In the spring of 2006, I received a call from the local NBC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas. The station wanted to feature Mosaic in a weekly segment designed to highlight institutions of faith making a difference in the lives of Arkansans. When I inquired further as to the producer’s interest in Mosaic, she summed it up by saying, “I want others to know that your church is not just diverse on the outside, but diverse on the inside as well.” In other words, what had caught her attention was the diversity of our leadership, not simply the diversity of our congregation. More than anything else, the diversity of our leadership established the credibility of our work in her eyes.
Empowering Diverse Leaders
Evangelist Luis Palau once said, “The choices we make determine the shape and color of our lives.” Likewise, the choices we make in terms of leadership determine the shape and color of our churches. To build a healthy multiethnic church, then, you mustempower diverse leaders. Indeed, this is a “put your money where your mouth is” principle that cannot be ignored.
As the producer recognized, credibility begins and ends in what is modeled from the top. If diverse leaders cannot walk, work and worship God together as one, there is little hope that a diverse congregation will be able to do so either.
Along this line, Chris Williamson, senior pastor ofStrong Tower Bible Church in Franklin, Tenn., once shared with me: “When trying to identify an authentic multiethnic church, I look at the composition of its leaders. If the leadership team (especially the paid staff) is not ethnically diverse, the stated desire of that church to be multiethnic can be called into question. In this regard, the old cliché is true: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’”
Intentionality vs. Wishful Thinking
When it comes to empowering diverse leaders, however, it’s important to recognize that intentionality is the middle ground between quota and wishful thinking.
In other words, you should not force the issue by predetermining just who or how many diverse leaders you will involve at any given time. On the other hand, you cannot sit in your office all day and pray that well-qualified candidates of diverse ethnic origin will somehow appear at you door. Seek diverse leaders, and you will find them when doing so becomes for you a priority.
In addition, avoid hiring diversity for diversity’s sake. Be intentional, yes, but be discerning too, allowing the Spirit of God to confirm in your heart those He would have serve alongside you in ministry. And remember, leaders must all walk in integrity, share theological convictions and embrace the vision, no matter what the color of their skin.
Oneness in Leadership
Finally, be careful not to presume you have empowered diverse leaders simply because diverse individuals are involved. There are perceptions that must also be considered and overcome in time.
With this in mind, an African-American pastor once told me, “Mark, if you hire or otherwise empower minorities only to lead your church in worship, you may inadvertently suggest to people, ‘We will embrace them as entertainers’ … or to work with your children as if to say, ‘We accept them to nanny our kids’ … or as janitors, as if to say, ‘We expect them to clean up after us.’ It is only when you allow us to share your pulpit, to serve with you on the elder board, or alongside you in apportioning the money that we will be truly one with you in the church.”
I have never forgotten his words.