Home Pastors ‘Diversity’ Isn’t a Pleasant Buzzword. It’s the Heart of the Christian Life

‘Diversity’ Isn’t a Pleasant Buzzword. It’s the Heart of the Christian Life


February marks Black History Month—a time dedicated to honor and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Americans. As the grandson of a talented woman whose fight against segregation and discrimination took her from subjugated maid to emancipated florist, this time of intentional reflection is personal to me. It informs my belief in the importance of this type of intentionality not only for the individual, but for the church.

Minority perspectives tend to get pushed aside, explicitly ignored or even held in contempt. This month exposes many Christians to a perspective they might not otherwise encounter. And it reminds us of the importance of exposing ourselves to many perspectives.

If the Church wants to be a safe haven for the marginalized, listening to them as we do this month is just the beginning. In listening, we learn to love; and in loving, we learn to empower others and expand ourselves.

That’s why celebrating Black history is not just an end, but a means. Black history is important both because it’s an underrepresented part of American history and because its discussion expands and disrupts stagnant perspectives.

After all, building a truly diverse church is a matter of the heart, not a numbers game. It’s about building a culture where anyone—from any generation, background, gender or ability—can feel heard and seen and loved. It’s about building a culture of humility, respect, trust and hope. But it is, in fact, built. Diversity rarely happens by accident.

When we are monocultural, we are at our weakest. When we know only our own way of life, our judgment suffers—and our love suffers. We don’t get to laugh at new jokes, see beauty through new eyes or be touched by the suffering of those outside our circles.

The reverse is what we get to enjoy when we pursue diversity: more stories, more laughter, more sensitivity, more shared suffering and more love. But it doesn’t always come naturally to us. It’s easy to stay in our own group because it’s often comfortable there.

We don’t know what we don’t know, so we don’t seek it.

But encountering stories from people we don’t know, who lead lives we may not understand, helps us come to see just how little we perceive on our own. It’s hard to understate how important this realization can be.

For me, it’s been a humbling and constructive realization throughout my time in ministry. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be the person people thank, or the person they always listen to. I’ve learned how to appreciate people whose culture and perspective I don’t share. I’ve come to understand just how important it is for my life in Christ to do so.

One year, I was organizing a church convention. The event is generally well-attended, and it’s an important part of our year. But I didn’t want to play the same traditional music we always had. So I asked two of our staff members, both younger and from backgrounds I didn’t personally share, to organize music that would challenge my generation to better understand the current culture.