lot more in this chapter; I highly recommend it, along with the rest of this helpful book on preaching.