I don’t know if it’s because I’m an artist that I’ve always seemed to value the idea of diversity. Or because I’m an athlete who grew up playing sports with kids that didn’t look or think like me.
Perhaps it was my upbringing in our family’s strong values as Christians, or that we were middle class Black Americans who had no choice but to be bilingual (per say) in our quest for equality. Or maybe it’s that the schools my parents sent me to were diverse, so I just accepted it as the norm.
But even with all the exposure we had to whites and other minority cultures, I still couldn’t figure out why I never saw them in our home or church.
Prejudice and indifference towards other races was never taught in my home, either by word or principal. Neither was diversity, though. It was just not something my parents really talked about.
Fast forward 20 years, I have a wife and three kids, serve as a community leader and elder at my local church, and I can now see some of the reasons why we didn’t seek deep meaningful relationships with races outside our own, no matter how much we were exposed to them.
While it’s tempting to try and write a step by step manual on how to diversify your church by building a diverse worship team, etc., true diversity starts in the heart first and then through our relationships.
The problem is not exposure, but rather failing to see God’s heart for all flesh and his universal call to repentance, salvation and true oneness.
But, in an attempt to help us see where the issues lie, I want to look at the main 4 reasons I believe we don’t fight for diversity in God’s church (and in our personal lives) and 4 ways to help us persevere in our obedience to God’s call to radical reconciliation.
Familiarity VS Intentionality
The truth of the matter is that it’s just easier to do life with those you see on a regular basis. Whether that is home, work, school or church, we form community first with those we see the most. This is done with little intent and comes natural for us all.
To combat this, we need to be incredibly intentional about building relationships outside of our normal context. That means spending time praying for what that would look like and taking the necessary risks needed to develop true and authentic relationships with those God brings to us. Practical ways to do this are treating someone to lunch or inviting them to a family dinner. It won’t be easy but if you are faithful to the task, you will encounter much deeper and richer community than ever before. (See Philippians 2:3-4)
Sin VS Love
Our sinful nature forces us to think of self first, rather than our fellow brother. We are consumed with what only matters to our interest while ignoring the needs of others. It is only by the Spirit’s help that we are able love as we ought to. (2 Timothy 3:2-4)
To combat this, we need the love of the Father. A selfless, righteous, all-inclusive love that knows no boundaries and covers a multitude of sins. This type of love is not easily displayed; it is cultivated as we obey the Spirit’s leading while dying to self. One cannot fully love God without loving his fellow bother as himself first. (Luke 6:32-34, 1 John 4:20-21)
Homogeneity VS Commonality
One of the biggest excuses we use for not pursuing relationships outside our context is commonality, or the lack thereof. We say to ourselves, “I know little to nothing about this person’s culture or class, therefore I cannot relate.” And in some aspect that is true. But we will never learn about another person’s way of life until we enter into life with them! I love Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:14 because he expresses a love that allows us to be vulnerable – a love that says I will risk all in order to love you fully.
Believe it or not, we have more in common with each other than we realize! Are you human? Do like food? Do you dream? Have goals? Children? Do you like music or films? Do you believe in the person of Jesus? Truth is, we all connect with each other in a million different ways, but it takes courage believe that and to make the first step. Choose one and let God do the rest! (Proverbs 22:2)
Fear VS Faith
I believe fear is the number one reason we don’t fight to enter into community with those not like us. Fear of the unknown keeps us second-guessing our motive and intent while effectively hindering the beginning of what could be a very fruitful relationship. From our country’s history with race relations, stereotypes, misconceptions, premeditated judgment to failed relationships, trust issues and so on, there are quite a few challenges we face before we can effectively begin the journey of authentic friendship. (2 Timothy 3:2-4)
We combat this with faith. As Paul so elegantly described in 1 Corinthians 13, love when it is mature, believes the best of a person. Despite what history and our experience have taught us, we have been given the faith to believe that God is working all things for our good, including our relationships. (Roman 8:28). Through faith in God’s word we are able to see his true design for community, no matter how distorted that has become through this life’s hardships. (1 Peter 4:8)
Leading Toward Diversity
So, why does this matter to us as worship leaders? I believe that once we truly love one another as ourselves, entering into true community, we will see God’s church flourish in every aspect of the local church. As Acts 2 records, the people of God grew in number as they grew in love, generosity, service and obedience to Gods word.
Let us love people because God has called us to, and not for what they can do for us. Only then will we see a church that fully reflects the Kingdom of God, a kingdom filled with every race, color and creed.