In the spring of 2006, I received a call from the local NBC affiliate wanting to feature our church in a segment on people and institutions of faith making a difference in the lives of Arkansans. They wanted to describe the diversity of our church—a story of interest, in part, because we are located only three miles from Little Rock's Central High School where, in 1957, nine black students (the Little Rock Nine) were denied entrance, despite a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the desegregation of public schools throughout the United States.
When I inquired into the producer's interest in Mosaic, she said, "I want others to know that your church is not just diverse on the outside but diverse on the inside as well." In other words, what had caught her attention was the fact that our leadership—indeed, our pulpit itself—is fully integrated.
The leadership at the church in Antioch (Acts 11:19—25; 13:1) serves as a model for enlisting diverse leadership within a local church setting. Luke was compelled, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not only to mention the names of the men involved as prophets and teachers at Antioch, but their countries of origin as well.
This made clear that the church, like the gospel itself, is for all people, and that a diverse team is best fit for leadership in a "house of prayer for all the nations."
According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, quotas define "the number or quantity that is permitted or needed" within a given setting. In other words, those in positions of authority determine the limits as to who, what, and how much is needed. Of course, there is no place in the New Testament where racial quotas are prescribed, but that doesn't mean diversity was not a high priority.
Recruiting with intentionality
We should not expect to integrate our leadership teams through random prayer or wishful thinking. Diverse individuals of godly character, theological agreement, and shared vision do not just arrive on waves of whim. Like the best of college coaches, multi-ethnic churches must continually be on the lookout for potential recruits. When we find them, we should establish a dialogue, mindful that there may be an opportunity for formal partnership together at some point in the future.
Intentionality is the middle ground between quotas and wishful thinking.
Years ago I was cautioned by an African American pastor of a large congregation in Little Rock that I should never presume to have achieved integration simply because diverse individuals were involved:
"Mark, if you hire or otherwise empower African Americans only to lead your church in worship, you may inadvertently suggest to people, 'We accept them as entertainers.' If you hire or otherwise empower African Americans only to work with your children, you may inadvertently suggest, 'We accept them to nanny our kids.' And if you hire or otherwise employ African Americans only as janitors, you are quite clearly stating, 'We expect them to clean up after us.' It is only when you allow us to share your pulpit, to serve with you on the elder board or alongside you in apportioning the money, that we will be truly one with you in church."
With that in mind, we currently have a vacancy to fill in our pulpit and we are intentionally looking for an African American replacement. This decision is affected to some degree by the fact that we are located in the South. Because we desire at least three individuals to share the pulpit, we are also informed by the fact that my partner, Harry Li, is Chinese American and I am white.