ESTABLISHING MULTIFAITH ENGAGEMENT WITHIN MISSIONAL CHURCHES
Updated: Jan 20, 2020
OD778 - Advanced Christian Leadership
Fuller Theological Seminary
A Revelation 21:24 church is one which celebrates and respects diversity within the body of Christ. Read in conjunction with Matthew 6:10, there is a clear call for the church to be inclusive, welcoming, and open to all. Unfortunately, the raw human inclination is to segregate ourselves into like-minded groups, which resemble our own worldviews, racial background or cultural expression. The underlying theme here becomes God’s design for our time on earth. Globalization has increased the prevalence of diversity in many parts of the world, specifically in the United States, still one might find themselves in a homogeneous context due to human inclination. Scripture claims we are better together rather than siloed as our self-centered human condition would prefer. That said, according to a Pew Research Center poll, of the twelve major world religions, all but three are held by a majority ethnic group. Establishing multifaith engagement within missional churches is imperative to our Christian formation, despite challenging societal norms, and requires strong Christ-centered influencers, intentionality and change management leadership. Put simply, Christians are called to pursue love over fear and integration over segregation in a polarized culture. However, change agents will need to challenge the current dynamic and uproot longstanding inclinations. This volume will be devoted to establishing multifaith engagement within missional churches in two parts: a strategic plan followed by a case study example. The strategic plan will focus on defining radical relationships, honing targets, influencing leaders, identifying wins, and working through roadblocks. Subsequently, a unique case study example will be presented, addressing multicultural integration from a minority perspective.
PART I: STRATEGIC PLAN
Radical Relationships Defined
Creating an environment where a multicultural congregation is able to thrive begins with an understanding of scripture, closely followed by an intimate knowledge of how God called his people to engage with fellow believers and others. From a leadership perspective, Kim Scott introduces the idea of radical candor. She claims as a boss, read: change agent, one needs to give a damn. She further describes radical candor as the culmination of two leadership principles: care personally and challenging directly. More on this theory later, suffice it to say, the leadership principles she introduces are applicable both in terms of managing church staff through change as well as how Christians should engage their own spheres of influence. Currently, the U.S. Christian church is losing its edge in terms of growth and outreach due to our limited perspective on who belongs inside the church walls, our own fears and comfort, as well as the inability to directly and respectfully address the spiritual lives of those in our daily lives.
A familiar but relevant story is found in John 4, where Jesus engages the Samaritan woman. Several points of consideration are found in this example. First, Christ illustrates the perfect representation of cross cultural engagement. As a Jew, speaking to a Samaritan woman at all was considered taboo. However, he showed the imperative nature of throwing out cultural norms in an effort to reach the lost with the saving grace of the gospel. In this example, Christ also engaged the woman in her own context. Rather than hosting a ministry meeting or asking that those interested meet the disciples at a particular location to hear the good news, he showed up in her everyday life. These two points were actions rather than words. However, to Ms. Scott’s point, when our Savior did open his mouth, he did not back down from the truth. In effect, Christ challenged directly saying, “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, give me a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Radical relationships are those that move against cultural norms into a space which aims to purposefully see and engage the individual who is contrair to the majority context in which one finds themselves, recognizes the long-term nature of the task and seeks above all to share the gospel authentically through both actions and words. These values require intentionality on the part of the individual and their supporting church body.
Of course, engaging in this type of ministry should be second nature to Christians but also requires a particular type of church on the receiving end. Churches with a missional underlayment are great places to begin. Missional churches have put Romans 12:2 into practice, whereby Paul calls the church to become a living sacrifice saying, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) In this Paul, iterates the importance of not nonconformity, rather acting according to scripture, which leads believers to step outside church walls to create to intentionally reach non-believers of any culture with the gospel. However, this movement does start inside the church walls.
Missional churches are the proverbial low hanging fruit in the story because their theology has already been formed toward outreach. Karl Barth was instrumental in the reintroduction of the term missio dei, which is found in scripture – God the Father sends the Son and the Spirit into the world, and the Father, Son and Spirit send the church into the world for the sake of the world. Woodward says,
In other words, mission exists because God is a missionary God. And “a church which is not on mission is either not yet or no longer the church, or only a dead church – itself in need of renewal.” If we seek to create a missional culture, foretaste and instrument by which more of his kingdom would be realized here on earth.
All this to say, churches which already ascribe to a missional mindset should contain leadership structures and theologies supportive of integrating multicultural components. Missional churches will have several specific ministries in place, to include: foreign missions, local outreaches, ongoing support of Christian missions organizations, and church wide initiatives and drives which support local community efforts. One might simply ask why then are these churches not already multicultural. Put simply, organizations become stuck in one mentality, an us versus them school of thought which prohibits full integration.
