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Guest Articles

Growing Diversity: From Roots to Seeds

By Deborah F. Jenks
Today "diversity" is a term very much in the news and business jargon as the "politically correctly" way to deal with human differences. People are recognized as the most important resource, so learning to attract, retain, and effectively utilize people has become a key initiative in many organizations. So what is diversity and how does it apply to you as a Christian leader?

Today "diversity" is a term very much in the news and business jargon as the "politically correctly" way to deal with human differences. People are recognized as the most important resource, so learning to attract, retain, and effectively utilize people has become a key initiative in many organizations. So what is diversity and how does it apply to you as a Christian leader?

Taylor Cox defines diversity as "the variation of social and cultural identities among people existing together in a defined employment or market setting."[1] He further expounds that these affiliations include: gender, race, national origin, religion, age cohort, and work specialization among others. Geographic diversity includes local, regional, national, and global settings. Equal Employment Opportunity was a legal and enforced way to deal with differences. Diversity is a voluntary approach. But even as a voluntary initiative, it can create division or unity based on how it is implemented.

As Christian leaders, we need to understand if diversity is a Biblical concept and then decide how we will handle it in our own organizations. Organizations can be churches (sacred) or businesses (secular). In a Hebrew mind set there is no difference between sacred and secular, all is holy or unholy to God based on motive.

Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles. His calling stretched the nascent church to diversify from a Jews-only church to a church which not only included, but welcomed Gentiles.

Paul was a pioneer building an organization that had not been in existence before - the Gentile churches. They were geographically dispersed from Europe (Italy and Greece) to Asia Minor (Galatia, Ephesus, and Colosse). In the churches he had Jewish, Greek, Roman, and probably other cultures. The people were from various religious backgrounds: Jewish, God fearing, and pagan. All had come to faith in Jesus, but with varying degrees of maturity. Economically some were wealthy and free, poor and free, or slaves. Both men and women played key roles in the church. There were also married people and singles. This was diversity by any stretch of the imagination! Our churches and organizations today may feel diverse compared to the homogeneous nature 50 years ago. However, I don't think it rivals Paul's challenges to bring organizational unity. This is why we will glean some principles from his letters [2] to understand his concept of diversity.

John the Apostle quoting Jesus wrote that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We will produce much fruit if we abide in him (John 15:1-8). Paul echoes this view in his letters. Let's examine some of Paul's principles dealing with diversity within this framework.

Being Rooted and Established in Jesus

The first step is to be rooted in Jesus. Paul allowed for liberty or personal conscious in implementing the gospel, with one exception: Belief in Jesus the chief cornerstone was mandatory (Eph 2:15, Rom 5:8). By believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, followers were reconciled to God by righteousness through faith (Rom 3:21-25). The promise is received through believing (Gal 3:14 -18). All have sinned no matter whether Jew or Gentile and are in need of a redeemer. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 states it is the Lord who establishes and guards the believer from the evil one. Just as a root must be established, Ephesians 3:16-19 refers to being "rooted and grounded in love" and "strengthened with might in the inner man that Christ may dwell in your hearts." Being able to begin to comprehend the "width and length and depth and height" of Jesus' love for us and filled with the fullness of God.

Being established in Jesus was a dividing line to Paul; it defined who was inside and outside the organization of the church. Those inside the organization were to mature and grow together. Those who were outside were to be provoked to jealousy to encourage them to join the organization.

We are the Branches

The second step is to for the believer to be the branches expanding from the roots or vine indicating a maturing process. Paul is articulating God's strategy for God's values to become actualized in the life of the individual believer and the corporate. Community life (koinia) is a process of learning and growing like Jesus together. According to Thayer's koinia in the Greek means "contact, fellowship, intimacy or a benefaction jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution." [3]

In Romans 11:11-33 Paul discusses the Gentiles being grafted into the Jewish olive tree (root). This is an expression of community. The Jews who did not believe in Jesus were broken off branches. The Gentiles were grafted in. Grafting[ 4] is a process used to blend the best characteristics of the root stock with the best characteristics of the bud to create a stronger, heartier hybrid. The joined whole is better than the individual parts. The end result is a stronger olive tree (organization), when it is based on a common root (value) system.

In Galatians 4:19 and Ephesians 3:16-20, Paul labors for the very nature of Christ to be formed and established in his followers. 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, believers are being transformed into "the same image" as Jesus from "glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord." The end result is that the believer is to be the image of Jesus. Jesus is the firstborn son of God, so we are to be like him (Rom 8:29). The Greek word eikon "denotes 'an image;' the word involves the two ideas of representation and manifestation." [5] Therefore we represent him, but are also to manifest his values and character.

