Take These Four Steps Towards Radical Diversity

I believe that every church should be a radically diverse church.

This might strike you as odd coming from the pastor of a church that isn't very diverse. Christ Community is part of the 97% of churches in the States that are monoethnic. Our gathering on Sunday is far more segregated than our city. I am not writing this from the perspective of men like Pastor Bryan Loritts, who helped lead Fellowship Memphis into a multiethnic life together. 

I am no expert.

But I can read the Bible. I can read the account of the Tower of Babel and watch God disperse people in response to their sin and sinfulness (Genesis 11). I can read John's glimpse into the future where every tribe, tongue, people and nation are gathered together by our great God for life forever with him...and each other (Revelation 7). I can read Paul's letter to the Ephesians, a reminder that the good news of God's forever kingdom that is ours through God's cross by God's grace reconciles Jew and Gentile. I can read that when all things are united in Jesus, that includes the differences created by color, class, and culture. I can read Paul press through our respectable segregation and call us to life together.

I can read the Bible, listen to God press diversity as a non-negotiable implication of the gospel, and recognize that there is no standing pat or going back. My church must become a radically diverse church if we are going to be faithful to God. That does not mean, however, that we have a master plan or intentions to make a big splash in the name of diversity. We have twenty-five years of history as a monoethnic church in the American South, and we must acknowledge that God may see fit to take 25 years (or more) to lead us to a place where our church is more diverse than the neighborhoods and workplaces that we occupy. 

Maybe we're not alone.

Maybe there are other churches out there like ours who are convinced biblically that the way forward leads to a reality where different colors, classes and cultures live together as a local expression of God's church. Maybe there are other churches who will have to be patient and wait on God to bring about results that very well may take decades rather than days. Maybe there are churches like ours who can persistently take small steps towards diversity right now, proverbial snowballs that might someday cascade into an avalanche.

Four Steps 

1. Use Your Finances To Innovate, Inspire and Invest in Diversity

Last year, our entire Christmas Offering went to Downtown Academy, a school committed to bringing academic excellence and the good news of Jesus to the urban poor. Some churches use significant parts of their operating budget for projects that serve as catalysts towards diversity. Sometimes our money follows our heart. I have found it to be true that a heart for diversity often follows our money.

2. Insist That Elders Be Onboard

As long as I am the pastor of Christ Community, we will not ordain and install men as elders who are not convinced that diversity is a non-negotiable implication of the gospel. We will not ordain and install men as elders who are not committed to the patient persistence it takes to become the diverse people of God we believe the Church already is.

3. Plant Churches That Are Different Than Your Church

It's not uncommon for churches to start churches that look like them. And it makes a lot of sense to replicate your DNA and pass along who you are, what you believe and what you know. But what if you planted churches very different than your own? If you want to see catalytic movement towards diversity in your church, start new churches where your people can see different colors, different cultures, different classes. One way to do this is by investing in strategic partnerships with other church plants and church planting churches, domestically and globally. 

4. Teach and Train People To Love Their Neighbor

Disciple your church to actively and practically love their neighbor through the gifts of service and hospitality. Call them to pay attention to the minorities and the margins at home and at work. Focus more on who is in the home of your people on Thursday nights than who is sitting in the chairs of your gatherings each weekend.

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