This article has been adapted from David Murray’s book The Happy Christian.
Is there a diversity dividend? Yes, according to an elite panel of business leaders at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. In the BBC’s report on the discussion, chief business correspondent Linda Yueh cites the following evidence to support the panelists’ advocacy for diversity:
- Boards of directors with greater diversity generate more dividends.
- Numerous studies show that adding women to the labor force increases national output, or gross domestic product.
- An MIT study found that changing from all-male or all-female workforces to equal numbers of both sexes could raise revenues by around 40 percent.
Walgreens CEO Randy Lewis’s book No Greatness Without Goodness: How a Father’s Love Changed a Company and Sparked a Movement advances this “profit-from-diversity” narrative by demonstrating how Walgreens increased profits and reduced staff turnover by hiring more employees with disabilities and other special needs. As creative companies like Apple and Google have also found, this profit-motive is proving more powerful at building diverse workforces than enforced quotas, threatening legislation, or guilting companies into action.
So why aren’t we using the profit-motive to build more racially diverse churches and to increase racial diversity in our Christian lives?
More Excellent Way
The majority of the post-Ferguson conversation and writing has focused on quotas, legislation, rehashing the past, and guilting people and churches into change. Surely we can build a much more positive case for biblical diversity by demonstrating the future spiritual profit we can enjoy in our lives, families, and churches.
As I describe in my book The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World, after years of inaction, fear, and even prejudice, I only began to pursue more diversity in my life when I began to experience the rich spiritual profit of racial diversity through increased contact with African American Christians. Although there’s something deep within us that says, The more people are like me, and the more people like me I can gather around me, the happier I’ll be, I came to experience the exact opposite. The more I listened, talked, and walked with people of different races, ethnicities, and cultures, the more joy I experienced.
Before I make the profit-motive case for diversity, let me be crystal clear: I’m not talking about moral diversity—the idea that all moralities are equal and valid. Neither am I talking about the kind of multiculturalism that calls us to accept everyone’s beliefs and practices regardless of whether they align with biblical values. I’m talking primarily about racial diversity, but much of what I say will also apply to the kind of cultural and ethnic diversity that does not contradict scriptural standards.
Case for Biblical Diversity
Here’s my case for pursuing biblical diversity in the local church, a case that seeks to produce more profit than uniformity.
Personal Sanctification. Attacking the sin of prejudice strikes at one of the deepest and most pervasive sins in the human heart. When we pull up the root of prejudice a lot of other weeds come out with it too, weakening the power of other sins.
Resources. As we develop relationships with other people from other cultures and colors, we will discover the unique gifts and graces that God has placed in these communities. For example, pointing to the African American church, Thabiti Anyabwile has called the wider church to “Learn to Be a Moral Minority from a Moral Minority,” especially in learning to suffer with dignity and grace.
Love. In “A New Day for Multiracial Churches,” Michael Emerson highlights how white Americans currently have about 20 times the wealth of black and Hispanic Americans. Yet, because our churches are still largely segregated, there is limited opportunity for those with the most to lovingly help those with the least. Also, because separation makes it almost impossible for us to understand and sympathize with another group’s needs, we miss out on the power of love, compassion, and persuasion to overcome group divisions and inequalities. Emerson points out that integrated multiracial churches produce fundamental differences: only 36 percent of those attending multiracial churches reported that all or most of their friends are the same race as they are.
Witness. The racial divisions in our culture are known all over the world. Imagine if the Christian church in America led the way in reuniting black and white. What a testimony to the power of the gospel over intractable problems.
In “Why Pursue Racial Integration in Our Churches,” J. D. Greear points to Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries. Stark “lists racial integration as one of the things that made the early church distinct from other religious groups and led to its rapid growth. Local churches were the one place in the Roman Empire where differing races actually got along. Their racial harmony gave them a chance to explain that Jesus was not only a Jew, but the Lord of all humanity, the Savior of all races.”
Defeat the Devil. By smashing barriers and building bridges we are imitating our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and imaging him to the world. We are also contributing to the defeat of the evil barrier builder and bridge breaker, the Devil.
Welcome. When our churches are mono-cultural, it makes it difficult for people who are different from us to come in and feel comfortable. However, the more diverse our churches are, the more comfortable different people will feel, even as some from the formerly dominant culture will be uncomfortable.
In “The Joyful Pursuit of Multi-Ethnic Churches,” Jemar Tisby of the Reformed African American Network said that the more multicultural a church is, the easier it is for its people to engage people across cultural and racial gaps as they grow in comfort and skill at interacting with varied cultures and ethnicities.
Mission. A passion for racial integration in our personal lives and local churches will fuel worldwide mission as well. The more we embrace the different races and nationalities in our locality, the greater our burden for the unreached peoples of the world will grow.
Reformation. A multi-ethnic church always has to ask what parts of its worship and practice are principle and what are preference. By using biblical diversity as a lens through which to view the church, churches are forced back to the Bible to focus on the essential truths, and mere culture or preference falls away.
Fulfill the Plan of God. A primary plotline of the Bible is bringing glory to God by bringing back together various races in one common salvation. J. D. Greear stated, “The redemption that Jesus purchased for us was not merely an individual salvation; it was also an interpersonal, intercultural, interracial reconciliation.”
Glory to God. Throughout Scripture, but especially in the psalms of praise, the glory of God is bound up with the spread of the gospel among all the peoples of the world. In Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, John Piper wrote:
There is a beauty and power of praise that comes from unity in diversity that is greater than that which comes from unity alone. . . . More depth of beauty is felt from a choir that sings in parts than from a choir that sings only in unison. Unity in diversity is more beautiful and more powerful than the unity of uniformity.
Foretaste. Revelation reveals that heaven will be a place of unprecedented diversity as people of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues will stand before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-1). By pursuing such diversity in the church on earth, we have the opportunity to bring heaven to earth, to get a little foretaste of heaven before we get there.
Profit or Loss
We may not be moved much by history, legislation, quotas, or guilt, but surely we ought to be highly motivated from the future profit that can come from biblical diversity.
Although we may lose some things, biblical diversity is a net positive; it is not a curse but a blessing, not a threat but an opportunity.