The Original Jesus: An Interview with Author Dan Darling

original JesusWho is your Jesus? That may seem like an odd question, but so often we make Jesus into images that suit us rather than the Jesus we find in the Bible. Dan Darling has set out to help us think through our versions of Jesus and provides a helpful corrective in his new book, The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is.

What inspired your new book?

Darling: This book started with two inspirations, one negative, one positive. Negatively, I heard myself and other Christians saying things like, “The Jesus I know . . .” as if we can fashion and shape Jesus to our own preferences and biases. Positively, I was in class with Dr. D.A. Carson and heard him say, “The Bible doesn’t begin with epistemology, but theology.” What he meant by this is that Scripture doesn’t begin with “How can I know God or what do I think of God, but with a declaration of who God is.” I thought about that as we think about Jesus Christ. Christ is who the Scriptures declare him to be, who he says he is, not who we think he is. This started me on the path of thinking through various ideas of Jesus in the evangelical culture that are partial truths, but not true to the real Jesus of Scripture. I wanted to be able to help people think through their incomplete formulations of Christ and get to the real, original, beautiful Christ.

Why do you think we are tempted to make Jesus in our image or in the image we hope him to be?

I think we do this because in our falleness, we want to bring Christ down to our level. We want a Jesus who justifies our behavior, who affirms our beliefs and preferences, a mascot for our favorite causes. In some ways, it is a form of self-worship, where the Jesus we worship starts to look like the man in the mirror. Jesus came to do the exact opposite, to rescue us from sin and to sanctify us and mold us into His image. He is the potter and we are the clay.

What is your solution to this problem?

The solution is simple: confronting, acknowledging, and bowing in worship before the real Jesus of Scripture. Rather than trying to focus on one attribute of Christ, the attribute we most identify with, we should come to Jesus with humility, letting him shape us instead of us shaping him. Ultimately the real Jesus of Scripture is infinitely better than the pedestrian Jesus’ of our imagination.

How do envision readers using your book?

I envision them really thinking deeply about the deity of Christ and not using the book as a cudgel against their neighbor, but as an opportunity to look deep within their own hearts to find the ways that they have missed the real Jesus in pursuit of one that conforms to their preferences. There are chapters in this book that will really resonate with the reader. And there are chapters that will challenge and convict. This is what happened to me as I was writing it. I didn’t realize all the ways I’d reduced Jesus to my own imagination.

Watch Dan share more in this video:

More about Dan

DanDaniel Darling is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. A former pastor, Darling is the author of several books, as well as a speaker and blogger. He contributes to a weekly column for Leadership Journal and his work can be found in the Washington Post, Focus on the Family, Christianity Today, Relevant, Beliefnet.com, Homelife, The Gospel Coalition, Crosswalk.com, and many more print and online publications. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Fear and Faith Event Video Interviews

I had the joy and pleasure of spending time with Lindsay Swartz, Jen Wilkin, Kristie Anyabwile, Catherine Parks, and Jani Ortlund during a spring Fear and Faith event. The ERLC has uploaded several video interviews and I didn’t want you to miss them. Hear from these women as we seek to help think biblically about the fight for faith.

Video: Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves

Video: Jen Wilkin Discusses Raising Daughters to Fight Fear and How to Study the Bible

Video: Becoming Women who Fight our Fear with Faith

Fighting Fear’s Effect on our Body Image and Past Impurity

An Interview with Melissa Kruger

Over the past few years, I have had the joy of meeting and interacting with several women writers from around the globe. They are all so unique and gifted and yet have one thing in common-Melissa Kruger 2– a love for God and His word. I had initially thought I’d name the series “New Voices” but as I thought about all the women I’d love to feature, “new” didn’t necessarily fit their description. Rather than keeping it narrow, I’m excited to begin a series of interviews that will feature women who write.

Today, we welcome Melissa Kruger to the site. Melissa is a wife, mom, women’s ministry leader, author, and currently launched a website, Wit’s End.

What do you do day-to-day?

Kruger: I’m a wife and mom, and I work on staff in women’s ministry at my church (Uptown PCA). I also write for various publications and speak at conferences a few times throughout the year.  My newest role is trying to keep our puppy Gus entertained and walked on a regular basis.

When did you discover you enjoyed writing?

When I was in high school, I read a devotional book that encouraged journaling for a week.  I didn’t know what to write about, so I began writing out my prayers to God each day. That one-week experiment began a daily habit of writing that has continued for over twenty-five years.

Why do you write?

