Converge staff training Colorado church to seek biblical diversity
Pastor & writer
Mission Hills Church, a predominantly Anglo church just outside of Denver, has committed to learning how to minister in Christ’s name to people of every color, culture and category.
That’s why the church invited Dr. Harold Lewis, Converge’s vice president of Biblical Diversity, there September 15 and 16. He spoke with close to 100 staff members and lay leaders. Last year, Mission Hills had Dr. Lewis on their podcast to discuss how the church can begin to achieve racial reconciliation.
In September, Lewis’ message explained implicit bias and how it can erode unity and hinder spiritual growth. This term, also known as unconscious bias, describes why people say messages or act outside their awareness.
For example, Lewis said he likes Bentley cars even though he’s never driven one. He knows he likes Bentleys, but he doesn’t know why he likes Bentleys or why he can’t identify the source of his appreciation. As long as his bias isn’t inaccurate, there won’t be negative consequences.
Ashlie Reynoso, Mission Hills’ associate director of kids ministry, co-hosted last year’s podcast on race. She also heard Dr. Lewis speak in September. She said the podcast was a great conversation for the church as race in America became a crucial dialogue.
“Our intention and goal [for having Dr. Lewis come] was, ‘How can we do this better?’” she said. “How can we continually be improving in this realm of diversity?”
Having that teachable attitude, Dr. Lewis explained, is more important than competencies around Biblical diversity. Lewis said that having such an attitude means churches like Mission Hills can learn about countering implicit biases.
Some ways to do that include learning about the different kinds of biases, asking God to reveal one’s heart and being around people of other cultures and categories. Those people can help someone see when they’re acting on implicit biases.
Inaccurate implicit biases lead people to negative outcomes that damage churches’ life and witness, Dr. Lewis said. What flows from inaccurate implicit biases includes micro-aggression, micro-invalidation and micro-insults. This includes speaking after someone in a way that undermines what was said or saying something like, ‘You’re a credit to your race.’
Converge’s Office of Biblical Diversity has tools available to teach congregations that see such practices happening and the resulting loss of unity, declining diversity and discipleship.
For example, Christians can unconsciously make comments that equal micro-aggressions or micro-invalidations for someone who disagrees with the majority view. So Lewis’ office created worksheets to identify these comments and train teams to speak differently in meetings.
Another skill for disciples is micro-affirmations: a subtle nod of the head, a thank you or a positive comment to support someone after they speak. This is especially beneficial, Lewis explained, when someone outside the majority perspective speaks.
“Let them know they added value to the conversation,” Dr. Lewis said. “Let someone know they did a good job or had a worthwhile perspective when they might not be used to being respected.”
When people in the church learn to do that, Dr. Lewis said, they can expect to see more unity, more people engaged in the church and more diversity through the gospel. So many circumstances and realities can divide our church, but Christ’s one gospel is enough to keep God’s people together.
In the last year, Mission Hills formed a district diversity team. A major goal of Lewis’ office is assisting Converge churches in creating a team to build unity and increase diversity. Such a team utilizes the Office of Biblical Diversity resources to minister among people from all backgrounds or identities.
Could your church benefit from support to apply the gospel to have more unity in your church? The Office of Biblical Diversity offers leaders and congregations a variety of aids. Some options include prayer breakfasts, team training, a workshop, videos on social media and small group studies on implicit bias and other categories within biblical diversity.
Ben Greene, Pastor & writer
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.