We have a lot of people in the church,
but we don’t have the church in a lot of the people!
Just a quick reminder: biblical diversity is a God idea! God’s love letter to humanity, the Bible, is loaded and littered with Scriptures that emphasize God’s eternal expectations for diversity in his church. Please read Deuteronomy 10:17, Ezekiel 47:22, Acts 17:26-27, Romans 2:11, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11 and Revelation 7:9-10 for God’s providential prescriptions for biblical diversity.
These non-negotiable Scriptures strongly suggest that God expects his church to be one that invites, engages and encourages a variety of people from various races, cultures, ethnicities, educational levels, socio-economic backgrounds, genders, ages and disabilities. God expects his church to go beyond the socially acceptable norms and make intentional moves to recognize, appreciate, treat and regard every individual in his creation with dignity and respect.
Even more, God expects his church to recognize, respect and hold his mandate of biblical diversity in high regard. Along with that, he expects us to go the extra mile in acknowledging and confessing the anxiety, fear and stress caused by the imbalances and under-representation of diversity.
Why is this important? Because a diverse church is not a panacea for every cultural and ethnic issue that plagues our communities. We are all still sinners and fall short of God’s glory with our prejudices and problems that conflict with our desire to live out God’s expectations of biblical diversity.
Nevertheless, God expects his church not to tolerate any favoritism, discrimination or segregation. Instead, he expects us to facilitate opportunities for a full expression of the body of Christ that will include a variety of believers who make up his diverse human creation.
To do this, the church will need a clear and concise practical approach. One approach to begin the dialogue is the ABCs of biblical diversity: Assess + Believe + Change. This approach challenges the church to assess where it is regarding biblical diversity, believe that having a heart for biblical diversity is the godly and right thing to do and be willing to become a biblical diversity change agent for the Kingdom of God.
If we are truly serious about reaching all people for Jesus, we can’t just talk about it; we must be about it. Remember, faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Are you ready? Let’s go!
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor. 13:5)
The assessment approach is the most important. This approach is where the pastor and church leaders assess themselves by asking gut-level honest questions about where they are regarding biblical diversity. This is when the church leaders look in the mirror and ask God to reveal their hearts about biblical diversity.
A series of questions have been provided to assess where you and your church are and where you look forward to being. There are no right or wrong answers; the most important thing is to be honest.
What is my history in dealing with race and ethnicity?
How has racial prejudice reared its face in my life?
Do I have genuine relationships with people of other races and ethnicities?
Is ethnic diversity represented at the highest level of leadership within our church?
Is our church sensitive to diversity when hiring and recruiting staff and volunteers?
Does anyone from another ethnic group in my church share the pulpit and preaching?
Does my church exhibit an overall culture of embracing biblical diversity?
Is biblical diversity a core value in my church?
Are our print and media materials sensitive to biblical diversity?
How many times have I heard a sermon or teaching on biblical diversity in the past year?
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mk. 9:23)
The believing approach is a two-way street. First, you must believe and then you must be believable. Once the leader believes, it’s much easier to cast a vision of those beliefs that will inspire others to believe. The essence of this approach is that you can’t lead others to a place that is not of value to you. More importantly, you can’t lead your church to embrace biblical diversity if you don’t believe it’s essential and embrace it in your own life. As a church leader, you must believe that having a heart that embraces biblical diversity is a critical variable in the equation for reaching the world for Jesus Christ. You have to believe it, and you have to live it.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)
For some churches, the change approach will be the most challenging of the three approaches to moving people from where they are to where God needs them to be. Why? Because at the beginning of any movement, most people are resistant and skeptical. Don’t let this stop you from becoming a change agent for biblical diversity. Once change begins to happen, and you help the church get a glance of the future church, they will be one step closer to the change becoming a lasting reality.
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed,” Latino civil rights leader Cesar Chavez said. “You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard,and no mind has imagined what God has preparedfor those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)
What happens when the church assesses, believes and changes? It moves from where it is to where God intended it to be as a vehicle of salvation for the world. When the church gets out of its spiritual comfort zones and crosses the tracks of biblical diversity, our perspectives change, our beliefs change and we become change agents for the Kingdom of God who transform the world.
Dr. Harold Lewis, Vice President of Biblical Diversity
Dr. Harold D. Lewis Sr. is Converge’s Vice President of Biblical Diversity. A native of Greenwood, Mississippi, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, a Master of Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta and a Doctorate of Psychology from the University of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He also has been awarded multiple honorary doctorates. Dr. Lewis comes to Converge with over three decades of pastoral and leadership experience as a turnaround church pastor and a transformational coach for clergy and laypersons. His ministerial experience also includes more than 10 years of multicultural and justice responsibilities, which included collaborating with and resourcing Native American, Micronesian, Hispanic, Korean and Haitian ministries, as well as Black Methodists for Church Revival and the Conference Committee on Religion and Race.