Most of my writing is relational.  All the Bible studies I’ve written were for friends as we studied the Word together.  The Envy of Eve came from a talk I gave to the women of our church, which originated from a Bible study I wrote on the book of Joshua. I wrote Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood for a friend who was pregnant with her first baby. For me, it’s like preparing a home-cooked meal for the people I love.  Through writing, I hope to gather with friends to sit and savor the truths of God, tasting together the goodness of the Lord.  My writing may be done in moments of solitude, but it flows out of time spent in community.

When do you find time to write?

Writing is a daily part of my time with the Lord each morning, but my public writing happens in the nooks and crannies of my day.  Sometimes the thoughts filling my mind while I’m washing dishes at the sink finally have to come out and I force myself to sit down and write.

You also lead the women’s ministry at your church, yes? If so, how does that work affect your writing or does it?

Working on staff at my church affords me the opportunity to meet with women in a variety of life stages, as well as participate in a variety of ministry endeavors of the church. These interactions shape and inform the issues I write about on a regular basis.

What are some areas of need you see in women’s ministry?

We need women who are trained and equipped to teach other women. I would love to see more women attending seminary and more churches finding creative ways to support them in their efforts.

How can women encourage other women in the local church?

The greatest encouragement for me is sharing in the word and prayer together as a community.  When I ask a friend, “How can I be praying for you?” or “What are you learning about God?” immediately our discussions transform into encouraging and substantive conversations.

Are you currently working on a project? If so, what is it called?

I just finished my second book, Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood.  It’s an eleven-week devotional guide for moms, in hopes of bringing moms into the Word in manageable walking with God by Melissaamounts each day.

Why is this topic important to you?

We live in an overly pressured and perfectionistic mom culture these days.  There are so many good activities available to do with our children and so many sources of information, that we spend a lot of time overwhelmed and wearied in our attempts to live up to our own version of the perfect mom. In contrast, Jesus invites us to come to Him and find rest for our souls.  As He shapes and fashions us to look more like Christ, our homes becomes places of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  I hope to encourage moms (and myself) that the best gift we can give our children is developing our own relationship with the Lord – loving Him with all our heart, soul, and strength.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ?

I grew up going to church with my family every week.  When I started high school, my older brother kept inviting me to FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes).  I finally got over my shyness and began attending the meetings. As I listened to speakers and studied the Bible, God opened my eyes to my own need for salvation and the good news of the Gospel.

When you get discouraged is there a favorite Scripture you turn to?

The passage that has been the greatest encouragement to me over the past two years is Isaiah 58:11:  “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isn’t that a beautiful picture of God bringing redemption in the midst of ruins? He doesn’t remove us from scorched places and difficult circumstances, but He satisfies us and makes us full of life in the midst of them.

What is your message to women?

In Jesus we have everything that matters.

Just for fun; what is your favorite leisure activity?

I like to do too many things! I enjoy reading historical biographies (currently reading about the Romanov daughters), cooking scones on Saturday mornings, solving logic puzzles (I used to teach high school math), throwing a Frisbee with my husband, and my new favorite activity is growing vegetables in my garden.

A Mother’s Influence on One Pastor’s Kid: An Interview with Barnabas Piper

pk coverIt has been said that pastoral ministry is not for the faint of heart. There are pressures that stretch and challenge pastors both in ministry and personally. Evidently these pressures can also spill over onto their children. At least that was the case for Barnabas Piper who wrote about them in his book The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity.  

Barnabas (31) is the son of popular theologian, author, and speaker, John Piper.  Pastor John has served in ministry in various ways but most notably as past pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN where he ministered for 33 years.  It is here that Barnabas derives much of his childhood memories.

But Pastor John has not served alone. Beside him, supporting and loving him along the way, has been Noel Piper, his wife of over 45 years. I asked Barnabas to tell us about his mother and how she influenced, protected, and cared for her family and specifically Barnabas as he wrestled with faith and his childhood.

 

Could you give us a brief synopsis for those who haven’t read your book?

The Pastor’s Kid explores the unique challenges and pressures PKs face as children of those in ministry. It comes from the perspective of PKs and addresses the pressures to be morally perfect, biblically educated, and theologically sound. It looks hard at the effect these expectations have on a PKs ability to relate to God, our parents and the church. Throughout the book, The Pastor’s Kid weaves a theme of grace and the need for it – grace to make mistakes, grace to be forgiven, grace to find a genuine identity in Jesus. It also challenges pastors and the church to make some changes and offers some concrete ways to do so. It is a direct book that seeks to expose some hard things and also offer a helpful, hope-filled alternative to them through pointing readers to Jesus.