Chapter 5 on stumbling blocks will more fully uncover these pitfalls but it is important to note the theologies which make multicultural engagement an easier step for missional churches A missional church will rely on four main principles: unity, holiness, catholicity leading to reconciliation, and be apostolic. Unity refers to the unified church. In other words, a singular church body at one with itself and each other. Hastings tells of Jesus’ own disciples who were drawn together by Christ himself. “All joined together constantly in prayer…all together in one place.” (Acts 1:12, Acts 2:1) Holiness refers to sanctification of the church body under the will of God. In this case the target missional church would be one which is fervent in seeking solid spiritual disciplines, grounded in truth and dedicated to creating space where they might simply dwell in the presence of the living God. In this space, God will be able to reveal his heart for unity in terms of the larger global context. The third principle of catholicity leading to reconciliation, commitment to reaching those far from Jesus, so that the alienated might enter the shalom community of the body of Christ. This theme refers more to a reconciling of the individual to God, rather than an evangelistic principle which comes in the final term. An apostolic church might then reference a congregation committed to sending teams or individuals out to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This reveals the heart of a church committed to the type of ministry Jesus honored, which was built of his own closest confidants, the apostles. Missional churches that display these characteristics are showing a submission and dependency on God lending well to necessary next steps in creating environments where those of diverse backgrounds feel welcome.
Influencing Leaders to Incorporate Multiethnic Elements
While an entire volume could be written on influencing leaders, key elements pertinent to the particular context outlined will be highlighted. A primary learning here is simply the idea that church personnel no matter the context are under constant pressure to meet the needs of others whether it be congregants, non-governmental organizations, cities and structures where churches are located, and even local media. Any group of this nature is under constant demand politically to serve needs. Recognizing this dilemma is primary in learning the subtleties of influencing well.
With this struggle in mind, one must determine the best approach through which to reach a particular church. Often the most obvious approach is the least likely to produce the intended outcome. Determining the frame with which a particular church operates is most likely the most influential way to see intended outcomes. Bolman and Deal review the four major organizational structures, or organizational frames: structural, human resource, political and symbolic.“The central beliefs of the structural frame reflect confidence in rationality and faith that a suitable array of roles and responsibilities will minimize distracting personal static and maximize people’s performance on the job.” This frame seems the most straight forward, with clearly defined roles and objectives but is hardly ever the framework in which Christian churches operate merely due to the humanity of the souls involved and the reality of ministry. Next on Bolman’s list is the human resource frame which, as the name would yield, directly relates to the individuals involved. In this structure, the actions people do to and for one another are highlighted. Issues arise in this structure when interpersonal relations and small group dynamics are not managed appropriately to suit the intended organizational outcomes. In layman’s terms, the human resources frame reflects ministries which might employ and encourage those who are not necessarily high output or dynamic leaders in their particular fields, rather those whom Jesus placed within the organization for a particular purpose, sometimes but not necessarily connected to the nature of their position’s best practices.
The final two organizational frames as described by Bolman and Deal are the political and symbolic frame. The political structure centers on power and the struggle to maintain power. While this can be present in many church dynamics, the prevailing frame would still be the human resources frame merely due to the necessary players of the game. However, as an influencer considers affecting a missional church operating in the human resources frame, the political structure must first be understood with cards played appropriately if lasting change is sought. Finally, the symbolic frame interprets and illuminates the basic issues of meaning and belief that make symbols so potent. While no organization could operate entirely within a particular frame, inevitably one will one will rise as a predominant structure.
In an effort to answer the question of how one influences leaders to incorporate multiethnic elements, first one must be determined to affect change within the framework currently held by the organization. In this example, the human resource frame determines the rules of the game. Also of importance, is defining the actual activities or wins associated with a missional church becoming a multicultural congregation welcoming of those who ascribe to various cultures, backgrounds interests and ethnicities. These elements could be celebrations of cultures, a presence of various groups represented by those on the platform during key church events, a congregation representative of the community in which it is placed, music that transcends tastes, and a general understanding of the gospel’s availability to all people. While these elements may feel natural for missional churches, incorporating any one of them becomes difficult as pet projects of leaders in a church’s political structure are jeopardized to make room for diversity initiatives.
Affecting change or influencing organizations then first involves understanding the structure at play and the wins associated with aforementioned structure. Subsequently, one must understand the art and practice of leading innovation. Presumably, missional churches are bent toward innovation and openness due to the nature of missional work. However, this fact does not imply leading innovation is a key strength of these leaders. Hill and her co-authors discuss these dynamics in their text, Collective Genius. Pentagram, a design firm, was used as an example to show how the collection of high-level design talents were more successful ultimately than each part individually. While working alone might have produced more value monetarily in the short term, the sum of all collective parts produced a greater outcome ultimately in terms of design, innovation and income.
Producing multiethnic churches is no small task but one that can be accomplished even inside an established church if the right elements are at play. Approaching missionally minded churches leaders within their own structural frame is critical. Subsequently, these leaders must be convicted, as Linda Hill suggests, that God himself designed multiple cultures and influence to work together to produce a global collective genius. A theology of change will need to be uncovered which ascribes to the notion that siloed living is counterintuitive to Christ’s model for the church in addition to being ultimately prohibitive of making disciples in a time where the lost are in desperate need of truth.
Managing Change While Building Diversity
The real work begins at consideration or in the best-case scenario, at “yes.” Missional church pastors and leaders might be keen to attract a more diverse crowd, however when the losses are defined, personnel issues will inevitably arise. Unless the church is growing at a rapid pace and scaled for innovation, programs will need to be cut to make way for new initiatives and staff will need to be reassigned to create space for new diversity projects. Bolman reports three disturbing statistics about companies making organizational changes. Only 12 percent achieved their goal, while 38 percent failed by a wide margin and 50 percent settled for a significant shortfall. These statistics represent data collected from 250 American companies and seems worrisome as one considers the significant resources of the private sector versus the local church.
