When discussing diversity and the church, people may wonder, “What’s worship have to do with it?” Well, according to @ScottWilliams book Church Diversity: Sunday the Most Segregated Day of the Week, worship has everything to do with it. Under the subheading “What You See Is What You Get,” Williams writes, “When it comes to embracing a culture of diversity, too many churches miss the mark for the simple reason they have a homogeneous platform (48).”
Homogeneous simply means one dimensional or everyone looks the same. If all of the leaders in the church are white, that does not send a message that the congregation embraces diversity. The “platform” includes people who are LEADING from the pulpit or on stage. Most often, “the platform” includes pastors and worship leaders (singers, musicians, choir, praise band, soloists, etc). The latter group is the focus of today’s post.
The platform normally consists of paid staff (at least most of the time), which means, these are the people making decisions in the church. From yesterday’s blog, we know it is important to have a diverse group of people at the table when making decisions, and we also want the right group of people at the table. Why? The platform includes the most consistently visible people in the church. According to Williams, “one of the many questions that people walking through the doors of the church, especially for the first time, are asking is this, ‘Is there anyone in this church that looks like me?’ Another question is, ‘Do I see someone like me on the platform, pulpit, or stage’ (47)?”
Over the past few weeks, I have visited several multi-cultural churches and they all “get” this. Each of the churches I visited, along with the pastors interviewed from multicultural churches, all clearly have one thing in common—a racially and ethnically diverse worship team. When you think about it, in most suburban environments getting a diverse worship team should be fairly easy to do, but that accomplishment only scratches the surface because creating an environment where a diverse group of people feel free to intimately worship God is the difficult part.
Having Christian friends from racially and ethically diverse backgrounds, from various denominations and age groups, while attending seminary where many of the leaders and students are in the thick of church ministry, I am not oblivious to the “worship wars” experienced in churches. Worship wars are not a racial or ethnic issues, but rather an issue of the heart. I don’t intend to over simplify this but I do believe the Apostle Paul has a word for our understanding here. In his letter to the Church of Corinth, he wrote:
I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak, I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor. 19-23).
Paul is not talking about changing the gospel or watering down the power of its message. Paul was one of the most aggressive defenders of the faith. What he is talking about, however, is putting aside his personal preferences so that he can draw more people close to himself so they can have a way to hear the gospel. Worship leaders, perhaps more than any single entity in the church, have the most influence over the atmosphere set in the church, and worship leaders should therefore challenge themselves to embrace various means of worship, not for their own sake, but rather for the sake of the gospel.
I was all too excited to listen to the following clip last month which reveals the importance of this reality:
Herbert Cooper position on the topic: “Be intentional…Give up what you love, for what you love more.”
In the article, The Straight Truth About Multiracial Worship, UrbanFaith also provides a fascinating presentation on this topic.
The lessons to ponder this weekend:
Get the right worshipers on the platform.
Be intentional about the choice of music.
Do it all for the sake of the gospel.
How is worship going in your neck of the woods? Any lessons to share? When attending church on Sunday mornings, what really resonates in your heart as a worshiper?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012