Paul defined Sonship as a strategic or key value of inclusion. If we believe we are sons, then we receive the full inheritance of God. Once the promise is received the believer has a choice to walk in a spirit of slavery to the law (works) or to receive the spirit of Sonship (intimate relationship) through adoption (Rom 8:2, 8:15-18, 9:7, Gal 4:21-31). This is so big, that all of creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom 8:18). Just as Israel, had a choice to remain under the spiritual and soulish bondage of slavery or move into the Promised Land, so we as believers have the same choice. A spirit of Sonship was important, because the promise was available to all believers without regard to gender, culture, economic state, or previous religious training. It was a gift freely given.

Unity is another key value. When believers were added to the church, they became part of the body of Christ (Eph 5:30, Rom 12, 1 Cor 12). This means every member of the body comes into "unity of faith" to become a "perfect new man" in the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 2:15, 4:4-16). Because we are joined together, we need to keep ourselves holy (1 Cor 6:13-20). For what we do blesses or defiles others and what others do affects us (1 Cor 12:26). Yet if all work to glorify God in body and spirit then unity and holiness come naturally. We do this by putting on Christ and the armor of light (Rom 13:12-14).

Carnal values emphasize differences but godly values bring unity. Examples of carnal values that bring division are envy and jealousy (1 Cor 3:1-4, 1:10). We are not to judge God's servants (Rom 14:1-13). For example, when we are truly one body, if one person judges another part of the body then he is bringing judgment on himself. In contrast, if we are in unity we speak the same thing (1 Cor 1:10). Since each believer is a new creation in Christ, we are not to regard one another in flesh but by the Spirit (2 Cor 5:6-18.) Instead believers are to be likeminded towards one another (Rom 15:5) and walk in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-20). The key is each member is to mutually submit to one another (Eph 5:21). This requires a change of mindset, from being conformed to this world to being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). Our emphasis is on the common values such as in Ephesians 4:4-6, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." This is a strategic value to understand that in an organization we are a part of one another; therefore we need to treat each other as we would our self.

When the people and organization have matured and expanded, then there is an expectation that fruit will grow.

Established Fruit

"Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2). Fruit (karpon) [6] means the literal fruit of a tree or the metaphorical effect or result of an act or deed. Generally only one type of fruit comes from one type of tree, each one bearing after its own kind (Gen 1:12). Yet each piece of fruit is unique in size, shape, color, and taste. Pruning is the process of cutting back the visible fruit and branches so that more and better quality fruit will be produced. Fruit is the evidence of being rooted in Jesus and being changed into his image. Fruit also contains the seeds for multiplication.

This maturity and transformation are evident when the flesh has been crucified and the fruit of the Spirit (God's values) are well formed in the life of the believer and the organization (1 Thes 5:23). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal 5:22-26). Fruit should be evident in an individual and in the relationships between the people of an organization (Eph 5:18-21). The fruit of the Spirit are grown over time by "abiding in Jesus," however the "gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29).

God uniquely designed each person with a purpose and gifts to unlock certain groups of peoples (Gal 2:7-10), yet the same values are imparted. 1 Corinthians discusses the diversity of gifts, activities, ministries, manifestations (12:8-10), motivational gifts [7] or redemptive gifts [8] (12:28-30) to edify (14:12) or encourage the body. These are equivalent to Cox's job titles. Each member expresses their gift through the same Holy Spirit (12:11). As the need of a person becomes evident, the required gift will come forth. Galatians 3:28-29 states, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." These are the social and cultural differences Cox identified. The gifts are designed to reach "all people" in their cultural mindsets. For example, Jews seek a sign, but Greeks seek wisdom (1:22-25). Christ is both the power and wisdom of God. Geographic differences are evident in where the letters were sent (Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Colosse). Unity in diversity is similar to people from other cultures fitting into American culture while still retaining their own identify. Paul reminds us all the gifts are but a "sounding brass or a clanging cymbal" if the fruit of love is not manifested (1 Cor 13).

Unity in diversity establishes a unique place for each believer. When the uniqueness of each follower is utilized (rather than despite it) followers are released into their destinies and the organization leap frogs because it has the strategic advantage of multiple people working in their strengths. Marcus Buckingham of Gallop recommends leaders and followers major in the tasks they are intrinsically good at - their God given motivational gifts and talents. [9] Ephesians 5:18-22 presents community life as submission to one another with each person bringing to the group the fruit of their gifting. If each person brought the same song each week, church would be boring! Every member is to develop and exercise their gift, without wishing it was another part of the body (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12). Together the members express the fullness of God, with Jesus as the head.

