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Monday, July 30, 2012

Laying the Foundation of Diverse Leadership (part 1)

Please welcome guest writer Ramon Mayo, a speaker, author, and former pastor of multiethnic church. Here, he shares his thoughts in a two-part series on the foundations of diverse leadership:

Many have advocated for churches to have diverse leadership and how this leadership must look like the community it serves. This is definitely a good idea but in order for the pursuit of ethnically diverse leadership to endure trials and bear good fruit there must be a strong foundation.

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)
In my experience there have been 3 main foundations and only one of them has proven to be strong and robust enough to be effective in handling the tests and trials that come with being an ethnically diverse leadership team and reflecting God's heart.

The Pragmatic Foundation: This foundation basically says "We need more diverse leadership in order to reach more people and make our church more diverse." The truth is diverse leadership will not necessarily make your church more diverse. Here are three reasons why:

1. Sometimes having different ethnicities on your leadership team may be viewed as tokenism. This is especially the case when the leader behaves and leads more in line with the majority culture. The message communicated to those of another ethnicity is "In order to be accepted here you must behave like us and the only thing valuable to us is your physical features which meet our quota."

2. Related to the above is the church's context. Even if you put a leader of a certain ethnicity up front if the church is geographically or culturally distant then people from that ethnic group will not feel connected to the church. No one wants to drive (or in many cases catch the bus) all the way to the suburbs to hear music and preaching that doesn't connect with their real life context.

3. Most non white ethnicities are communal. We do things in groups. To hire or raise up one leader isolates them from the group and they are looked at as a maverick doing their own thing and even looked at with suspicion. Instead of white culture's perception of them as a pioneer they are looked at primarily as a loner who thinks they are superior.

The Political Foundation: The next foundation is the political one. This foundation basically says "We must have a diverse leadership because everyone deserves an equal opportunity and we do not want to be seen as racist." The truth is, diverse leadership is not a matter of political correctness. There are three problems with this foundation:

1. It cannot be separated from the motivations of corporations or academia. There is nothing distinct about this foundation than why corporations and academic institutions hire non white employees and it screams Tokenism! (see above).

2. Political correctness is based on the majority. What is politically correct in the United States is based on what the majority of the culture thinks. What happens when the majority of the culture has different thoughts about diverse leadership or diversity in general?

3. Political correctness will not be able to take you through the rough patches. The motivation to be politically correct and treat everyone as an equal will not help with the difficulties of leading and being a part of a diverse leadership team. It is not a strong enough motivation to submit and learn from others who are different than you. It is not effective at reconciling those who have been hostile towards each other. It only serves as a thin veneer to mask our estrangement.

Continue to part 2 where we will discover the strong foundation for diverse leadership...


  1. As we continue to long for and pursue multiculturalism deeper, this has been a question we've raised numerous times. Looking forward to the next post. Thanks!


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