Further, Bolman points to comparing the stories of change at 3M, JC Penny, and Ford as an illustration of iron law: limited, top-down thinking almost always fails. Their conclusion centered around changes that are employee driven and comprehensive having a better chance of success rather than those which are led at the top. The next logical question then becomes how to engage employees or on-the-ground teams to create a holistic approach. Kegan and Lahey have spent significant time unlocking immunity to change and creating work environments that are led by those who will be implementing cross-organizational changes. Primarily their work focuses on acquiring a new means of perceiving.
…the first task (is) creating an adaptive formulation of an adaptive challenge. Seeing how a challenge brings us to the current limits of our own mental growth is obviously not a cognitive matter alone. Instead it will connect head and heart, thinking and feeling. An adaptive formulation requires some new means of perceiving that at once gives us a sharper analytic reading than we have had before and reveals the “emotional ecology” underlying the challenge. … On a practical level, an immunity to change… gives us a picture of how we are actively preventing the very change we wish to make.
In essence, forming immunity to change within an organization is more than creating award systems to incentivize workers toward common goals. Rather, it involves an entire structure dedicated to a common goal. The question then becomes how to engage volunteers in ways that allow them to feel valued and create an ownership of a particular initiative. To Bolman’s point buy-in should be created within an organization whereby those other than leaders are invested fully. Creating this type of ownership is simple once people are given creative agency and feel they add value to an organization. Teams devoted to particular initiatives whereby individual voices are raised and accepted will be the key to success within our target churches.
Managing change within the church human resources framework will involve more than a great plan. Rather, commitment to a cause will come with familiarity, knowledge of cultures and ethnicities, and noticing real life change. Churches which are dominated by a particular race or culture, unintentionally create a worldview that ignites an us versus them culture. However, as stories of life change are exposed, those whom might once have been averse to the entire idea of creating environments welcoming to a multicultural audience, might soon be turned into believers. Missions might also be a wonderful introduction to multicultural ministry. As congregants are exposed to new cultures and languages, love of communities where church members are serving naturally develops. Soon, those who might have been the toughest opponents will find themselves advocating for region or culture specific welcoming teams. These two ideas represent several initiatives which could become a part of a multicultural church initiative. However, two specific criteria must be met in the process: initiatives are led by those at the base level of an organization 2) felt losses are naturally minimized due to the focus on life changing impact of new diversity-based initiatives.
Finally, change management requires multiple skills, one of which is getting past no. William Ury breaks down the breaking through strategy in his text by introducing readers to five main principles. These “do not do” principles include: do not react, do not argue, do not reject, do not push and do not escalate. These principles are key in creating an environment where conflict does not thrive. Rather, compassion and camaraderie prevail. Ury also claims,
Whether you are negotiating with your boss, a hostage-taker, or your teenager, the basic principles remain the same. In summary, the five steps of breakthrough negotiation are: go to the balcony-do not control behavior of others, step to their side, reframe conversations, build them a golden bridge, and use power to educate. To accomplish this goal, you need to resist normal human temptations and do the opposite of what you naturally feel like doing. You need to suspend your reaction when you feel like striking back, to listen when you feel like talking back, to ask questions when you feel like telling your opponent the answers, to bridge your differences when you feel like pushing for your way, and to educate when you feel like escalating.
Stumbling Blocks to Creating Multiethnic Churches
Over time the culture of a successful organization fuses so fully into its DNA that full integration of other cultures seems to threaten the good thing already built. However, as previously stated, Christians have been called into the uncomfortable, not the pleasant and familiar. Dr. Terry Walling writes about this theory in his published work, Stuck. He uncovers the general principle of letting go. A process that must be fully and completely walked through if a church takes seriously multicultural engagement. He says, “One of the keys to a transition is to let go of the past in order to embrace the future. In a transition, a Christ-follower is often called to leave behind the familiar. … God is at work on a long-term project: shaping our hearts and life direction.”
The concept of managing change uncovers many of the stumbling blocks associated with building diversity in a monoethnic environment or in other words, welcoming multicultural contexts. Leaders will need to foresee challenges like: program and media capacity, identifying leaders who have a desire to become experts in particular people groups, resource development, space and current culture. Developing environments will require a long-term approach which is contrair to the nature of the American mindset. By and large North Americans have been trained to see immediate results from our work and when these things are not met, we switch course. In this case, reachable goals will need to be in place to highlight positive change.
Additional stumbling blocks might include monetary resources to conduct outreach events as well as the commitment of large church donors. Wise pastors understand that wealthy congregants must never determine the direction of the church, however if one of these becomes opposed to outreach to particular people groups, they might become a tension to manage. In addition, programs require resources. Resources are not limited to but whole heartedly include both human resources as well as a budget to conduct certain outreach events. For example, a local billboard campaign focusing on featuring a multiethnic population with language building an open invitation might be an option but becomes prohibitive in the event funds are not available. Albeit, in this case, creative leaders might choose to implement a more personal approach in creating team to engage on a grassroots level. That is to say, stumbling blocks when viewed through the right lens are only opportunities for innovation and growth. Imploring many of the change management teachings will move stumbling blocks into opportunities which will benefit all involved as difficult parties find themselves submitted once again to the global will of God.