Why did you decide to write it?

A mixture of things led me to write it, but the tipping point came when I wrote and article for Table Talk Magazine in early 2012 explaining the pressures PKs face. The writing experience took the lid off a whole can of worms in my own life and showed me how many issues were there, as a PK, that could be addressed. The responses from readers were striking in their rawness and loneliness too. It showed me that, as a whole, PKs felt isolated and nobody was addressing their needs or challenges. As I began to interact with more and more of them I realized the same threads of difficulty ran through most of their stories. So there was a need, a desire, and I had a story and the ability to write something that might help them.

noel and barnabasMost of what I’ve read about your book and in your book focuses on your relationship with your father. But I’d like to know more about how your mother shaped your life and experience. Could you tell us about your mother, who she is and what she means to you?

This question makes me smile simply because no son can write what his mother means to him in a few short sentences. My mom is the oldest of 10 kids, raised in the strict Southern Baptist home of a small town doctor in Georgia. She is as steady as they come and a remarkably strong woman. You have to be to raise four boys in a home that in no-way resembled Lord of the Flies. And she has a big heart. When she was in her late forties the opportunity arose to adopt a baby girl, and my mom never hesitated in saying yes (credit here it’s due: my dad said yes too). So when I was 12 I got a new baby sister. Now, in her mid sixties, my mom is an empty-nester for the first time in 42 years. That is a lot of mothering.

She is brilliant (an author of two adult non-fiction books, and a handful of kids books) and taught me to love reading and stories, mostly by her example. She has an eye and heart for missions the world over, and has visited dozens of countries as part of missions trips. This also speaks to her ever-readiness to drop everything and serve. On top of all that she is eloquent and a very good teacher. Although, I didn’t appreciate that nearly as much as a child when I was home schooled for a couple years. On the one hand she set aside certain gifts and desires for a time for the good of our family – writing, traveling, raising a girl. On the other hand, she accepted the opportunities to do those things with fervor when God gave the opportunity. So she’s an example of sacrifice and stewardship, patience and action.

How did she shield you or assist you in your struggles with being a pastor’s kid?

From my perspective, the thing my mother did that was the greatest benefit to me was the constancy with which she ran our home. My father’s schedule and responsibilities as a pastor, especially as he was asked to travel more as a speaker, were rigorous. But our life kept on chugging ahead, no beats missed. For a child, to have that steadiness and regularity is a huge benefit. I recognize this much more now, as a parent myself, than I did then.

She never complained in my hearing – not ever – about my dad or about the difficulties of ministry. She didn’t bad mouth people in the church, even those who deserved it. My mom is not an emotive person, prone to expressiveness, but she is a doer, a server. She set a tone and an example in that way.

From what I’ve read, you struggled with rebellion up into your 20’s. Was your mother integral in helping you turn around?

My greatest struggles came after I was out of the house, out of college, and married. I butted heads with my mom when I was in high school and got into bits of trouble here and there, but it was when I was independent that I really made a mess of things (I tell more of that story in the book).

What my mother did for me (and Lesley, my wife) when my world was crumbling, was right in line with exactly who she was when I was growing up. She dropped everything to be there for us, she was a steady caring presence, and she showed her love for us by serving our little family (we had a toddler and an infant). She was calm in crisis and willing to be silent or offer counsel, depending on what I wanted. In short, she embodied love and care and made it known that I was her loved son regardless of my mistakes.

Does the way your mom interact with your father affect the way you think about life, love, and marriage?

Absolutely. I look at them and can’t help but admire 45+ years of marriage. That is a kind of commitment I aspire to. I admire the way she never tears my father down or undermines him. I also see some of the hard times they have been through, either that they’ve told me about or I have witnessed, and I can learn how to do some things differently from them. Neither she nor my dad are shy about telling us kids their challenges and weaknesses, and those help me recognize my own and, hopefully, learn how to overcome them in my own marriage.

How has your mother most influenced you?

She taught me to love reading which also led to my love of writing. She is insatiably curious, always learning about one thing or another – foreign countries, bird watching, heroes of hers, and so on. It set a tone of learning for me, always being interested in new knowledge. And she showed me how to be flexible and roll with life’s punches, be ready for change, and keep calm in conflict and crisis. In parenting and marriage that sort of steadiness is something I’m still learning, but her influence is priceless.

Tell us a funny story about an interaction or event you experienced with your mother.

