SAN ANTONIO - The bible calls believers to embrace diversity, not just tolerate it, according to Julio Guarneri, who presented the Baptist General Convention of Texas Annual Meeting sermon July 14. Using Acts 1:8 and Revelation 7:9 as his guiding texts, Guarneri, pastor for Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, preached that God's heart and vision for the church is inclusivity. Acts 1:8 delivers Jesus' stated purpose for the church: to reach "the ends of the earth," Guarneri said. This can - and often does - mean crossing geographic boundaries, but it also means crossing cultural boundaries close to home. Samaria was not a far-flung international mission trip for Jews living in Jerusalem. But Jesus called his followers to cross a ethnic line in order to share the gospel and expand the kingdom. "Not only does Jesus give us a stated purpose of the church - He also gives us a picture of what it will look like when it's all said and done," Guarneri said. "In Revelation 7:9, we have John's vision that was taking place at the end of the ages." The passage describes "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language" standing before Christ. "This is the worship service of the ages," Guarneri said. "This is the worship service of worship services. This is the mother of all family gatherings. This is what every worship service on earth should aspire to look like. We get this vision of every people group, every language. You want to talk about diversity? It's there. You want to talk about inclusiveness? It's there. "The more our worship services look like Revelation 7:9, the closer we are to heaven. The more our gatherings look like this, the more prepared we will be for an eternity where inclusiveness and diversity is the norm." Guarneri pointed to the current demographics in Texas and the population shifts projected to take place over the coming decades, commending Texas Baptists on the steps that have been taken toward inclusivity and making suggestions for the future of the convention. "We haven't arrived yet," Guarneri said. "We have a lot of work to do. But we're well on our way, and today it's an opportunity to praise God and to continue to embrace diversity in our state. It's biblical. It's God's heart, the health of our convention depends on it and the future of Texas depends on it."
Story by Lauren Hollon Sturdy