In Luke chapter 10, verse 25, a religious law expert was testing Jesus and asked him how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus flipped it on him and asked him: “what do you think?” He answered correctly and said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your strength, all your soul and all your mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus agreed and it seemed like that was settled… but then the religious leader threw in a curve ball and asked “And who is my neighbor?” As church planters, this is a serious question to ask. Who is our neighbor? Many scholars think this religious leader was asking this as he was looking for a loophole. He really only wanted to love the people who looked like him, believed like him, lived in his neighborhood, and were in his income bracket. That would be comfortable. But, we’re not called to be comfortable, and it’s definitely not practical because our “neighbors” are rapidly changing.
Data shows that America is becoming more urban and more diverse. The suburbs and the cities are both rapidly changing. Minority and immigrant populations are exploding with growth, while at the same time, people of all backgrounds are moving back into the cities. We have a convergence of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-generational, and multi-class like we’ve never seen before. As I travel to different cities and speak and train leaders I get so many questions surrounding this conjunction. Church planters are wrestling to find balance as they plant new churches and revitalize old ones. There is an incredible Kingdom opportunity at hand.
Is it possible to have a diverse church that is touching all of these different groups? Yes! Absolutely! Yet, it’s essential to be intentional. It must be a core part of your DNA and a deep passion of your diverse leadership team. Notice I said “diverse” leadership team. You can’t just put a few token people on the platform who look different from the leadership team. You may think that will attract people who look like them. And it may at first. But if you don’t have a diverse leadership team that is helping shape conversation and direction it may be tough to keep and disciple your neighbors who look different than you.
We live in a culture that is now more polarized than ever. The 2016 political season brought out the some of the worst divisions many of us have seen in our lifetimes. The news media and social media got really ugly. People have their guard up. It’s more important than ever to have diverse voices at your leadership table as you plan your services, your events, your outreaches, your series and your responses to what’s happening in culture.
I lead a creative multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-class church in Tampa with diverse elders, leaders, and staff. This past year has been our greatest year of community engagement, local government engagement, and conversations about what’s happening in culture. We take the words of Jesus seriously … to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Re-read the rest of Luke 10 and see how Jesus highlights a different neighbor, the “despised Samaritan” as the hero of the story. Our neighbors are literally our neighbors; the people we work around, live around and play around. We must create faith communities where we celebrate our diversity, welcome all of our neighbors, and disciple our neighbors for Christ.
* Check out Crossover’s Story and see some of their creativity and diversity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4PUCMrJ24o
Tommy “Urban D.” Kyllonen, Lead Pastor
Crossover Church (Tampa, FL)
Tommy founded the youth ministry at Crossover in 1996 after graduating from Southeastern University with a BA in pastoral studies and a concentration in youth ministry. In 2006 he went back to Southeastern University and completed a master’s level Church Leadership Cohort. Starting in 1996, with just four teens, he and his wife developed a first-of-its-kind Hip-Hop Styled Youth Ministry that over the span of six years grew to hundreds, far outpacing attendance in the main Sunday worship. In January 2002, Tommy became the lead pastor at Crossover and a new vision was birthed to specifically reach those influenced by Urban/Hip-Hop Culture. Pastor Tommy
Urban D. has recorded eight Hip-Hop albums since 1996 and has traveled across the U.S., Africa, Australia, Germany, Japan and the UK performing and speaking at conferences. He has ministered at over 1,000 venues with his music. He has written 3 books. His “Un.orthodox” book was published through Zondervan. The “Next” book is an incredible resource for new believers in the urban context. His latest book “Rebuild” was released in October 2015 through InterVarsity Press along with the “Rebuild” album. The Rebuild Project includes incredible free resources for churches and leaders: small group videos, curriculum, outlines, discussion guides and more available at www.urband.org
Tommy is also a frequent writer as he is the publisher/general editor for S.O.U.LMAG. Magazine. He also hosts S.O.U.L.MAG TV which airs on JUCE with several million viewers. Tommy also has also coached over 75 pastors through his Urban Coaching Network.
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