From Dr. Brian Leander, Orchard Group Board member
“Look at the last ten people you’ve texted,” a church planter recently challenged his congregation. Listeners pulled out their phones to scroll through their screens. “Now, how many of them look just like you?”
Take a moment to practice this yourself. You may discover that the proverb, “Birds of a feather flock together” rings true. It is human nature to seek out people who share experiences and histories similar to our own. Yet if we spend the vast majority of our time with similar people, we run the risk of seeing the world through a very narrow lens!
If Christ can form one body out of diverse people, then Christ’s church can be an example of reconciliation and conflict resolution. God’s Kingdom transcends the barriers that keep us divided from one another, whether socio-economic status, culture, age, gender, race, physical ability, etc.
By 2050 the makeup of the United States is projected to shift dramatically.
Minority people groups will make up the majority of the population. Wise church leaders will think creatively about how to address these changes to grow and better reflect the hope of a reconciling gospel. Over the last five years, Orchard Group has been grateful for church planters and leaders who are sensitive to the need for greater diversity in our churches. They are willing to lead churches that more fully reflect gospel reconciliation and their communities.
In his article, Intercultural Leadership in Diversity Oriented Churches, Dr. Brian Leander (an Orchard Group board member) describes the value and importance of leaders who are ready to reach across cultures. Men and women who are already leading in diverse contexts exhibit similar characteristics:
- a willingness to confront his/her own ethnocentrism, prejudice and bias
- an interest in experiencing and interacting with other cultures
- a shared understanding with people who hold different values, experiences and perspectives
Leaders of churches who exhibit these characteristics are uniquely positioned to address the future of the church. “Diversity oriented churches…are intentional about deconstructing socially divisive constructs within the church and their communities with the message of the Gospel,” explains Dr. Leander.
As believers who want to see the good news of the Gospel proclaimed to everyone, what does this mean? Dr. Leander suggests that it is possible for all people to reorient themselves towards diversity. Each of us can learn to be self-reflective about our own preferences and grow by prioritizing intentional intimate relationships with a variety of people.
Orchard Group church planters are already leading out by intentionally embracing and seeking diversity. Brian Kruckenberg from New City in Phoenix leads a racially diverse staff and an economically diverse congregation. He states, “I want to create a learning environment… I want a staff that disagrees and sees things differently. I want a staff that reflects our community and sends a message that we want to work together because we are different—not in spite of our differences. I want my presuppositions challenged.”
These are tough issues! It might be easier to retreat to homogeny because we feel most comfortable with people who share our experiences and perceptions and values. Yet God’s plan for the church was always bigger than any one group. The beauty of diverse people unified under the saving work of Christ is a picture of hope to the world.
Download the full article, “Intercultural Leadership in Diversity Oriented Churches” by Brian Leander, PhD.
Brian Leander is the Assistant Director at the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Adelphi University. He delivers strategic planning and leadership development for nonprofit organizations. In addition, Dr. Leander has served as Organizational Strategist with the Church Resource Ministries (CRM) ReFocusing Team. There he specialized in training, coaching and developing leaders for cross-cultural ministry. He serves on the Orchard Group Board of Directors. You can follow him on twitter: @abeleander