Once there were two children. One was able to run very fast, in fact, she was faster than any other child there was and could even outrun wolves, a feat which no man had lived to tell. The other child was able to dig endlessly. He would dig for entire days and not tire, building elaborate tunnel systems much more advanced than a young boy his age should have been able to build, out-digging even the gophers. These children loved to adventure together. One warm afternoon, they were walking through the woods and they met a bear. This bear lured the two into her cave with the promise of delicious honey. They fell for it and before they knew it, they were trapped. So convinced that tunneling out of the cave was the only solution, the boy demanded that the girl help him dig while the bear was out on her evening walk. She would return to eat them shortly and they didn’t have much time. Both children started digging with their lives in the balance. Unfortunately, the cave was solid stone. The bear returned and swallowed both children whole.
Why this tragic story of two children being eaten alive? Well, the moral of the story is wolves can out run bears. Perhaps if the boy was not convinced digging was the only option, the girl may have tried to run for it. She could have brought help, and possibly the story would have a much happier ending.
Some of us dig and some of us run and neither should be convinced that the other ability is greater. If we were to embrace the differences of one another, we might be able to survive the things that come at us with greater agility. This election, I was surrounded by supporters on both sides. I have people who attend my church who promote black lives matter, blue lives matter, and even all lives matter. Recently I sat with one man in particular who advocates for “all lives matter.” We had a hard conversation, but the last thing I told him was that I was thankful for him. While we do not see eye to eye on this subject, I did not want him to conform to my way of thinking. My desire is not to make him just like me, rather my desire is for the Scriptures to lead and guide him to become who he truly is.
You might be shocked at the thought of a man bent on racial reconciliation not doing everything in my power to get this gentleman to understand my beliefs about the sentiment “black lives matter” and adopt it as his own. If that shocked you, this will really bake your noodle… in the big picture that is a minor issue when it comes to unity in the church. The key for the body of Christ to be unified is to major on the majors and let the minors be the minors. Diversity cannot be achieved if we all believe everything line for line. We cannot build multi-ethnically if we all run, we cannot build multi-generational if we all dig. Only when we embrace the differences each member brings to the table can we begin to build a community that reflects the multi-faceted, prismatic kingdom of God.
Today, the nuisances of Christianity have become walls of hostility within the Bride. Theological bents, political views, even taste in music entangles us in minor issues. If our desire is a heart for diversity, we must identify the majors and be ready to build on that foundation. This takes security and courage. For the church I pastor, our majors are the traditional evangelical views, the tried and tested biblical truths (i.e. Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus is the only propitiation for sin, etc.).
This leads us to the question of the hour: if we want to build diverse churches, are we willing to make room for minor issues to disagree and still be unified? My hope is that the answer is a resounding yes. If we want to see the kingdom advance in our generation, we must be willing to do the hard work of building with people we do not agree with at times. Humility must drip from our brows as we earnestly labor together building bridges for those after us to travel on.
If the answer to the previous question is “yes,” then we must begin to ask questions that will make most of us feel a high level of discomfort. Such as, if you pastor a predominantly white or black church is the minority being asked to conform? Are the runners making diggers run or are they being invited to be there in their own expression, in their style, agreeing on the major issues but carrying with them all of the minors you may not agree with? For my congregation, I have to constantly examine if I am giving open opportunities to the older people in the church. We have so many young people, that it can be easy to forget there is a minority who attend who enjoy a hymn every now and again. While that is not necessarily the popular opinion, we add it in to what is. We also don’t keep the lights as dark as the hipsters would prefer to make room for the older members of our church and so they do not feel ostracized or un-cared for. In all honestly if it was up to me, things at our church would look a lot different, but the point is not to cater the church to those with more influence or to the majority. We must strive to be unified. Obviously you can’t make everyone happy and please do not take that as the point of what I am saying. As a church, we have a particular style that is us, but our style is not exclusive to one preference or another.
The goal for us is to bring in different cultures and to celebrate with the feel and flare of the diversity in the room. What good is a mixed salad if it is drenched in ranch dressing? What good is a church with members who all look different from one another if all we try to do is make everyone like the same things, believe the same way and act in the same manner? Like the ranch will take away the beautiful mixture of flavors, so will a church take away the beautiful mixture of the cultures if we try to make everyone the same.
This can be summed up in a single goal for diversity: strive for members of your church to feel celebrated in who God has individually and collectively called each one to be. Please do not tame your congregation to all act the same way, rather welcome, encourage, and celebrate them. Do not be overwhelmed at this challenge, it is clearly impossible to represent 14 different countries or cultures in a single Sunday service and I am not saying this is the focus. What we want is for people to feel like they are not wrong for being the minority and not towered over by the majority. Embracing and making room for one another breeds diversity and ushers in the very kingdom of God.
There were once two children, one was able to run very fast and the other was able to dig very deep. Both found themselves in a bear’s cave. The fast child sprinted out and called for help. Before the bear could swallow the child who was able to dig, all of the towns people arrived at the cave and both of the children escaped a terrible end.