Diversity is our strength, Or is it?

Diversity is our strength, Or is it? The answer to this question seems obvious , but it may not be as obvious as we think. It’s important that we look deeply Into the issue of diversity to determine whether or not it is truly a strength. The first thing that we have to determine is what we mean when we say diversity. Let’s say we have 3 companies that are looking to hire 10 people each. The first company hires 10 men. Half of the men are single And half of the men are married. All of the men are of the same race. They grew up in different regions of the country. Some grew up in an urban environment and some grew up in a rural environment. They are from varied socioeconomic backgrounds.  The second company hires 5 women  and  5 men, all are single, all are from the same race, all grew up in rural areas in different parts of the country.  They are from different socioeconomic backgrounds.  The third company hires 6 men and 4 women. 4 of the people are white, 3 are black , 2 are Asian, And one is Native American. They’re all married with children . they all come from the same socioeconomic background. They all grew up in the same region of the country, And they were all raised in an urban environment.  Which of these companies hired the most diverse workforce? The answer to that question depends on how you view diversity. If you view diversity through the prism of race and gender then it is obvious that company number 3 Has the most diverse workforce, however; diversity is much more than race and gender. There is diversity of thought , diversity of ideas, Socioeconomic diversity, . and diversity of culture. So to answer the question is diversity our strength, it is important for us to know what we are talking about . Diversity can indeed be a strength, it can also be a weakness or a distraction.     

There is a biblical case for diversity.  God church made up of diverse people.  It is necessary for the people who are the church to be able to live in harmony despite our differences. Romans 12: 16 Tells us

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (NIV)

God has called for us to embrace our differences . The most powerful diversity within the Church of God is the diversity of our gifts.  Some people have the gift of hospitality, others have the gift of administration, some have been given the gift of preaching, some have been giving the gift of leadership.  All of these gifts are important to the health and growth of the body of Christ. 

God called diversity in the people that we take his message to.  .

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In the Great Commission God calls for the church (that’s us)  to make disciples of all nations. The command was not to just disciple people who look like us, or people who sound like us, or people who have as much money as us. The mission is to make disciples of all people.

So far I think we would have to say that diversity is indeed a strength. Now we have to face some uncomfortable truths about diversity. One, diversity is hard . Tow, diversity is uncomfortable. There is a reason that people have a tendency to self segregate. We are comfortable around people who look like us, who act like us, who think like us. We Are uncomfortable around the different if we have to be around  it for a long period of time. I have 15 years of ministry experience. The first 10 years were spent in urban inner city Ministries. All of the people around me looked like me. Almost all of the had been raised in an urban inner city environment. There was a certain style music that I was used to in worship. All that changed when I was called to a small rural church in South Central Kansas. The population of the town was less than 800 people. Most of the churches that I had served in to the past had 800 people within a few square miles of the church. Before moving to Kansas all of the churches I had served we’re either in inner city Detroit or inner city Cleveland.  I was like a fish out of water when I moved to Kansas , suddenly no one looked like me , no one shared my culture, the music during worship was different  and I was Uncomfortable . I learned that I held biases about  rural America that I didn’t realize that I had. Because I was in this new and different environment I was able to address those biases.  Thanks be to God, many of the people in my new community realize that they also had biases about Black men and about City folk as they called us. Because of our interaction I was able To help them address those biases.  I remember having a conversation with a young man who lived in town . We served on a board together.   One day we had a long conversation about our experiences.  He told me how he’d had some very negative views about black men . He told me how he grew up in a small rural community where everyone looked like him.  He had never seen a black person except on television until he went away to college. His first experience with black men was not a good one. When he graduated an return home he took those bad experiences and attitudes with him.  When I came along and we started to interact with each other he realized that he had been carrying those negative stereotypes with him for years. We were able to sit down and have some very good conversations with each other.  We looked past our bias and got to know each other.  This was not an overnight experience. This took a couple of years. The reason that it took so long is because diversity is hard work, diversity is uncomfortable ,  diversity requires patience.

The final thing I think that we have to accept, is the fact that diversity is not always a strength , in fact Sometimes too much diversity can be a weakness.   As I stated earlier God expects diversity within his body.  Within the body of Christ there is going to be diversity of cultures , diversity of races, economic and educational diversity.  The body of Christ is going to have people with different passions and different spiritual gifts , there will be people with slightly different world views and different doctrine, however: when it comes to diversity within doctrine, this is where we have to be careful, ‘because to much diversity in doctrine can be detrimental to the faith.  We have different ways of thinking about things such as baptism , and communion. we have different understandings about the role of spiritual gifts. We have different forms of church governance and different attitudes on the level of authority that a pastor should have. All of these are things that we can discuss and we can disagree. These are areas where we can have diversity of thought, but when it comes to the issues of Salvation. When it comes to an understanding of who Jesus Christ is . When it comes to an understanding of the role that Jesus Christ had in our Salvation , there is no wiggle room . there is no room for diversity of thought , because God has made it quite clear that salvation comes because of Jesus Christ. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) NIV

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14:6) NIV

God is clear there is no path to salvation absent Jesus, on this issue there is no room for diversity of thought.  There is only room for acceptance.  Now lets go back to our original question is diversity our strength.  Yes and no.  When used properly diversity is a great strength.  When used improperly it can be a great detriment.  Even when it is a strength it is important for us to remember that diversity can be hard and it can be uncomfortable, it takes time, and we need to be patient as we do Gods work in the kingdom

1 thought on “Diversity is our strength, Or is it?”

  1. This is the first really thoughtful examination of the concept of “diversity” that I have seen in a church context, offered from experience, with empathy for those who are hesitant to “embrace” diversity (that is, for people who say “no” to diversity, or “yes, but…”), and with first-personal experience of the tensions between ideals and daily life. Thanks for this; may it be a starting point for more open and honest consideration of diversity – and of each of those issues we so often avoid by reflexively “embracing” with unreflective enthusiasm.

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