Solidifying wins is the next logical step in uncovering best practices of multicultural engagement. Positive outcomes will include six main concepts. Garces-Foley proclaim,”
Besides having demographic diversity, multiethnic churches must find ways to affirm diversity while still building a sense of shared community. One word that captures both of these goals well is inclusion. … If inclusion is key, a multiethnic church is as follows: the multiethnic church is an inclusive, ethnically diverse community. (However,) there is an explicit rejection of forced assimilation in much of the multiethnic church literature, but how cultural differences are best incorporated into church life is very much an open question. Churches that are too formulaic in their attempts to “affirm” a cultural diversity are perceived as fake or only superficially diverse.
In addition to inclusion, a church which has fully integrated multicultural elements exhibits diversity. Diversity must have become an intentional part of staffing and staging in an effort to usher in a new church character. Multiethnic representation must be displayed as a part of weekend services through singers, worship styles, pastors, teachers, visible staff, greeting and outreach teams all becoming intentionally diverse. The term affirmative action has been used in this arena. This means being steadfast in creating a space where individuals belonging to large ethnic groups in the local community are able to see a visible representation of themselves involved at all levels of the church.
A second win for congregations seeking diversity is reflected in their involvement with like-minded churches. Either forming or becoming a part of like-minded community of churches whereby ideas may be shared and best practices sought would be an overwhelming win for all involved. Inclusive ministries within the church walls seek to dismantle previous strongholds whereby a better together mentality prevails – this also holds true for church leaders sharing ideas with others in their area, even partnering on initiatives when applicable. Further, these ideals might also be represented in the altering or addition of non-profit beneficiaries. Whereas ethnic centric pregnancy centers in an affluent part of town might have previously been supported, possibly the addition of a domestic violence shelter in a section of town where minority populations thrive might be added to the church’s support list.
Subsequently, a multiethnic church would by nature contain missions or outreach projects in three main areas: local, national and global. Scripture tells believers, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Christ followers wishing to live out the great commission would ascribe at all levels of this particular scripture. Finally, Proverbs 31:8-9 leads congregations toward the cumulative action of public advocacy. “Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” In this case, the afflicted and needy represent more than what first meets the eye. Those in need in this scenario includes people groups oppressed in their home town due to a lack of acceptance, representation, community or services. Advocating for biblical justice on behalf of these people groups at the local, state or federal level reveals a church whose heart is fully committed to incorporating and supporting diverse populations.
PART II: CASE STUDY
Church Leadership Structure
Mono Community Church (MCC) is a large non-denominational congregation of about 14,000 members which exists in a rapidly growing area of North Dallas Texas. While the majority of protestant Christian churches in the area are predominately Anglo, this church’s Jamaican pastor has been a major draw for the local population of people of color. While the congregation appears about 97% black, it is actually very diverse. Recent African immigrants have found home at MCC and have integrated quite well with the African American population. It is important to note that the pastor was trained by a very well-known African American theologian which has increased the draw of the local black population, many of whom have a background in a more traditional African American Baptist culture. For these, making the leap to non-denominational is a significant change in and of itself, so incorporation of more aggressive multicultural elements has been mixed.
Additionally, the church is currently overseeing four campuses in diverse areas of town which are considered satellite campuses of the home church. These locations have their own worship teams, pastors and staff. However, they all stream the main message from the home campus each week, giving the lead pastor significant leverage. In his 2012 work, Cormode introduces the idea of a cultural repertoire. A repertoire, he explains, is particularly evocative because it weds a way of seeing the world with a way of performing in it.” Later in the chapter he goes on to say,
“These leaders espoused an ethic of consultation that said that the new structure would reflect the wisdom of the whole denomination. But when it came time to make a meaningful decision, their theory-in-use said that they would accept the wisdom of the whole people so long as it did not contradict the wisdom of their collective experience.
In the case of MCC, an introduction to any new idea does not necessarily play by Cormode’s rule, due to the leadership structure in place. The pervasive style is a pastor driven mindset with a 20/80 staff to volunteer ratio, inside a human resource framework. Again, Bolman maintains,
“The human resource frame questions the deeply held managerial assumption that employees had no right beyond a paycheck, and their duty was to work hard and follow orders. Pioneers of the human resource frame criticized this view on two grounds: It was unjust, and it was bad psychology. They argued that people’s skills, attitudes, energy and commitment are vital resources that can make or break an enterprise.”
These ideals are represented in the leadership structure of MCC and taken a step further. The staff slogan is, “if you are not meeting you are not leading.” Quality time with both staff and volunteers is placed above respecting the outside commitments of particular staff and or volunteers. In other words, the goal of leadership is to become all things to all people. While five nights per week are consumed with either alignment meetings or church functions, the other two days of the week are overtaken with mandatory fun events which are meant to ensure staff and volunteers do not feel taken advantage of due to the ongoing required church commitments. These are all ideals inherited by the lead pastor who runs a tight ship through his commitment to innovation, leadership ideals and investment in his top leadership team.
A large portion of the culture at MCC centers around a ministry principle briefly mentioned in a previous section. The 20/80 staff to volunteer ratio is a theory put into practice which turns the routine structure exhibiting an 80 percent staff and 20 percent volunteer run church upside down. The perspective of leadership in this case is to involve as many of the church members as possible in significant roles at the church in an effort to build commitment and a sense of ministry ownership within as many of the congregants as possible. MCC believes engagement on behalf of regular members brings more of the church in alignment with their purpose in the kingdom then in other formats as most members are served by staff. The later structure is believed to build upon the consumerism which is so pervasive within the American culture, leaving the Sunday-only member mostly living outside the will of God.
