The title of this article comes from chapter six of my book Constructing Blue Collar Leaders In a White Collar World, dealing with the above statement/question and in thought conjunction with a post by Thom S. Rainer titled Five Reasons the Homogeneous Church is Declining and Dying found at http://thomrainer.com/2017/12/five-reasons-homogeneous-church-declining-dying/. Rainer’s five points in his post are:
- We live in a heterogeneous culture.
- Gen Z will not have a majority racial or ethnic group.
- The Millennials tend to avoid heterogeneous churches.
- Cultural Christianity is dying.
- Homogeneity is a form of segregation. It is not gospel centric.
As a pastor, church staff member or leader, how aware are of you of these five points? If this is new to you please go the above link and read the post in its entirety. The dynamics of the 21st Century church are changing before our eyes. The statement that the only thing constant is change is a truism. As leaders of the church we need to be aware of these cultural changes that are becoming normative in our world and society in general. We need to work on developing our cultural leadership acumen to better reach non-believers and successfully lead them into a dynamic growing relationship with Jesus within the local church. So what are the considerations those of us in Christian leadership positions should be aware of? Allow me to share the following excerpts from my book if you are a church leader for your consideration and leadership development:
Noted authority on organizational culture, Edgar H. Schein, writes in his book, Organizational Culture and Leadership, “Culture is both a ‘here and now’ dynamic phenomenon and coercive background structure that influences us in multiple ways. Culture is constantly re-enacted and created by our interactions with others and shaped by our behavior. When we are influential in shaping the behavior and values of others, we think of that as ‘leadership’ and we are creating the conditions for the new culture formation. As leaders who are trying to get our organizations to become more effective in the face of severe environmental pressures, we are sometimes amazed at the degree to which individuals and groups in the organization will continue to behave in obviously ineffective ways, often threatening the survival of the organization [church]” (p. 170).
Branson and Martinez, in their book, Churches, Culture & Leadership, note that today’s “Leaders will need to be cognizant of practices that are rooted in societal and cultural norms, while protecting and encouraging voices that explore change. One goal here of the leader is to expand the perspectives of those in discussion of change. Leaders need to connect intercultural initiatives with other topics needing attention, while increasing the number of leaders, while, yet remaining their interconnectivity to each other. This will enable the church and local community to build community together and increase the opportunity for intergenerational partnerships of a practical and spiritual nature” (p. 194).
“In his book, Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in a Changing World, Eddie Gibbs observes that a change in culture requires a different approach to leadership and states specifically yesterday’s solutions and procedures may not be an adequate or appropriate response to the present challenges. Hence, the biggest hurdles may not be on learning new insights and skills, but in unlearning what they consider tried and true which provides them with a false sense of security” (pp. 194-195).
R. Woodward, author of Creating A Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World, asks and answers the question of “Why is the Church having a difficult time connecting with people today, especially the digital generation?” He answers by saying: “He is convinced that shifts in media, philosophy, science, and religion in our world provokes a shift from the traditional hierarchal approach to leadership to a communal polycentric approach. A polycentric approach to leadership means moving away from the hierarchal leadership model to having many centers of leadership that interrelate” (p. 195).
Woodward then goes on to quote Edgar Schein, who said: “If one wished to distinguish leadership from management or administration, one can argue that leaders create and change culture, while management and administration act within culture” (p. 195).
A great practical resource book for today’s church leader is the Multicultural Ministry Handbook: Connecting Creatively to a Diverse World, by David Anderson (founding pastor at Bridgeway Community Church, one of our nation’s leading multicultural churches) & Margarita Cabellon (executive director of BridgeLeader Network). This book among others, can serve as one of many building blocks to assist today’s pastor, staff member, and church leader in their cultural leadership development journey. For your church staff leadership consideration our authors emphasize the importance of the following building blocks:
Building Block 1: Personal calling and commitment to multicultural ministry.
Building Block 2: Clear vision and staffing for multicultural ministry.
Building Block 3: Intentional pursuit of multicultural ministry and racial reconciliation.
Building Block 4: A unified philosophy of multicultural ministry (Anderson, David A., & Cabellon, Margarita R., 2010, Multicultural Ministry Handbook: Connecting Creatively to a Diverse World. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, pp. 11-22).
If we are the senior/lead pastor, church staff or church leaders and we do not have or will not commit to these building blocks, and unless we find ourselves in some rare demographic area where there is only one ethnic group, we will be as Thom Rainer points out, a homogeneous church running counter to the gospel, and in danger of dying. While desiring to have the most qualified people on staff in a particular ministry position we do have to be careful that if our church is made up of different ethnic groups that in time our church has a balanced heterogeneous staff versus a homogeneous staff mix.
Today’s pastors will need to be sharers of the Good News, shepherds of the sheep, and visionary leaders. They will also need to become cultural architects to lead in properly designing and shaping today’s church into becoming places where ethnic diversity, cultural backgrounds find common ground at the foot of the cross where Jesus stated, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).