This diversity is not just for the natural world, but has a spiritual purpose that goes beyond this world we can see and touch (1 Cor 15:46-49). Just as Jesus was spiritual, so are we. The intent for the diversity of the body is that now "the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (Eph 3:10-11). As each person walks in their unique expression of the image of God, it is spiritual warfare.

When believers walk as sons, then we have liberty to follow our own conscious in non-critical matters. However, we walk with constraint. All things are lawful but not all things are helpful or edifying (1 Cor 6:12, 10:23). Paul in his liberty chooses to serve his followers and be all things to all men (1 Cor 9:19-22). Therefore the purpose of the fruit and gifts are to serve others and to live an exemplary life, so the Gentile believers are distinguished from the non-believing Gentiles (1 Thes 4:1-5) as lights shining in the darkness (Eph 5:8-13). The contrast will draw unbelievers and will make them jealous to imitate their lifestyle (Rom 11:14). They will be able to taste the goodness of God through the fruit of the mature believer, so the seeds of God are planted in others.

Seed Multiplication

Paul was strategic, he thought about building a platform for the future. Paul clearly established that the believers were to imitate him, and then become examples for others to follow. The measuring rod for this was whether each believer was conformed to the image of Jesus. (Rom 8:29, 6:5, 1 Cor. 4:15-17, 11:1, 15:49, Eph 5:1, 1 Thes 1:6-7, 2:8, 2:14, 2 Thes 1:9) The leader is to understand the life-giving power of Jesus, the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45-49) and become the living manifestation of him. The followers then have a flesh and blood example to imitate in belief, word, and deed. These followers come into maturity and become examples, for the next generation. The result is the legacy of the good news is passed on for generations.

Leadership is about influence and freeing up the followers. In 1 Thessalonians Paul described his leadership style as: "gentle among you, as a mother nurses her own children" (2:7) and "comforted and charged you as a Father does his own children" (2:11). The followers were his "glory and joy" (2:20). He imparted not only the gospel but his life (2:8) into them. The leader demonstrates and teaches the values, prays and labors for them to be planted and formed in the follower, and then frees the follower to practice the values collaboratively in community.

Concluding Thoughts

Diversity is very much from the heart of God. If God created over 38,000 varieties of spiders, then he loves diversity in people. Humans are the apex of his creation. Unlike spiders, we are created in the image of God. Our call is to represent and manifest Jesus on the earth by being transformed into new creations from one state of glory to another. Although there is one body, there are many functions and giftings. Each person is to be unique and to walk in the strength of their God given abilities and gifts.

However, Paul did establish which parts of diversity are carnal and which are godly. The first requirement was to be a believer in Jesus. Secondly, the believers were not to walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. When we live according to the Spirit, we expand the organization (branches) and bring forth good actions (fruit). As believers live in koinia, we plant seeds of righteousness in fellow believers and non-believers for the future.

Psalm 139:1-16 establishes that God formed us before we were born. He knows the gifts, talents, motivations, and calling he placed within you. Do you know your unique purpose on the earth? Your gift to God is to develop your gifts and walk in your calling, expressed in community. The other side of the coin is that you accept the uniqueness of the other people in your organization and learn to work together as one body. It is like we are all different instruments tuning to one pitch pipe (Jesus). Each instrument will tune to the pitch differently, and function in the orchestra uniquely. Yet when each is properly tuned and following their part of the score the result is a beautiful symphony composed of many sounds.

As an organizational leader your job is to ensure the right people are in the right job and to plan for the future. Be attracting and retaining the best and brightest from a multi-cultural pool of applicants you can strategically expand your organization's future capabilities while expressing the heart of God. Your goal is to establish the organizational vision, mission, and values and then lead the followers so that the above are established in their daily lives and relationships. Then plant the seeds in future generations of followers to establish a long term legacy. Where do you need to grow in your practice of Biblical diversity?

End Notes


[1] Taylor Cox, Jr. Creating the Multicultural Organization, A Strategy for Capturing the Power of Diversity (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001), 3.

[2] Paul's Letters examined: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Galatians, and Philemon.

[3] Thayer's Greek Lexicon (complete), "NT: 2842" [Electronic Database]. (Seattle: BibleSoft, 2003).

[5] Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, "image" [Electronic Database]. (Seattle: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985).

[6] Thayer's Greek Lexicon (complete), "NT: 2590" [Electronic Database]. (Seattle: BibleSoft, 2003).

 
 
(c) 1997 Deborah F. Jenks

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