Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) Office of Kingdom Diversity is hosting a one-day event April 13 on its campus in Wake Forest, N.C., to offer training for current and future Christian leaders interested in developing ethnically diverse ministry teams.
The Link Conference will address practical issues organizations face as they diversify, such as assessing multicultural leadership readiness, preparing for cultural change, avoiding tokenism, applying best practices for kingdom ministry and understanding the struggles of minority leaders.
The idea for the inaugural event came in response to numerous calls and emails to the Office of Kingdom Diversity from churches requesting training.
Walter Strickland, SEBTS associate vice president of Kingdom Diversity Initiatives (KDI) and first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he receives up to 10 requests per week from Southern Baptist congregations and other organizations seeking help in developing multicultural ministry teams.
Strickland discussed his excitement for the apparent interest in racial harmony on a recent episode of the podcast hosted the Kingdom Diversity office, called “From the Lectern.”
“I think that is the hand of God working in the hearts of people,” he said.
Courtlandt Perkins, KDI content strategist, joined Strickland on the show.
Both men affirmed the positive changes happening in many Christian organizations, but also expressed concern about attempts to diversify without anticipating potential difficulties.
“Many well-intended attempts to diversify leadership teams are unsuccessful due to a lack of cultural awareness and underestimating the complexities of fostering racial harmony,” Strickland said. “I’m not sure they know how to translate this multicultural passion into informed practice.”
He identified cultural assimilation and tokenism as possible dangers.
Perkins explained why many ethnic minorities are hesitant to work in majority white ministries.
He referred to racial tensions that were stoked in the United States during the controversial 2016 political cycle, in addition to America’s long history of ethnic strife.
“There is a lack of trust … and a lack of credibility,” he said, when ministries say they support diversity but do not want to make or accept the needed changes to support multiethnic teams.
“Unfortunately,” Perkins said, “multiethnic church has been more of a fad than a biblical conviction for many people.”
He outlined the Bible’s cover-to-cover vision for diversity – “God’s heart for the nations” – and warned of cultural uniformity in Christian ministries.
“If you are only doing ministry with people who look like you, act like you, share the same ethnicity, language and background, then you are going to have blind spots,” said Perkins. “Having the diversity of other people helps you to see the places you have missed thus far in your spiritual journey. … We need one another.”
Strickland and Perkins both emphasized the unique ministry networking opportunities that will be available during two sessions of the Link Conference.
Speakers include Jerome Gay, pastor of Vision Church in Raleigh; Andy Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham; Aaron Anderson, pastor of Vintage Church in Durham; Matthew Hodges, lay minister at Christ Our King Community Church in Raleigh; and SEBTS President Danny Akin.
Visit kingdomdiversity.sebts.edu for more information.