Other important considerations in any case study that includes MCC are the core values, mission and leadership teachings presented during the executive and core meetings.
All volunteers who lead teams are required to attend a three-hour meeting every week called core meeting. During this meeting alignment is set from the top down. All volunteer leads are required to answer the following six questions from memory.
Why do we exist: Four R’s – redeeming souls, rebuilding lives, reshaping communities, reproducing leaders. How do we behave? Our core values – biblical authority, intimacy with God, missional living, authentic community, strategic service, intentional apprenticing, relevant environments. What do we do? Our vision – We create environments where the unchurched love to attend and the churched are fully engaged to God, insiders and outsiders. How will we succeed? Employing the four R’s. What is the most important right now? Current organizational season – attaching people based on our organizational season – attract – attach – adore. Who must do what? Each leader attaching disconnected guests weekly.
These principles are repeated regularly to maintain alignment. In addition to these, the lead pastor is continually subjecting the core leadership team to new and innovative leadership teaching from the top leaders nationally to include popular Christian and secular leadership. There is an emphasis on innovation, scalability and leadership which excludes by default those who are not fully and whole heartedly devoted to the broader vision of the church and each individual’s calling and reaching those who are far from God in radical ways.
MCC is a missional church with has employed a designated mission pastor who is over global and local outreach events. The department currently does not have a set budget rather is able to present any vetted idea to the leadership team for approval. Currently, 10 global teams are sent abroad annually to countries which are at various stages of openness to Christianity. In addition to global missions, the churches outreach and evangelism teams include team numbers in the hundreds and conduct events multiple times per week.
Sustainability and current health of the team in addition to current radical ministry initiatives will be discussed in this final section. While the congregation has experienced rapid growth over the last ten years, a focus on scalability is a priority has been made a priority. The administrative staff has been with the church for over five years and has reported anecdotally a deep love for their church, pastors and the work. However, there is an undeniable burnout that staff are experiencing due to the amount of time inside church walls. Thankfully the lead pastor has recently submitted himself to the feedback of a few close friends which suggested he exhibit self-control in an effort to more successfully reach the lost. Over the past month this particular initiative has succeeded which shows a willingness to incorporate new ideas outside that of the entire church body. The aforementioned quote, “accept the wisdom of the whole people so long as it did not contradict the wisdom of their collective experience,” represents a philosophy that the cultural repertoire would be up for grabs so long as the idea did not affect the collective experience. However, it could be argued in this case that the lead pastor acted on his own wisdom and submission to God rather than yielding to the effect on the collective experience.
The exhibition of this type of leadership lends itself well to the incorporation of multicultural engagement for MCC. The lead pastor shows he has the trust of his top leadership team daily and is willing to move against the cultural grain to make decisions which will benefit the church in the long term in terms of their collective devotion to the will of God. To aid in this illustration, a few other examples of such decisions include: hiring a Christian hip hop artist to perform at movie house for a singles ministry event, inviting a multifaith panel appear during Sunday service, and the creation of a large community outreach event whereby the church feed five thousand local families during one month. Clearly there are holes in the leadership structure and room for improvement but the pervasive devotion to missional living and innovation lend well to MCC becoming an agent of reconciliation in their community through the incorporation of multicultural engagement leading to diversity in the church.
MCC Case Study: Immediate Response While the church continues to attract men and women of color, the rapid growth is also bringing some diversity in attendance. It appears as if the word is relevant and the worship sets are reaching some. However, visitors other than people of color may not feel welcomed due to the pervasive black culture incorporated throughout all aspects of the church experience. After listening to a pod cast on innovation during a recent executive committee meeting, the lead pastor asked his top tier team where the church could stand to improve. When it came time for responses, an Anglo girl, Audrey, new to the team said, “diversity.” The Jamaican lead pastor, Pastor Evans, immediately took hold of the idea and assigned her to lead the cause. In this case, convincing leadership was done from the top down rather than the uphill battle of attempting to convince a lead pastor to change their own theology on the topic. One detail that should not be overlooked is the emphasis placed on a diverse church being representative of the experience of heaven during the preceding Sunday’s sermon. In short, the comment and charge given to Audrey did not seem out of the ordinary, rather an extension of all that had been recently discussed form the pulpit.
In his text, Leadership is an Art, Max DePree raises the question of ownership. First, DePree explains the three main types of owners of a particular organization or company. Owners include those who merely fund the project, those who give their lives by way of work hours to a project, and “essential contributors to the corporation whom invest some special skill or talent or creative energy and have a strong commitment to the corporation, but part-time.” He says,
In the position of owners, we become more accountable for our personal performance. Owners cannot walk away from concerns. So, the accountability of all of us begins to change. Ownership demands increasing maturity on everyone’s part. Maturity is probably expressed best in a continually rising level of literacy: business literacy, participative literacy, ownership literacy, competitive literacy. The group of owners committed to the same organization, to the same goals, to the same value system must be knowledgeable in many areas. Ownership demands a commitment to be as informed about the whole as one can be.
DePree’s conversation on ownership is imperative in determining proper immediate steps for MCC as Pastor Evans seeks diversity and welcoming those who may not currently feel welcomed in the largely black culture.
