Living Revelation 7
By Carl Stagner
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Rev 7:9–10 NKJV). John the Revelator’s description of heavenly worship is vivid and bold. On earth, it seems that a number of factors still divide God’s church. We look forward to perfect unity when we all get to heaven, but South Bay Church of God isn’t waiting until then to catch a glimpse of Revelation 7 unity. In their hearts, they’ve already put on their beautiful robes of white.
“There is a great diversity of cultural backgrounds in our community, as well as in our congregation,” Pastor Darren Adwalpalker says. To name a few, he lists Anglo, Latino, Asian, and African American. The diversity of this congregation in Torrance, California, serves as a witness to the unifying power of Christ. “Christ unites us beyond the ethnic, linguistic, age, and gender barriers that so commonly divide people today. The joy of worshiping together reminds us of the vision painted in the book of Revelation when people from every tongue, tribe, and nation will gather around the throne of God declaring his praises. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have a taste of that reality now!”
To meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking population, Pastor Darren leads two services each week—one in English and one in Spanish. The children’s ministry, however, brings together students of all backgrounds. Darren explains that English is the primary language spoken by second- and third-generation Latino students. Thus, the “integration of children and youth into one program enhances the unity in our congregation as our teachers and parents from both language congregations partner together for the spiritual growth of the young people.”
Pastor Darren is spiritually energized when he tells how the diversity of the congregation strengthens their outreach. South Bay Church of God ministers to residents of a nearby convalescent home and day laborers who gather outside hardware stores. He explains that the church is able to minister in both English and Spanish. They pray for the day laborers in their native tongue, provide a sack lunch, and meet other practical needs. “In this way, the unity that God is working within our church becomes an asset to our community by being able to reach out and demonstrate the kingdom.”
“We believe God has called us to serve the community he planted us in over sixty-one years ago,” he continues. “As the community around us has changed, so has the makeup of our congregation. For some, that can be unsettling. A changing congregation also means changing traditions and programs. However, for those with ‘kingdom eyes,’ it is easy to recognize God at work, extending the good news of Jesus to every man, woman, and child, no matter what language they speak or their cultural background.”