Plumb lines are a series of short, pithy statements that we, at the Summit, use as rallying points—both for our staff and for the entire church. They are a way to encapsulate our ministry philosophy in short, memorable phrases.
Plumb Line #9 at the Summit is: “The Church should reflect the diversity of its community and proclaim the diversity of the kingdom.”
Hardly anyone in the American church thinks that ethnic diversity is a bad thing. And yet, take a look at most of our churches, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous criticism still has some bite to it: “Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.” A mild desire to see diversity isn’t going to create multi-ethnic diversity in our churches. For diversity to truly take hold, it takes intentionality.
One of our African American pastors, Chris Green, has summarized the process of a church becoming multi-ethnic in a helpful spectrum:
IGNORANCE – AWARENESS – INTERACTION – GOSPELIZED COMMUNITY
We all start on the left, with ignorance. Most of us grow up around people like us, we work with people like us, and we socialize with people like us. We aren’t willfully hateful, but we simply don’t know much about people from different backgrounds. So we—especially those of us in the majority culture—fill in the gaps with presuppositions and stereotypes. We assume that “black people” or “Hispanic people” all think, act, or feel a certain way.
Admitting our ignorance leads us to the next step along the spectrum—awareness. Perhaps we watch something on the news, or make a new friend, or have some personal experience that forces us to recognize cultural differences. Awareness is unsettling, because it challenges a lot of what we assumed was simply “normal.”