In this case, Pastor Evans took the first immediate step to assign one of the top leaders to brainstorm successful diversity tactics. Although, the road for Audrey will not be easy as she is not a paid employee of the church, represents the outsider and not only needs to develop a team and work across ministry lines to create a cohesive theme of multicultural incorporation but also shift the worldview of current members of the congregation that might have deep roots in a more traditional black Baptist culture. In Audrey’s experience, sage members of MCC are less likely to support aggressive incorporation of cultures due to the trauma the African American culture has experienced in the United States. In fact, Audrey overheard an academic member say, “by the end of the week, we just want to be with our own people because we are tired of putting up with you.” This comment expresses many of the challenges Audrey and Pastor Evans will need to overcome in their effort to create an environment where people of various cultures are able to thrive.
Logically, an immediate question is the validity of the task. The truth is that God is creating a people (singular) for himself from all peoples (plural) – people from every tribe, nation, tongue and people group. [37a] (Revelation 5:9 and 7:9) In addition, Ephesians 2:19 ushers in one family under God, “So now you gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” God’s design for his people is clear, the difficulty is on the believer’s side as they take their eyes off of God’s broader messages and design for his people. That said, Pastor Evans took the immediate response into his own hands as he was convicted about the developing monocultural expression of his congregation and chose to raise the issue during service pointing to scripture, invite leadership team in to the topic through a secular podcast and finally assigning Audrey to the task.
MCC Case Study: Short Term Response
“Well-behaved women seldom make history,” penned Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in her 1978 American Quarterly article. Christian women living in postmodern United States receive mixed messages as a regular part of everyday life. By and large, messaging to this population has been to maintain a conservative theology, exhibit a strong moral compass and to be submissive to men. Unfortunately, these messages have been distorted and taken out of scriptural context, silencing the contributions of women for centuries. However, employing the unique skillsets of the entire body of Christ could be the lynchpin in creating Revelation 21:24 churches.
While this hypothesis might seem contemporary, reviewing the roles of women in Christ’s own ministry will shed significant light. The Lord’s Prayer says, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13) As MCC repeats these words regularly, they, seemingly unknowingly, are asking God to create a community of reconciliation inside the church walls, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth.” (Matthew 6:10) To that end, if heaven represents every tongue and tribe, then Christ called upon his Father to help believers create a similar community on earth. As solutions are considered, the undeniable role of women will arise. As discussed during the strategic plan portion, radical relationships will be the ultimate key to creating a community of integrated expressions. Cross-culturally, women hold the relational keys to any community. Employing women to engage on a family, mother and community level with women of other cultures will be imperative as short-term goals are considered. Recently, the U.S. military sent a special operations team to the middle east to conduct a similar mission. The team was called Lioness and was composed solely of women in an effort to reach, education and connect with women in Muslim nations who hold the keys to their community.
Short term goals for MCC will include the following: 1) Diversity expressed in forward facing teams, 2) Creating advocate teams which are entirely devoted to reaching out to a diverse population in the community 3) Creating short films surrounding the idea of compelling love. These may seem like large asks from a congregation in the beginning stages of considering diversity. However, Audrey was approved to form a team called compelling love which will be solely devoted to the aforementioned goals. The success rate of MCC’s compelling love team is yet to be determined.
However, as Soong-Chan Rah writes, “The community endures great suffering as injustice visits the innocent. The cost of human sinfulness and systematic injustice are evident as the entire community bears the burden. … The consequences of sin have visited the innocent.” In the case of immediate community surrounding OCC, the innocent are those who are far from God and the human sinfulness expressed is the desire to remain in a comfort silo engaging only with those events, people and cultures which are familiar. Of course, the multicultural engagement long game is for MCC members to feel comfortable with a variety of human expressions so as they become educated on the types of people in their local community. MCC will have accomplished its goal when newness melts into a familiarity and excitement to reach these on behalf of Jesus Christ.
MCC Case Study: Medium Term Response
By definition medium responses are those which address the underlying problem. MCC’s underlying issue of racial oppression has been discussed throughout the case study and preceding strategic plan. However, specific responses as it relates to named medium term goals has not been uncovered. Medium term responses for MCC include three main objectives: 1) Create an online portal with additional media on general cultural awareness and specifics on interfaith engagement and targeted people groups 2) Increase local outreaches to create teams specific to either interfaith outreach, community event outreach, and those willing to engage people of diverse backgrounds during weekend experiences 3) Begin to incorporate unique styles of worship and creative elements which would seek to create welcoming environments for people of any background.
These goals are large asks for MCC and not to be taken lightly. The timeline for integration of medium-term goals is six to twelve months following immediate and short-term responses. Aubrey Malphurs writes, “Presently far too many churches are unsure about accepting change, which is no way to approach ministry and the various church models in the early twenty-first century. A church’s view of change will have a major impact on its ability to minister. Those that remain resistant to change will likely not survive.” He goes on to list merely two restrictions on innovation within the church. Malphurs advocates, any change must be rooted in bible and any form must help to accomplish the absolutes and grow in Christ. He warns, “We must be careful not to vilify others in the exercise of their freedom simply because we do not like the style they choose for worship.” Similarly, we must also not vilify people groups which are outside the norm of a particular congregation in our effort to create a cohesive community. These souls should not be considered projects, templates or service. Rather, any collective labeling should be pointed toward the church body as they have lacked seeking integration thus far. That said, any movement toward acceptance and integration is to be commended and considered positive change.