It’s not specific to me, but when my three older brothers and I were little, my mom was on a first name basis with the urgent care nurses. We visited the office so many times with broken bones, gashes, busted lips, concussions, and so forth. Being the trooper she was, my mom would wrap us up, buckle us in, and drive on over to urgent care all in a day’s work. She would walk in with one of us busted up and bleeding and they’d say “Oh hi, Noel. What happened to the boys this time?” I suspect she was mildly relieved that my sister didn’t necessitate the same number of visits.

If you could speak with pastor’s kids, what would you say to them in regards to the role of a pastor’s wife?

I would tell them that their mom probably understands the pressure they’re under more than they think. I didn’t realize this growing up. I would encourage PKs to confide in their moms more about the challenges and pressures they face. I didn’t ever really do this, and I wish I had tried. I think one of the biggest things many PKs lack is someone who understands, especially in the safety of their home. It is a scary thing to tell your parents that you don’t always like church or that you have doubts about faith or that you’re sick of the pressure. It feels like you’re challenging their very identity or even challenging God sometimes. But an understanding mom will be able to take that in stride and likely help a lot.

 

For more information about Barnabas Piper visit his website at www.barnabaspiper.com

Pastors Pursuing Diversity: Interview with Dave Furman

Over the next few months, I have been conducting interviews with pastors who are pursuing diversity in their congregations. You can read more about the series in the introduction. The series will end in two weeks. 

The questions are geared to help pastors and congregations in the pursuit of diversity in the church and all of life. All of the views, opinions, and suggestions are that of the interviewee. The goal of the series is to provide a resource from a variety of pastors, and therefore opinions may also vary.

(Due to length, please feel free to print interviews for future reading and referencing)

Dave Furman moved to the Arabian Peninsula in 2008 to plant dave furmanRedeemer Church of Dubai and help start a church planting movement. Dave serves as the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai—Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Have you always had a desire for a divers or multiethnic church and if so, what has fueled this desire?

Furman:  Yes.  I’m compelled by what we see in Scripture how God is gathering to himself men and women and children from every tribe on the earth to worship the Lamb through all eternity. It just thrills my heart to consider that that’s how his will is done in heaven. Let his will be done on earth!

How have you sought to build diversity within your congregation?

Furman:

• We intentionally meet for corporate worship in the most diverse part of our city.

• We have elders and staff from many different countries.

• We welcome participants in our worship service from different backgrounds.

• We pray for different countries and unreached peoples each week in our prayer of petition.

How have you sought to cast this vision to your members?

Furman: In our preaching, teaching, and discipleship we affirm God’s vision for diversity as it is laid out in all the Scriptures. We recognize that there are things that stand in the way of our unity (i.e. our sin) so we seek by God’s grace to repent of those things and keep the reconciling cross of Jesus central in our relationships.

Do you have a diverse staff as well?

Furman:  Yes – on staff we currently have an Australian, an African, Indians, Filipinos, and Americans; the elder board is similarly diverse.

What do you see as the benefit of having a diverse church?

Furman: People often remark to us after visiting our service for the first time that “it felt like a little taste of heaven.” We agree. It’s a joy to worship with the nations as it points us to eternity when we will be worshiping our great King with people from all nations and all times.

It just blows me away when I see people from countries that are at war with each other stand next to each other and sing to Jesus together as brothers and sisters. This reminds me and shows me that Jesus is the singularly most valuable treasure that any man or woman can have in all the world. He is so much more than a mere “common cause;” he is our Creator and he is our Redeemer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your testimony? Did you grow up surrounded by diversity?

Furman: I moved around a lot as a child so I was accustomed to meeting people from different cultures. After I became a Christian my freshmen year at university I realized that there were actually people who had never heard of Jesus. This led me to take trips around the world to bring the gospel to some of the harder to reach places. After my wife Gloria and I were married we began taking trips around the world together and our love for the nations increased. We both knew that there was nothing else we’d rather do than take the good news of Jesus to our lost brothers and sisters.

Have you had any fears as you’ve pursued diversity? Have you struggled with doubt that it is possible?

Furman: In our multi-ethnic setting you always wonder how possible it is to connect to the hearts of all the different cultures. You realize that one sermon might have led to transformation of people from one culture and offended another at the same time. It’s one thing to go reach one specific culture, it’s another thing to have 50 nationalities with you at any one time. I think the main help is trusting God to overcome my weaknesses and inadequacies. I have to trust that the wisdom of his word is greater than my bright ideas.

