By Cameron Triggs
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
We live in a day and age when diversity is a buzzword. Sadly, many are talking about it, but often few are pursuing it.
We live in a day and age where America has never been more diverse, but a casual glance at school cafeterias, suburban cul-de-sacs, and demographics demonstrate we still segregate by preference and comfortability.
Of course, I am not arguing there are no benefits to homogenous relationships; especially among the marginalized and even among minorities. However, I believe there are dangerous side-effects to living lives unaware of what our brothers and sisters experience outside of our perspective.
We have become so divided that the question I often hear posed is, “How can I live a diverse life?”
This struggle is not only evident in institution or neighborhoods but also in our churches. Movements have been birthed promoting multiethnic churches with transcultural expressions.[epq-quote align=”align-right”]Diversity in our worship centers must be preceded by diversity in our living rooms.[/epq-quote]Many conversations continue to discuss the diversity of leadership teams, the formation of multicultural worship, and what percentages make you multiethnic. Still, we often find our members struggling to engage in the norms set by leadership to achieve diversity.
At Grace Alive we believe diversity in our worship centers must be preceded by diversity in our living rooms. Our programming, staffing, and even location can be strategic for multiethnic gatherings, but ultimately we want our members to live multiethnic lives.
Here are some suggestions for Grace Alive and your local church:
Relocating is what Jesus did in John 4. He went to Samaria. He went to the margins of society and engaged the women at the well.
Relocating is what Paul did by going to the Synagogue and then to the prominent places amongst the Gentiles. Jesus and Paul pursued diversity by relocating themselves where diversity could be found.
Changing your daily rhythms to intentionally engage in diversity will open your eyes to your city and show you where the Gospel needs to penetrate neighborhoods and your heart. Consider where you shop and who you do business with; are all of those relationships homogenous?
If so, that can be OK, but it could also be a sign that you have grown apathetic to the other communities that are right in your backyard. Sure, it can be difficult crossing cultures, but it’s no more difficult than the cultures Jesus crossed so we may know him.
Intentionally execute on the relationships you already have. Many of us work in communities of diversity. However, we haven’t moved past the shallow conversations at the water cooler.
Take someone out that makes you uncomfortable and find out why. You will see your uncomfortableness was typically a bias or blind spot that God wanted to cure by you pressing into other image bearers that express His creativity and beauty.
Another option would be to consider the friendships your children have at school. Have you scheduled play dates, hosted families, or intentionally intersected lives with families already at your fingertips?
Engage in culture with friends. Do not merely settle for acquaintances and taboo questions. Press deeper into their experiences as human beings created by God.
Engage in experiences that express their history and background. If invited, observe, attend, and honor cultural institutions like weddings, funerals, or family gatherings. This will show you the rich tapestry that is in your community beyond your cultural normativity.
James 1:19 states, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Too many times we are quick to speak, respond, argue, and debate.[epq-quote align=”align-right”]My identity in Christ allows me to listen and not always fight to be right.[/epq-quote]We learn from others when they express their cultures, challenge the status quo we have become accustomed to, or lament any grief they have experienced. Before we respond, we should listen. They have a perspective we cannot tap in to on our own.
My identity in Christ allows me to listen and not always fight to be right. God always hears me and never stops loving me. Therefore, I do not have to argue, yell, or demean someone to get my point across. I can listen, even if it hurts.
Increase your knowledge about a particular culture by listening to the cultural thought leaders in their communities. Listen to their artists, read their authors, and watch their movies.
By doing this, you will realize that “their” artists, authors, and directors are “our” artists. You will be enriched, challenged, and enlightened in ways that a completely homogenous viewpoint would have been unable to provide.
Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. The subtle trick of idolatry is forming earthly things to reflect ourselves as supreme. Apart from a covenant relationship with God, we are what we worship; and what we worship most is ourselves.
We have made ourselves God in some form or fashion. Fickle preferences and stubborn comfortability are often idols that protect self-worship.
When our lives become a room full of mirrors we are reflecting self-idolatry. We want to be surrounded by people who look like us, sound like us, and think like us. Why?
Because we subversively desire a community that exalts our self-worship. Supremacist homogenous communities are perverted depictions of the diverse Trinitarian community formed by the Gospel.
Take heed, because none of us are beyond this temptation. Therefore, we repeatedly and consistently need the Gospel.
The Good News of Jesus dying for sinners is expansive. It has necessary implications of forgiveness and reconciliation, and we become ambassadors of this great and glorious news according to 2 Corinthians 5:20.
This Good News is vertical but also horizontal.
Ephesians 2:1-10 demonstrates we were dead, but God made us alive together in Christ. Verses 11-22 show us that this vertical reconciliation has horizontal consequences. It shows us Christ has made one new man by nailing all hostility on the cross.
At the cross where my Savior dies, he took pride, guilt, and xenophobia with him. They died on the cross and were buried in His grave, but He got up so we can model reconciled lives to a watching world.
I hope these seven suggestions spark a movement of diversity in your life. But don’t stop there. Diversity is not harmony.
Diversity is the starting point but not the finish line. Put that in the piggy bank for another time. The difference between diversity and racial harmony is another post all by itself.
We are better together.
Cameron Triggs (@CamTriggs) is a husband, father, and the church planting pastor of Grace Alive in Orlando, Florida. He formerly served Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, Florida and was sent by The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.