MCC Case Study: Long Term Response
Long term responses are those which internalize solutions constructed to combat underlying issues. Pastor Evans and the compelling love team will need to be aligned at the outset on long term goals. Dr. Clinton writes, “a leader is a person with a God-given capacity and God-given responsibility who influences a group of followers toward God’s purpose for the group. The central element of this definition of a leader is his influencing toward God’s purpose.” To aid in this type of leadership, Clinton identifies six major process items that are frequently used by God to heighten a leader’s discernment for guidance: divine contacts, mentors, double confirmation, negative preparation, flesh act, and divine affirmation.” Pastor Evans and Audrey are clear in their God-given responsibility to shepherd a flock into a community representative of the local community.
In addition, Pastor Evans has created a culture where by the core leadership team will be easily indoctrinated into most theories he presents, simply due to the devotion the team exhibits through their attendance at weekly events. However, the largest hurdle for MCC will be in their own trailblazing. Much of the literature on multicultural churches and developing diversity in an environment where it was previously lacking is based on Anglo congregations seeking minorities. The African American culture which exists inside MCC carries additional pain and struggle that make crossing the barrier of inclusion much more challenging in many regards.
However, it may also be said of MCC’s current membership that they represent a culture of overcomers, a people group who have been oppressed in unimaginable ways who have banded together, relied on their faith in Christ Jesus and developed a culture which is stronger and steadfastly devoted to their savior. In many ways, while it seems a larger leap of faith to break up the band of brothers within this majority black congregation, were they to realize the freedom they have already exhibited and overcome, the church would be able to recognize its God-given responsibility to reach out to others who might be considered minority people groups in their local community. That to say, long term responses include those listed in the strategic plan: MCC membership in local and national coalitions, support of non-profits focused on serving diverse populations, and political advocacy on biblical justice issues. These globally minded goals imply a recovered theology of reconciliation and integration that cannot exist inside a church closed to celebrating diversity.
The Role of God
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20) The immediate, short, medium- and long-term goals laid out for MCC are ambitious. However, life itself is ambitious outside the will of God. One must assume that alongside God, all things are possible, including reconciliation, changing of hearts and an openness which turns into advocacy. Let it be said of MCC that God has given the increase thus far and as the body of the church continues to submit themselves to the will of God, responses once categorized as impossible now become possible with God.
In his recent text, The Innovation of the Church, Dr. Scott Cormode unlocks mindsets through his work on changing mental models. He says,
Jesus transformed the disciples’ notion of the Kingdom of God in Mark 8 by changing their mental model of a “messiah.” Ralph Winter transformed the practice of world mission by changing the mental model surrounding the word, “nations.” Martin Luther king enabled Southern Blacks to be, at the same time, law-abiding Americans and justice-seeking Christians by introducing the idea of nonviolence. … And the seeker-sensitive service recast the practice of worship in order to make room for people who did not have much experience with Christianity. In each case, the innovation was neither a product, a social program, nor an app. The innovation came as a new way to make meaning. Meaning-making innovation is the means for recalibrating the church.
Cormode points to leaders whom themselves were submitted to the will of the Father. He incorporates the term meaning-making into a vocabulary discussed throughout this text. MCC living as a church body devoted to creating an environment of reconciliation for the community implies the mental models of pastoral staff, executive and core teams experience divine guidance on the matter of diversity. This change will reveal a meaning-making opportunity to elevate the mental models of MCC to see their historical struggles as opportunities to exhibit a culture of overcoming, which in effect will reach multiple people groups for Christ.
What humankind can only imagine, God can give with abundance. As key players submit themselves to the will of God, two tasks will need to be considered according to Cormode: 1) the calibration of ourselves to the ever-changing culture, 2) the calibration of ourselves to the never-changing gospel in an effort to make spiritual sense of daily life. Historically, the church has moved away from the will of God as they deny task number two. The inerrant word of God has been, is today and will always be the full and complete text which represents the heart of God. Siloed cultures, or those which exhibit fear that isolates, has no place in the eternal work of Jesus Christ but as mental-models are aligned with the will of God, integrated diverse multicultural environments become inevitable.
At the outset, a Revelation 21:24 church was described as one where diversity is celebrated and respected within the body of Christ. Further, it was said establishing multifaith engagement within missional churches is imperative to our Christian formation, despite challenging societal norms, and requires strong Christ-centered influencers, intentionality and change management leadership. Seeking God’s heart for the assimilation of the church body is one which has taken on many expressions but scripture is clear on the strategic plan of Christ as he built his own ministry. Jesus sought the outcast, built his teams with broken and lost people of various backgrounds, and employed the gifts of each gender toward this goal.
As missional churches seek to incorporate multicultural engagement to reach diverse populations, DePree offers clarity on their overall goal.
In a society and a world that have serious problems and suffer all too often and far too painfully from heartbreak, each of us needs a haven. Part of the touch of leadership (the church) is to create such a haven. A good family, a good institution, or a good corporation can be a place of healing. It can be a place where work becomes redemptive, where every person is included on her own terms. We know in our hearts that to be included is both beautiful and right. Leaders have to find a way to work that out, to contribute toward that vision.
DePree identifies a major scriptural theme as he references the idea of belonging. The church, as Christ exemplified so well should be that place. God’s heart for the body of believers is to be an all-encompassing melting pot whereby they recognize Christians are better together. To that end, as reconciliation both inside and outside the church walls then becomes reality leading to the inevitable salvation of the lost – just as God intended.
