Far too many people in the North American church continue to value their race or cultural identity much more than their identity in Christ. It’s a problem that hinders evangelism efforts and it hinders unity within the Body of Christ. The racial and cultural walls of division are massive and are not easily torn down. It’s a problem that exists nearly everywhere we turn.
I’m one who believes that a church should work to reflect the racial and cultural diversity of its community. Whether everyone in a church’s community is of the same race or ethnicity or not, the church should have a clear strategy to reach and disciple every person. No one should be excluded for any reason, but especially because of race.
As a young believer in the early 1980s going “door-to-door” to invite people to church, I was given instructions in case I knocked on a door and a “black” person opened the door: apologize and explain that I was at the wrong house.
At a different church, the bus ministry I led was canceled by the deacons, because “those black kids were tearing up the building.” I never understood how that could be since it was a concrete-block building!
I have since led two historically all-white churches to become multi-racial and culturally diverse. Yes, some people were uncomfortable. Some left. But today, both of those churches are very diverse.
If your community is racially or culturally diverse, but your church is not, here are five essential principles to help you lead toward diversity.
Love everybody in your community intentionally.
John 3:16 gives an eternal reminder that the gospel is for everyone. Never exclude anyone from the greatest news ever given to mankind. Be intentional to love and show respect toward people whether you think they deserve it or not. The nature of the gospel is, the less they deserve it the more they need it!
Begin with the end in mind.
Revelation 7:9-10 provides for us a picture of the redeemed people of God gathered and singing before God’s throne, “Salvation belongs to our God.” They are described as a “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” If that’s what the church will look like some day, why not lead it to look that way today?
Be gospel-centered, not political-party centered.
Nothing is more important for the church than preaching the gospel of Jesus. Public political alignments can quickly alienate the very people we must reach with the gospel. Followers of Jesus must be taught to show respect and pray for government leaders, regardless of who is in office. Politicians and political parties of every kind have mastered the art of using the church for their own political gain. Church leaders must be too wise to get distracted. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope for the world, not politics.
Value people more than your own culture.
Our cultures are defined by our likes, dislikes, and worldview. In many cases, cultures are not right or wrong, but simply different. Don’t allow differences to become points of conflict or animosity. Be intentional about learning the cultures of others. Lead your church members to take initiative to value people of different ethnicity or culture by having meals together or going on mission trip. View differences as a learning experience. Become genuinely interested in people who are different than you.
Approach every difference in race or culture with a spirit of humility. It’s easy to be stubborn and arrogant regarding ethnic or cultural differences. Instead, develop a desire to learn and understand. Enjoy the journey and learn to laugh together. Much of our cultural distinctiveness might remain, but our common relationship with Jesus must become the strongest bond between us.