When I am weak he is strong.

Do you do anything unique with your service?

Furman: Actually, we don’t. Now, I know some churches do some unique things and I think those can be useful in the right settings. However, we’ve chosen to not focus on things in our worship gathering in order to please any specific culture, but instead to focus on things that all Christians do: We practice the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper), pray, sing, read, and listen to the word of God read and preached. By focusing on what unifies us the Spirit of God has drawn in people from far more countries than we ever imagined.

What are the demographics of your congregation (if you happen to know)?

Furman: We have over 50+ different nationalities who attend our corporate worship service each weekend. We’re approximately 80% Eastern (African, South Asian, East Asian) and about 20% Western (Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia). The top two nationalities in our congregation would be 1) Indians and 2) Filipinos, and even between those two countries there are many distinct ethnolinguistic people groups!

If you could give any advice to a pastor who desires to pursue diversity within his congregation, what would you say to him?

Furman: I would tell him to never lose the gospel for the sake of unity in diversity, but to preach the unadjusted gospel consistently without fear of man. I would tell him to never water down theology to a lowest common denominator in order to accommodate more people and cultures, but to consistently preach rich doctrine as seen in Scripture.

I would tell him to never do anything to unnecessarily alienate or elevate any one culture as more valued than another, but to recognize that God equips all of his children for service to the body.

I would tell him to never plan and create vision for our worship services alone, but to seek the input from a diverse group of leaders from within our church.

If you were asked to speak to a congregation who was about to begin a series of initiatives in hopes of building a more diverse congregation what might you say to them?

Furman: I would tell them to be careful of raising the banner of diversity as their supreme goal.

Diversity is wonderful but it is a temptation for churches who want diversity to make it their distinguishing mark. Diversity becomes the good news in these churches. We must never move on from the true gospel as our centerpiece.

I would also tell them to pray for God to gather Christ’s body together in whatever diversity that looks like for your local church, and to do the things I mentioned above (consider meeting location, staff, participation in the body, etc.)

Did you actually do anything differently to pursue diversity? Do you think it is necessary?

Furman: As I mentioned, we focus more on the things that unify us and exalt Christ not any specific culture.

How do you think that the Great Commission can motivate a pursuit of diversity?

Furman: The Great Commission necessarily motivates us to pursue diversity in that it motivates us to go into the outermost reaches of the earth, calling out to our lost brothers and sisters who still live in the darkness– our Father wants us to come home and our Elder Brother has provided a way. In light of the Great Commission, there is no place in this world that we can avoid if we want to go find our lost sisters and brothers.

I, personally, believe diversity begins in the home. In other words, we are adopted into a new family and that family, the church, is beautifully diverse. We should seek not to have a face change in our churches but to have it in all of life—our lives should include those unlike ourselves. Do you agree? If so, how might you encourage members to build diversity in their homes?

Furman: I think diversity in the home has to start with the heart’s orientation to love what God loves. When we are digging deep into God’s Word we see the things that he loves, and that includes the precious gift of fellowship with the people he has created for his glory.

Pastors Pursuing Diversity: Interview with J.D. Greear

Over the next few months, I will be conducting interviews with pastors who are pursuing diversity in their congregations. You can read more about the series in the introduction.

The questions are geared to help pastors and congregations in the pursuit of diversity in the church and all of life. All of the views, opinions, and suggestions are that of the interviewee. The goal of the series is to provide a resource from a variety of pastors, and therefore opinions may also vary.

(Due to length, please feel free to print interviews for future reading and referencing)

J. D. Greear is the Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-JD headshotDurham, NC where he has served since 2002. He is the author of Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013) and Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011).

Have you always had a desire for a diverse or multiethnic church?  If so, what has fueled this desire?  If not, when did it change and why?

Greear:  Since the church was re-launched as the Summit Church in 2002, our desire has been to reach and serve our entire community. Since we live in a city that is itself very diverse, we believed our church should reflect that diversity. From the very beginning, God allowed us to reach people of other nationalities. This was, however, a byproduct of our ministry, and not a focus. Only in recent years has it really become a priority. One of our pastors spoke a prophetic word over our church about 8 years ago, saying this was what God wanted from us. About 4 years ago, it became an “agenda” item, actually affecting how we programmed and staffed.

How have you sought to build diversity within your congregation?

Greear: What we’ve learned is that it takes more than a desire for diversity. We’ve learned that diversity among our leadership is necessary to grow in this area. People who identify with different ethnic or minority groups want to know that there is a place for them, not only in the pew but also in leadership.

