Yesterday, I gave an important message at VALLEY Christian Church, stressing the Biblical importance and mandate for church diversity. When I became the Lead Pastor, our church was 100% White. I felt God’s conviction that this was not healthy or Biblical, so I began to lead the church in a vision of diversity for our future. Many doubted if this was even possible seeing that the town where our church is located was 96% White at the time. That was 1993. Today, VALLEY Christian Church is 42-45% White (and our town remains 90.1% White, our County 82.3% White).
How did it happen? It wasn’t easy, and desire is NOT enough! Many pastors have confided in me that they would love for the churches they lead to be diverse congregation, but it just hasn’t happened. Here is the key:
Desire + Decisions = Diversity
My first two hires were staff members of a different ethnicity than me. That has made all the difference! The reality is, a pastor has no real say in the ethnicity of those whom his church may attract, he cannot compel a specific demographic of people. But every pastor DOES have a say on who he hires on staff, and this is the place that I believe every pastor will have to give an account to The Lord for what they have or haven’t done in regards to diversity!
Diversity is a Gospel Issue!
Consider this small sample Scriptures on the subject:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:32-33 (NIV)
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:14-16 (NIV)
Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is God’s heart is “all nations.” The early church in Acts was a multicultural, multiracial, inter-generational body of believers. Racism raised its head in Acts 10 when Peter would no longer eat with Gentiles. Paul confronted him in Galatians 2 by saying that racial division was “not in line with the Gospel” (Galatians 2:14). A quick tour of church website “staff” pages say more about the true heart of the pastor and leadership team of any church when it comes to diversity than most realize.
When church hiring practices re-enforce homogenous congregational complexion, the undeniable truth is this; decisions reflect true desires of the pastor and church leadership.
The truth is, 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged clergy that Sunday morning was the most segregated time of the week across America, little has changed.
It is time for churches to demand more from their pastors and leadership than excuses, or yet another generation will come and go in America failing to experience God’s desire of diversity for His people.