A melting pot or a tossed salad?

April 1, 2019

I was sitting in class with C. Peter Wagner during my Doctor of Ministry studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Dr. Wagner spoke with delight about the opportunity to reach the diversity of people from more than 250 nations in the Los Angeles area. But something else he said really got my attention:

“Some people call America a melting pot, but I don’t like that term. A melting pot consists of everything being thrown in, heated up, stirred together and pretty soon, like a Brunswick stew, it all looks the same. I prefer the term tossed salad because each part of it retains its distinction, but when you put it all together it makes up a beautiful dish.”

Do we celebrate the unique distinctions of color, ethnicity and culture in our communities, or do we feel threatened by them?

I have come to love the wide variety of people in the Blue Ridge area. There are at least 29 different countries represented here. We have every economic class – from wealthy retirees to people who live in homeless camps. Asheville has been called one of the holes in the Bible belt because of our large New Age and LGBTQ communities. So even while some of our cultural segments have no knowledge of a biblical worldview, each person here is created in the image of God, deserves to be treated with love and respect, and needs multiple opportunities to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our Strategic Focus Team helps churches take a missionary approach to segments of people living in North Carolina’s pockets of lostness. We have defined a segment as a group of people through which the gospel can flow freely that requires a contextualized disciple-making strategy.

Do we celebrate the unique distinctions of color, ethnicity and culture in our communities, or do we feel threatened by them?

In the Blue Ridge area, we have identified population segments that are being engaged in several groupings:

Ethnic: Moldovan, Romanian, Ukrainian, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian Indian, African American
Socioeconomic: Poor, middle class, upper-middle class, wealthy
Residential: Traditional homes and multi-housing communities
Lifestyle: Bohemian, LGBTQ and deaf
Generational: The Great Post War Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials
Family Structure: Married without children, married with children, single and single parents

Revelation 7:9 gives us a beautiful vision of what heaven is going to look like: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Interestingly enough, heaven is filled with population segments. So if Jesus prayed, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” then wouldn’t it be a noble ambition to see our communities look as much like heaven on earth as possible?

What does the tossed salad look like where you live? Do you love the unique mosaic of ethnicities and cultures in your community? Do you desire to engage as many population segments as possible for the glory of God? What population segment is God calling you to reach?

Pray that God creates in you a desire to reach His people in whatever community He has placed you.


Steve Harris
Strategic Focus Team  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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