Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leadership, church life and unity in diversity

Written by: on September 5, 2013


I found this week’s reading rather refreshing and timely, because the material was relevant to the nature of conversations and discussions that came to bear. One might wonder as to how a petite pamphlet titled; “The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools”would yield the above appraisal. During the past couple of weeks, a group of leaders and church “planters” gathered in down town Portland for a conference. The agenda featured a number of topics, one of which was the subject of diversity. I was invited to participate on a symposium to discuss ecclesiastical racial inclusiveness.  Such an undertaking certainly requires the art of critical thinking.

As a believer in God and an African immigrant who is familiar with the current experience and complexities surrounding race and ethnicity in America; I am fully persuaded that critical thinking is necessary in order to successfully navigate discourse of ethnic multiplicity. Paul and Elder’s instruction to “apply the intellectual standards to the elements of reason in order to develop intellectual traits”, came in handy during preparations for the dialogue. I was also motivated by the racial representation among the participants at the occasion because the attendance demonstrated progress towards the tabled motion and allowed for a thoughtful and respectful engagement.

However, it is should not go with noting that there seems to exist a degree of unease and discomfort within evangelical settings when it comes tackling a subject like diversity. It is appropriate to question why and how that might be.

An interdisciplinary approach can be helpful in the quest to understand the theoretical, practical and spiritual aspects of humanity’s existence. To this end, Paul and Elder write about the “universal intellectual standards which must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about a problem, issue, or situation”.

While, history is not the focus of this post, it should not be a surprise that unity in the body of Christ and peace around the world have been battered by the atrocious histories of humanity since time immemorial. In fact centuries later, their lingering legacies loom large. For example the Old Testament story of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt, the Holocausts, America’s Jim Crow, and Apartheid in South Africa and genocide in Rwanda e.tc. It is necessary to remember that the church was also impacted by those events of injustice.  King noted, “we must face the sad fact that at the eleven o’ clock hour on Sunday morning when we stand to sing, “In Christ there is no East or West,” we stand in the most segregated hour in America.”

Some progress has been made but there is need for further intervention. Emerson and Smith in their book Divided by Faith Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America write, “Evangelicals believe their faith ought to be a powerful impetus for bringing people together across race. Ironically, their faith seems to drive them further apart”.

One of the ways towards unity in the church is, prayerful critical thinking, education about the value of unity in the body of Christ and actions that show commitment to such advancements. Therefore leaders and pastors will need to ask the necessary questions.  Leadership at any level should set the tone. Sander notes “Everything rises and falls with leadership” For example, it would be necessary for church leadership to assess what congregants know about a theology of unity in diversity.

Church leaders who seek to encourage unity can be best served with a reflection on an African American pastor’s admonishment to fellow clergymen; “I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes”.

Union with God, reconciliation, unity, oneness within the global or “glocal” church, love for God and neighbor matter to God (Psalm 133; Act 17:24-28) Ephesians 4) and this ought to be the church’s attitude.

Church leaders and congregation members should endeavor to look well into matters of reconciliation and the discipline of critical thinking is crucial to the process and progress. It can help provide “clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, fairness” to the debate.

Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

King, Martin Luther, and James Melvin Washington. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: HarperOne, 1991.

Sanders, J. Oswald. Spiritual Leadership. Chicago: Moody Press, 1967.

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Michael Badriaki

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