FOUR WAYS YOUR CHURCH CAN EXPERIENCE DIVERSITY
I remember the first time a biracial couple visited the small church where I grew up. Everybody there that day noticed, in a “you don’t belong here” sort of way. I felt uneasy for those two then. And today, many years later, I’m still troubled by the lack of diversity in many local churches.
I realized very quickly that I was growing up in a church bubble. The people in my church looked like me, thought like me, dressed like me, shared the same values and preferences. We were comfortable inside our white, middle-class boundary.
But today I’m not comfortable.
In fact, at Christ’s Church we’re going to hit head-on the issue of racial bias in the first sermon of a series beginning in two weeks. All these sermons will begin with the same phrase: “I have a friend who . . . ” The June 10 topic is “I Have a Friend Who Is a Racist.”
It’s a complicated subject for sure. One sermon won’t erase years of misunderstanding or misconceptions. But we’re going to try to take some steps forward, and not just with whatever I say. Actually, five of us will speak that day, in a discussion with our worship leader Christon Gray, his dad, Arthur, and his brother, Taelor. Dale Reeves and I will be on the panel too.
Maybe in a later post I’ll share some conclusions and questions we offer that morning. (Or log on to live.ourchristschurch.com at 10:30 June 10 and listen for yourself.) But for now, here are some principles guiding me as we seek racial diversity in our local congregation.
1. If you really want diversity, you must hire for diversity.
In the last couple of years we have added to our staff African-Americans, a Brazilian, a Venezuelan, and a Dominican. And we know this is only the beginning.
I must hasten to add that each hire was because we thought we had found the perfect person for the slot we were filling. There’s no room for tokenism. We can’t hire people only because they’re not white. But we can’t ignore them for that reason, either.
2. If you really want diversity, you must show diversity on the platform.
Your worship team is a good place to start. These days at our church we almost never see a Sunday-morning platform filled with only one people group. When people of different ethnicities visit our church and see some who look like them leading worship, they receive a welcome message stronger than words.
3. If you really want diversity, you must allow multiple cultures to express themselves in the same environment with multiple styles.
Today the church can and must lead out in achieving racial unity unlike any the world has seen. But this can happen only when every Christian, of every color, is willing to compromise some personal preference for the sake of the unified whole. Each of us must strive to embrace things we don’t always like for the sake of people who are not like us.
4. If you really want diversity, think beyond skin color.
In our church we need farmers as well as those who run State Farm. And among our church leaders, I want those who will not always agree with me. I want to serve alongside elders and other leaders who don’t think every one of my ideas is awesome. A culture of yes men makes a mess of men.
One reason we lack racial diversity is that we have run away from any kind of diversity. The biblical picture of the church celebrates unity in a body that contains a wide variety of wildly differing parts (1 Corinthians 12). Only when we seek the beauty of that kind of diversity will we have hope of experiencing and expressing biblical unity. And when that happens, racial diversity will be a happy result.