Bell, James. Racial and Ethnic Composition
- Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics.Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, May 11, 2015.
Bolman, Lee and Terrence Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership. (Hoboken, New Jersey: Joddry-Bass Publishing, 2017.
Brouwer, Douglas J. How to Become a Multicultural Church. Grand Rapids: William B.
Eerdmans Publishing, 2017.
Clinton, J. Robert. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012.
Cormode, Scott. The Innovation of the Church. Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological Seminary, 2019.
Cormode, Scott. Making Spiritual Sense: Christian Leaders as Spiritual Interpreters. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2013.
DePree, Max. Leadership Is an Art. New York: Currency, 2004.
DePree, Max. Leadership Jazz. New York: Currency Doubleday, 1992.
Edwards, Conway. 20/80 Rule: Making a Shift to a Volunteer-Driven Culture. Plano, TX: One Community Church, 2010.
Edwards, Conway. Creating Clarity: Healthy Organizations Minimize the Potential for Confusion by Clarifying. Plano, TX: One Community Church, 2019.
Garces-Foley, Kathleen. Crossing the Ethnic Divide: The Multiethnic Church on a Mission. American Academy of Religion Academy Series. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.2007.
Hastings, Ross. Missional God, Missional Church: Hope for Re-Evangelizing the West. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012.
Hill, Linda Annette. Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2014.
Kegan, Robert, and Lisa Laskow Lahey. Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2009.
Malphurs, Aubrey. A New Kind of Church Understanding Models of Ministry for the 21st
Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.
Migdal, Ariela. Lioness: The Reality of Women's Combat Experiences. American Civil Liberties Union. American Civil Liberties Union, April 26, 2015. https://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/womens-rights-workplace/lioness-reality-womens-combat-experiences?redirect=blog/womens-rights/lioness-reality-womens-combat-experiences.
Rah, Soong-Chan. Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2015.
Rosentiel, Tom. The Rise in Residential Segregation by Income. Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, February 7, 2013. https://www.pewresearch.org/2012/08/02/ask-the-expert-the-rise-in-residential-segregation-by-income/.
Scott, Kim. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. NY:
St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
Stetzer, Ed. “5 Truths About Diversity in the Church.” Outreach Magazine. Colorado Springs, CO: Outreach Magazine, 2016. https://outreachmagazine.com/features/18699-diversity-in-the-church.html?cv=1.
Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. Vertuous Women Found New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735. Women in American Religion. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.
Ury, William. Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.
Walling, Terry. Stuck!: Navigating the Transitions of Life & Leadership. Chico, CA: Leader Breakthru, 2015.
Woodward, J. R. 2012. Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.
 Tom Rosentiel, “The Rise in Residential Segregation by Income” Pew Research Center (Pew Research Center, Washington, DC: February 7, 2013).
 James Bell, “Racial and Ethnic Composition - Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics” Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, May 11, 2015).
 Kim Scott, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (NY:
St. Martin’s Press, 2017) 9.
 J.R. Woodward, Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2014) 28.
 Ross Hastings, Missional God, Missional Church : Hope for Re-Evangelizing the West (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012) 141.
 Hastings, 142.
 Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal, Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership (Hoboken, New Jersey: Joddry-Bass Publishing, 2017).
 Bolman, 47.
 Bolman, 113.
 Bolman, 179.
 Bolman, 241.
 Linda Annette Hill, Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2014) 96-97.
 Bolman, 361.
 Robert Kegan, and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock Potential in Yourself and Your Organization(Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2009) 31.
 William Ury, Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations (New York: Bantam Books, 1993).
 Ury, 160-170.
 Ury, 160.
 Terry Walling, Stuck!: Navigating the Transitions of Life & Leadership (Chico, CA: Leader Breakthru, 2015) 64.
 Kathleen Garces-Foley, Crossing the Ethnic Divide: The Multiethnic Church on a Mission, American Academy of Religion Academy Series (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007) Becoming a Multiethnic Church.
 Scott Cormode, Making Spiritual Sense: Christian Leaders as Spiritual Interpreters (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2013) 25.
 Cormode, 28.
 Bolman, 117-118.
 Conway Edwards, 20/80 Rule: Making a Shift to a Volunteer-Driven Culture (Plano, TX: One Community Church, 2010).
 Conway Edwards, Creating Clarity: Healthy Organizations Minimize the Potential for Confusion by Clarifying (Plano, TX: One Community Church, 2019).
 Cormode, 28.
 Max De Pree, Leadership Is an Art (New York: Currency, 2004) 93.
 De Pree, 99-100.
[37a] Stetzer, Ed, “5 Truths About Diversity in the Church,” Outreach Magazine (Colorado Springs, CO: Outreach Magazine, 2016).
 Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Vertuous Women Found New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735,” Women in American Religion(Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980).
 Ariela Migdal, “Lioness: The Reality of Women's Combat Experiences” (American Civil Liberties Union. American Civil Liberties Union, April 26, 2015).
 Soong-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2015) 157.
 Aubrey Malphurs, A New Kind of Church Understanding Models of Ministry for the 21st Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007) 75-92.
 J. Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012) 110-111.
 Scott Cormode, The Innovation of the Church (Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological Seminary, 2019) Ch. 2.
 Max DePree, Leadership Jazz (New York: Currency Doubleday, 1992) 50.