Churches Pursuing Ethnic Diversity
The following is a transcript of the audio.
Pastor John recently led a Q&A with the students of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. Here’s a question from one student.
What are some struggles and hurdles that you feel like the, I guess the new Calvinist movement still needs to overcome in terms of racial harmony. So some struggles and hurdles that maybe aren’t being addressed yet or maybe aren’t being addressed aggressively enough or what are some struggles and hurdles that you feel like still we still need to do better on and that we need to come forward on?
Yeah, that is a good question. The new Calvinism, if it is, you know, it doesn’t have any borders to it in terms of separation from the old, is filled with people at every level of maturity, which means it is filled with people who are incredibly sensitive and discerning to the dynamics of racial relationships and people who are stupid, absolutely ignorant and naïve and bumblers. So we all can grow in our maturity in talking with other human beings like us and different from us. So there is room there to just grow in the authentic, natural discernment of what makes another person feel honored in talking to you, not a project or a specimen. Right? You are an Asian specimen. I should know not to say that, right? I should not make you feel like I know why he is talking to me in the dining hall. I am his project, you know? I am his specimen. And mature people will know how not to do that. And there are not easily definable features about a personality and about a strategy that make that happen. It is not like you are going to say: Learn these five things and you won’t ever make that mistake again and make people feel like projects. So that is a big deal.
I would say we have got a long way to go in a pervasive theology of why race exists. Is interracial marriage biblical? Does God want various ethnicities in the same worshipping congregation or is he okay with homogenous units? Just the theological, theoretical foundations of those questions we are not all thinking about, we are not all up to speed on in their answers. So I mean one of my rationales for talking about it this morning, I said was: It is not spoken about too often in our churches. Well, that is an under-statement. I think the average evangelical church, depending on lots of different things this is just not spoken about very much. And I think no matter where you minister it should figure pretty regularly into your preaching because it is one of those inalienable implications of the gospel whether you are in Dalbo, Minnesota surrounded for 30 miles on every side by Scandinavians or not. It doesn’t matter. These people should be global Scandinavians being taught a theology of multi ethnicity and why the Bible has it in it. So there is room to grow there.
The last thing I will mention is I think pastors should be persuaded more than they are, probably, across the board and helped more than they are to be aggressively intentional in pursuing racial diversity and harmony. I mean, there is a lot of people feel like if you become intentional you are into artificiality and you are into quotas. And you are running that risk of that criticism for sure.
Like if you say: We need some color on this staff. Ok, so you are going to give preference to color over white? Right now you are into preferences, right? Yeah. I mean, I wrote an article. We have two African Americans on the staff at Bethlehem, on pastoral staff. And that happened, one of them, because I wrote an article, a blog on why Bethlehem is pursuing racial diversity in its leadership. Very controversial, just very controversial, because, I mean, just think of it. You are going to post a position and you know, be-cause of your network, 90-percent of them are going to be like you, 99-percent will be like you, maybe 100-percent. Is that ok? That is all we got. Or are you going to go looking? Are you going to press? Are you going to work? Go outside your little zone here of a few million people. And as soon as you do that, you are in trouble with some of your elders and with people who are saying that this is, this is so artificial. This is just absolutely phony. This is just so politically correct. This is just off the charts.
So I wrote that article and Kempton Turner, a young black youth leader in Texas read it and was blown away positively by this and made a connection with David Michael who is in our family discipleship in Texas on another issue. And they clicked so well that within about a year he was being interviewed for the youth position at Bethlehem. Now that happened because of intentionality. I wrote an article. This is why we are doing it and what we are doing. He happened to read that article and now he is on staff, been there seven years. I love him to death. He is so unbelievably full of the Bible, full of the Holy Spirit and so he is the one... oh, where did I say this recently? Oh, I said it last night at the faculty thing. Who had, I just love this quote: Give you flavor of how Kempton can communicate with these kids, 90 percent of it is white, right? He said, he was addressing the issue in a Baptist church. But it would be the same, I suppose in an infant Baptist church, whatever you called it, that our kids are growing up, covenant kids, right, growing up and they get saved, six, eight, 10. In our tradition they get baptized 11, 12, 13 and they never were on drugs and they never were sleeping around and so they think: I don’t have any testimony. And Kempton said: There are no boring resurrections from the dead. And, of course, they don’t know what he is talking about. You have all been raised from the dead. And then he has to unpack a reformed view of regeneration. That is true. There are no boring resurrections from the dead. If a kid knows how he got saved whether at three, five, you know, whatever, he has got a stunning story to tell about being raised from the dead. And so, I mean, I am just saying that because I just thank God for Kempton Turner who happens to be some a little bit of color on your staff, because of some intentionality.
So my point there is: We need to help pastors believe in mature, sensitive, wise, biblically grounded intentional pursuit of diversity.
That was Pastor John recently with the students of Westminster Theological Seminary. For more on how racial diversity intentionally shaped the pastoral hires at Bethlehem, see the document titled, “How and Why Bethlehem Baptist Church Pursues Ethnic Diversity,” which was published as appendix 3 in John Piper's book, Bloodlines. You can download the entire book free of charge at desiringgod.org. Click on “books” and look for the title Bloodlines. Also, on the much bigger point of how Reformed theology undercuts racism and undergirds racial harmony, see chapter 9 of that same book. So what good does Reformed theology offer the ills of our society? Pastor John explains that tomorrow. Until then, I’m your host Tony Reinke, thanks for listening.
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