We Have a Dream

The people who plan worship services at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, California, make sure a mix of races is represented onstage at every session.

By Dudley C. Rutherford

At the midway point of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he mentioned the white people in attendance that day. Most are not aware there were many white people who participated in that momentous march on Washington, D.C., and others are even less aware that King addressed that segment of the crowd in his memorable monologue.

In the midst of this poetic oration he says, “For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.” It is from this one, powerful statement that we started a ministry called Dream of Destiny.

Dream of Destiny (www.dreamofdestiny.com) is designed to help churches, colleges, and parachurch organizations become more intentional in including people of all races and nationalities.

Not Welcome?

It is no secret most of our churches around the country continue to struggle in becoming more diversified, even as almost every other segment of society becomes integrated. It is a blight upon the Christian church that we have not addressed this problem sooner. Many people of color do not feel welcomed in our churches and in our conventions. And who can blame them? They see themselves represented in the world of sports, among music and entertainment stars, and in the nation’s highest government offices. Yet the vast majority of our churches remain lily white; for too many it’s still true that Sunday morning worship is the most segregated hour of the week.

And if any entity or organization should be combating this problem of segregation, it is the church of Jesus Christ. We should boldly and proudly reflect the church we see in Acts 2 as well as the picture of Heaven in Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

The question is not, “Why aren’t our churches like that today?” Asking why will never solve the problem. Asking why tends to keep us in the past and will never catapult us into the future. And quite frankly, I have been in too many meetings where we sit around complaining about history, and it seems we get stuck in the pain of our past rather than reveling in the possibilities of tomorrow.

The better question is, “How can we solve this problem?” The greater question is “What can my church and/or I do to make a difference with regard to racial diversity?” The answer to that question is amazingly simple: It is to be unpretentiously intentional.

A Five Star Plan

If we could be deliberate and purposeful in our intentions to build and create diversity within our churches, we could change the landscape of our fellowship. Instead of lagging behind in this critical issue, we could set the example for the rest of the world.

It’s almost embarrassing that such a monumental problem could be solved by some simple intentionality—yet that is exactly the case. Dream of Destiny is hoping to make this happen. We have set a “Five Star” challenge in an effort to find 500 churches in the next 24 months to commit to the following five things:

• Diversify your platform.

This is the place to start. Make sure those who lead, sing, preach, or pray reflect the reality of Revelation 7:9. I have told our worship service coordinators I want our stage to look like a rainbow; I want to see every color represented. Whenever a visitor of color shows up in one of your services and sees someone on the platform of the same nationality, the visitor will take note and quickly conclude he or she is welcome.

Be consistent in this area. Do not let a single weekend go by where the people on stage are all from one particular race.

• Diversify your promotional and marketing materials.

This is not difficult. Almost every commercial you see today is using pinpoint intentionality in advertising. Companies include Asian, Latino, or African-American men, women, and children in their billboard, magazine, and television ads. These companies and organizations are marketing to all people groups, wanting all to use their brand.

Perhaps the easiest change to make is to look at your bulletin covers, newsletters, Web sites, and special event advertisements. Meet with those producing these materials and ask them to come on board to make sure all promotional materials reflect Revelation 7:9.

• Diversify your staff and boards.

In every organization, things always flow from the top down. Take a look at your staff. Take a look at your board. Are there ways to hire staff or choose board members who reflect the world in which we live? I know in some cases this might not be possible, but in reality our churches will not change until our staff and our boards change.

One of our major goals and efforts at Dream of Destiny is to help raise up men and women of diverse ethnic backgrounds for leadership roles in churches and ministries.

• Underwrite scholarships for future pastoral candidates.

We suggest putting some funds aside each month to provide scholarships for students of color who desire (but perhaps can’t afford) to go to Bible college for the purpose of entering the ministry. We are working with churches and trying to coordinate giving scholarships to students of diverse backgrounds; we desire to help send them to Bible colleges that will also match these resources.

• Provide or host internships with the local church.

Would you be willing to host an intern at your church? We have students who would love to come and serve as interns. We believe such service will give them invaluable experience and increase the possibility that many of them eventually will be hired on a full-time basis.

Just 10 Percent?

We all understand diversity can’t multiply overnight. But we know these five steps will move us in the right direction. We have more than 5,000 churches in the Restoration Movement. Is it possible that just 10 percent of our churches will be intentional in these five areas? What a difference it would make!

Nearly 50 years after Martin Luther King’s historic speech in Washington, it’s no longer simply “I have a dream,” it’s WE have a dream. Will you join us in our effort to make that dream a reality?

Dudley Rutherford is senior pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, California, serves on Standard Publishing’s Publishing Committee, and is the 2011 president of the North American Christian Convention.

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