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The tragedy unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri is saddening on a number of fronts. As I kept track of the events over the weekend, my heart broke for the broken hearts of the families most affected by the death of Michael Brown. Racial profiling has no place in the American justice system. We mustn’t unearth the sins of our forefathers in an effort to “maintain the peace.”
Growing up in a semi-urban setting, attending diverse public schools throughout my young life, I saw people of other races no differently than I saw my white friends, really—they just had different colored skin than I did.
The American church must understand that Jesus didn’t only come to save 46-year-old white Republicans!
Today, I’m pursuing my master’s degree in hopes of pastoring a church someday, and the despicable reality of racial division has never been so real. As I watch news reports and read blog commentary on the events in Ferguson, I can’t help but wonder what it means for me as a future pastor.
Diversity is valuable in the body of Christ as a whole, but pastors, if you want to reach Millennials, you’re definitely going to have to learn to love diversity. Pew reports:
Millennials are the most racially diverse generation in American history, a trend driven by the large wave of Hispanic and Asian immigrants who have been coming to the U.S. for the past half century, and whose U.S.-born children are now aging into adulthood.
The people of God is made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 7:9-10). The American church must understand that Jesus didn’t only come to save 46-year-old white Republicans!
A pastor who does not love the diversity of God does not love the people of God.
A man who claims to shepherd God’s people without a heart for diversity is no shepherd at all.
This is not to say a pastor of a mostly-white church hates Jesus. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But pastors, if you want to faithfully serve the body of Christ, Millennials, minorities, or otherwise, you have to actually value cultures and peoples different than your own.
In her book United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity, Trillia Newbell lays out a few practical steps for pastors who wish to pursue diversity. Her words are helpful, and pastors, you would be well-served to take this list to your next elder board meeting and develop an action plan to reach the fullness of the people of God in your communities.
Pray. No matter the demographic of your church, you can begin to pray that God would give you opportunities to reach out to those unlike yourself. God loves the prayers of His saints. Ask Him to bring diversity across your path. Ask Him to give you wisdom and grace for diverse relationships.
Evangelize. We can’t really go and make disciples of all nations without sharing the gospel. Ask God to provide opportunities to boldly proclaim Christ to those around you. Get uncomfortable. Step out in faith to reach those unlike you. As I’ve mentioned before, diversity isn’t about diversity for diversity’s sake; it’s about the gospel and spreading that news to all people.
Hospitality. In chapter 6 we saw how we might build diversity in our homes. Seek opportunities to apply those suggestions. [From chapter 6: Invite other Christians into your home for lunches, dinners, or parties. Include members of your church or your neighbors. Find those who are different from you, take an interest in their lives, and invite them over for a meal.]
Go. We can be a people who will go and choose to go to churches that are attempting to build multiethnic congregations.
Stay. We can stay in situations that may be uncomfortable yet are good, because we believe the Lord has us there for the purpose of building His church, even if we are lonely snowflakes.
God’s people are diverse. Our churches must seek to be diverse, not for diversity’s sake or just to meet a quota, but because the local church is a reflection of the global Church.