Here are twelve principles that are shaping us in the pursuit for racial integration:

1. Our goal is not just the elimination of racism; it is the achievement of diversification.

2. Each us of us must elevate his or her third race.

3. Realize that it is not just about the music.

4. Realize that it is about the music.

5. We must prioritize diverse leadership.

6. Pre-Revelation 5, racial diversification has its limits.

7. Multiculturalism is not our primary goal; gospel proclamation is.

8. We must devote ourselves to humility and patience.

9. Give the “benefit of the doubt” whenever you can.

10. Acknowledge that your sinful flesh is racist.

11. Some of us should consider multicultural engagement a “calling.”

12. We are in a kairos moment regarding race.

See more here:

http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2014/05/twelve-principles-for-racial-integration.html

How have you sought to cast this vision to your members? 

Greear: Multiple ways: We’ve hosted public forums and panel discussions. We’ve preached on it. It is a consistently recurring theme.

Do you have a diverse staff as well? 

Greear: Yes, for example, we are a multi-site church and each location is led by a Campus Pastor. Among our eight campus pastors four different ethnicities are represented.

What do you see as the benefit of having a diverse church?

Greear:  It is a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The early church lived in as racially divided time as any but the New Testament says that in Christ, there is “neither Jew nor Greek.” In Christ, we experience a unity that transcends our cultural experience. To live in unity and love for one another is a witness to the world of what Christ has done for us. “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” It is also a sign of the coming multi-cultural unity around the throne of Christ, proclaiming the mystery and power of God’s wisdom (Rev 5:9; Eph 3:10).

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your testimony? Did you grow up surrounded by diversity or has this been a newer conviction/desire? 

Greear: I grew up in church and a Christian home. Most of my experience was in churches that were predominately white but I can remember from the time I was young seeing my dad befriend and lead to Christ people of other races. There was no racism in our church, but we were not programmed so as to invite and embrace diversity. Thus, our church remained largely white. I always knew this was not right, but didn’t know how to change it.

Have you experienced any fears or struggled with doubt as you’ve sought to pursue diversity in your church?

Greear: Pursuing diversity in church is hard. It is easier to just cater to the preferences of one demographic. When people from different cultures come together, it requires intentionality, vulnerability and lots of dialogue. But it leads to a richer experience of the gospel.

Do you do anything unique with your service?

Greear: It’s difficult in a worship service to create an experience that connects to multiple cultural desires, but we are trying to learn how to do this better. Music is a powerful tool for this.

 If you could give any advice to a pastor who desires to pursue diversity within his congregation, what would you say to him? 

Greear: It’s worth it.

Here are our diversity “plumblines” we use to disciple our staff and congregation. These are lines and truths I repeat and teach on often:

  • Gospel loving Christians pursue multiculturalism wherever they can as a sign of Rev 5:9 (Eph 3:10–11; Acts 13:1–4)
  • We must balance a desire for multiculturalism with the need to “become a Greek to the Greeks” (1 Cor 9:19–21) (i.e. we have to adapt our ministries to all those we are reaching). Become a ‘Greek to the Greeks’ in RdU means adapting our message to the predominant culture: Derwin, we do Tomlinson with diversity twists, beats, etc). This should serve as a balance for us in our objectives, and keep us realistic in our expectations
  • The summit church has a long way to go in achieving the multiculturalism God desires for us
  • The staffing and programming of the Summit Church should always be “ahead” of the congregation, pushing for multiculturalism, not trying to catch up
  • In the spirit of Phil 2:1–5, the majority culture ought to “give more” than it expects minority cultures to “give”
  • We seek to live multicultural lives, not host multicultural events

Also, some of our “struggles” with diversity are reflected in this dialogue:

http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2014/05/are-we-multicultral-because-of-our-community-or-because-of-heaven.html

If you were asked to speak to a congregation who was about to begin a series of initiatives in hopes of building a more diverse congregation what might you say to them?

Greear: I’ve actually written a series of blog posts you can find here.

I, personally, believe diversity begins in the home. In other words, we are adopted into a new family and that family, the church, is beautifully diverse. We should seek not to have a face change in our churches but to have it in all of life—our lives should include those unlike ourselves. Do you agree? If so, how might you encourage members to build diversity in their homes?

Greear: Absolutely. The one thing we ask people when discussing diversity is how diverse are their relationships? It takes intentionality but I’ve found that pursuing diversity in my personal relationships has led to personal growth and a greater understanding of the gospel.