August 21, 2017

DOES DIVERSITY MATTER TO GOD?

 

christI have been blessed to help a large religious organization with churches throughout the U.S. and overseas answer that question and embrace diversity, inclusion and equity as a core value. My team and I are challenging them to use it as a guiding question and rationale as they travel down the diversity assessment road. Every Christian that I’ve met who believes in social justice also believes that diversity does matter to God and that it’s anchored in scriptures throughout the holy bible. They tell me that Jesus could not have been clearer when issuing his commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. If that is true, then my question is this: Is it time for churches to reclaim their leadership role?

The scripture compels churches to be inclusive. In almost every chapter of the New Testament you’ll find God telling his people that they are one and to love one another. The gospel is intended to bring people together, not separate them apart. What could make this organization’s diversity initiative so profound and so special from all others that I’ve been involved with is their ability to link their diversity efforts to God’s commandments. Business leaders can’t make that connection-for them diversity has to increase the bottom line; Educators can’t make that connection-for them diversity enhances the learning environment; but Christians have a tremendous opportunity to show how the gospel can be used to build bridges between people and nations. What will churches do with this great opportunity?

That’s why I’m so excited about this opportunity to lead this initiative. I’m helping them think of the diversity assessment as a spiritual journey. An assessment will inform them whether their organization is in great enough shape to run what could become a divine race or if they will need a little assistance. The diversity assessment allows them to look inward and collect quantitative and qualitative data through interviews, focus groups and surveys on their norms, practices, attitudes and values to determine whether their culture is helping or hindering their vision. I’m quickly discovering that this work is transforming me as well as I pray for help in modeling the behavior that I’m asking others to follow.

Why conduct a diversity audit?

I’m also learning that it’s important to explain why a diversity audit is needed. One of the main reasons for a diversity assessment is that the church is facing unprecedented challenges involving diversity and inclusion. The face of America is changing and will impact churches in profound ways:

  • More than 50% of US children are now children of color.
  • Four states and D.C. are “majority-minority”.
  • 88% of the US population growth over the past decade was multicultural.
  • The U.S. has an aging and declining White population.
  • 1.4 million legal immigrants acquire citizenship every 2 years.
  • In <15 years, 40% of the US population will be people of color.

Source: U.S. Census

It’s easy to predict who the church’s future members will be. Pastors must be familiar with the congregations they seek to serve. How are churches positioned to handle this change? How will these changes affect their ability to plant new sustainable churches in the future? They need to know the answers to these questions and that’s why a diversity assessment is so critically necessary!

Some of you won’t be surprised when I tell you that there is resistance to this type of change in the church. Many people are frightened by these changes-they don’t know how they fit in to this new emerging society. When diversity is perceived as a threat, then expect some church members to react with denial, dread, cynicism and even hostility.

It is during these times that we must trust our faith and help our Christian brothers and sisters understand that the love of God that we experience through Jesus Christ dispels our fears of those who are in any way different from ourselves. 1 John 4: 18 tells us that there is no fear in love. In fact if we embrace diversity we’ll experience a deeper spiritual growth. Based on the data we collect we’re going to help these churches:

  • Be prepared to challenge negative attitudes and myths.
  • Refer doubters to the scripture.
  • Provide examples of best diversity practices in the church.

Pastors’ ownership of diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives are essential to institutionalizing them and making them a spiritual core value of the church. We intend to help Christians understand that despite their fears, diversity benefits everyone and that the new skills and knowledge they will acquire from engaging with diverse groups will strengthen the church. They need to know when they improve the environment for some people it’s improved for all people.

As diversity grows, so must we. God calls us to meaningful and exciting work. We must be the peacemakers. This work has the potential to raise our awareness, change our attitudes, increase our knowledge and improve our skills.

The Church’s mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and promote the life and dignity of each and every human being. For us to do this we must have the right knowledge, attitudes and skills.
If we truly believe that our lives are connected, and our future interdependent, and that we are one family in God, then churches must lead the way! Here is my prayer to help make that happen.

DIVERSITY ASSESSMENT PRAYER

praying handsHeavenly Father, we come seeking your guidance and grace as we begin the journey to help this organization  become your instrument in modeling how the church should embrace diversity and inclusion.

Dear God we thank you for their leadership and for touching their hearts in moving this important initiative forward. Let them know that if they embrace their faith and rely on you that their organization will be strengthened and their spirituality deepened. Remind them that your prophet John the Baptist said the love of God that we experience through Jesus Christ dispels our fears of those who are in any way different from ourselves. [1 John 4:18]

Jesus commanded that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves-that’s why this initiative is so important Lord. Help us remember that our lives are connected and that we have a deep moral responsibility to each other.

Father if you guide them they will come to know that we are one family in God but more importantly, the world will learn from their example and praise your holy name. Give them the courage to stand up to racism and work to eradicate it in their institution. Help them to speak from their hearts so the data we gather will help them become better servants.

Dear God we ask that you bless all of us that are involved in this important work. We ask that you provide us a way forward that is sustainable and grounded in the scripture. We thank you for this opportunity to look inward and grow stronger spiritually, because we know through your grace all things are possible.

We know God that from one blood, you made all nations and we’re called to proclaim to the world that we’re all one and if we just put our faith in you we could move mountains. The bible says “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.”

Father we ask that you allow the Holy Spirit to guide us throughout this project. In Jesus name we pray.

Amen!

 

 

 

 

Speak Your Mind

*