Friday, 5 December 2008

Diversity 3 - Why are people of diversity joining our churches?

- Immigration – a huge influx – especially from Africa and Eastern Europe. All those who live in a town with an immigrant population will be aware of this. These arrivals often bring to our churches their robust faith and vibrancy.

- Reaction to a particular leadership style. They join us having left churches with an authoritarian leadership style.

- A desire to integrate. If you move into a foreign land, your kids go to a new school and you may go to work, so a church that consists entirely of your own culture can be a safe place. But over time, sometimes a Gospel-driven challenge comes – ‘If I witness to my white neighbour and he/she got saved, no way would he/she feel at home in my Nigerian church.’ A mother told me that her children had been asking, ‘Why do we have black friends and white friends and then go to a church where we are all black?’ There is a realization that every other area of life is integrated. When they start to look and find a place like Kings – it’s a halfway house. And those in mixed marriages feel they can identify with us, especially.

- Location. People often travel miles across London to go to a church/worship centre/teaching ministry of the type they prefer. Then, if kids come along and they can’t get to their own church one Sunday - they look locally, find ‘people like me’ in our church and say – ‘if they have made the journey to a church like this then I can, too’.

Of course we get excited, but it’s a big thing for them just to attend. Among other things, they have come to a different worship style and preaching style. We must remember as we consider this journey we are making that those who come from a completely different background have made a massive, massive move just to come into our churches.

The leadership challenge this brings is honestly the biggest leadership challenge I have ever faced. My difficulty is that I have never been down this path before and have few reference points. As a church planting movement we know it is easier to put in foundations at the beginning but now most of us are established as white majority churches with diverse people coming in after the fact. As Bill Hybels says, we now face the re-engineering challenge. God is blessing the way we do church, but now we have to make changes - and to re-engineer takes longer than to build from new. It brings tension and we have to hold it together. My only reference point from the past has been that of leaders handling renewal, which I will pick up on next time.