How One Ministry Seeks to Lead the Way in Diversity and Racial Reconciliation in the Church
When Dream of Destiny was founded in the summer of 2007, I never could have imagined where we’d be as a country some 13 years later. From the coronavirus pandemic and massive unemployment, to the political divide and racial tensions, 2020 was a year like no other. Without a doubt, these will continue to be critical factors that will significantly shape our nation’s future for many generations to come.
The tragic death of George Floyd shocked the entire world and became a turning point for us to reexamine our thoughts, positions, and emotions on the issue of racial injustice. As the body of Christ, we started to have meaningful and long overdue conversations about race here in America. For some, the Black struggle in America was a history lesson. For others, it was an exercise in listening and having greater empathy for people whose skin color and life experiences are different from ours. The church was awakened to recommit ourselves to the two most important commandments, loving God and loving all people.
Shepherd Church was no exception. Even as a multiracial church here in Los Angeles, we were not excused from these difficult and pertinent discussions. As Shepherd’s lead pastor, I had been intentional about having a racially diverse staff, elder board, worship team, and congregation as well as preaching about racial unity for three decades.
In 2007, with the support of the church and the help of a very small team, we began a ministry called Dream of Destiny, which resulted from an unshakeable concern about the lack of racial diversity in our Christian churches, colleges, conventions, and organizations. We chose to lead and to be a part of the solution, as opposed to remaining complicit and complacent to the lack of racial representation in these Christian spaces.
Inspired by Dr. King’s Dream
One day, I downloaded a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. overlooking the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., during his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. An estimated 250,000 people in attendance stood captivated by Dr. King’s stirring words, which also were televised live to an audience of millions. I made this iconic photo my computer’s screensaver and noticed something I had not been aware of previously. I saw that there were many Caucasians in the audience that day who were marching in support of equality for all people of color.
This led me to read—word for word—the poetic and powerful speech Dr. King delivered that day. To my surprise, in the middle of the speech, Dr. King addressed the Caucasian people intermingled throughout the gathering at the National Mall. He said, “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. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”
Dr. King’s words elucidate the undeniable fact that we all are in this fight together. We cannot take hold of victory in the area of racial justice and equality alone. Thus, Dream of Destiny was birthed. Our team endeavors to mentor and inspire pastors, churches, colleges, universities, ministry leaders, and laypersons to be more intentional in fostering diversity and inclusion in their particular ministries. We ask these entities to look at their staffs, leadership teams, and boards and to strive for the racial diversity we see described in Scripture:
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 before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Small Steps, Humble Beginnings
In those first few years, we held gatherings at the yearly North American Christian Convention (which transitioned to Spire). From these gatherings we saw tremendous breakthroughs in leaders attending and returning to their sphere of influence to help transform their boards, churches, ministries, and universities.
We also provided practical steps and ideas to incorporate racial diversity via our website, and we created a blog for articles and posts that encouraged others to keep this topic front and center.
In addition, we hosted a “Race and Restoration Summit” in conjunction with the Ozark Christian College Preaching-Teaching Convention in 2016, where we addressed theology, history, philosophy, and ministry from a biblical view of reaching “all nations and all people groups.” We wanted to address where we’ve been, where we need to go, and how to get there. Lastly, we created and implemented matching internship grants for ministry students of color who apply to serve a paid summer internship at an agreed-upon church in the Restoration Movement.
We have made important strides, and yet it is undeniable that there is still so much work to be done.
Conversations and Commitment
As racial tensions reached a tipping point in the U.S. in 2020, I recognized we needed to seek God for a greater understanding of this issue. Our pastoral team and staff came together and engaged in more in-depth and humble conversations concerning race amongst ourselves and our congregation. We asked, “What more can we do to provide greater support to the Black community? How can we raise awareness and encourage healing?”
I conducted candid interviews with Black leaders from various industries on Facebook Live. Not only did I want to understand their personal stories, hurts, and struggles, but I also wanted for those in my social network to hear and learn from their experiences. Our church partnered with Pray.com to host a live prayer event on Facebook with 16 other faith leaders from racially diverse backgrounds. I preached several sermons on racism and racial reconciliation, including a message about Harriet Tubman’s legacy and a sermon called “The Human Race,” which was televised nationwide and viewed worldwide on our media website LiftUpJesus.com.
A Hopeful Future
In our efforts to further promote diversity in academia during the past four years, Dream of Destiny partnered with Ozark Christian College to start a Multicultural Affairs Department. This initiative was designed to better prepare Ozark students for ministry in an increasingly diverse world and to foster ethnic and cultural diversity within Ozark’s faculty, staff, and student body. We were honored to help fund the graduate work of OCC’s director of Multicultural Affairs, Matthew McBirth, at Duke Divinity School. Additionally, Dream of Destiny’s former director, Travis Hurley, taught a diversity course at Mid-Atlantic Christian University and Abilene Christian University.
While COVID-19 crippled many of our efforts in 2020, Dream of Destiny focused on expanding our services to offer two pillars of support in 2021. First, we will continue to help pastors and other leaders build and instill a diverse organizational culture by partnering with influencers to offer video-based curriculum and training in this area. Additionally, we will expand our outreach (along with our community partners) to reach those in need throughout the city of Los Angeles. Our plan is to conduct awareness and giving campaigns that will target four social-economic problems that plague people of color and hinder their upward mobility: homelessness, poverty, hunger, and mental health concerns.
Second, Dream of Destiny will offer support to help churches better communicate and promote the good news of Jesus Christ cross-culturally to reach urban areas throughout their local community. Communicating the gospel is at the center of Shepherd Church’s mission to “Lift up Jesus so the world may believe.”
We are excited that Lisa McGloiry joined the team this year as our new executive director. Like me, Lisa is a preacher’s kid. Her father, Howard O. Jones, was the first Black associate evangelist of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He traveled the world with Graham and was the principal speaker for BGEA’s Hour of Freedom radio broadcast for 35 years. He became the first African American to be inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1995. Growing up, Lisa and her family served as missionaries in West Africa. She has carried her father’s legacy with her, leading within corporate, faith-based, and nonprofit entities for the past 25 years. Lisa was our communications director at Shepherd Church before transitioning into this new role for Dream of Destiny, and we are thankful to have her on the team.
Striving to Lead Like Jesus
I’m thankful and encouraged for the progress we have made since Dream of Destiny’s inception. My passion for racial equality and reconciliation goes back much further than that. It goes back to a moment in high school when I brought my best friend and teammate, who just happened to be Black, with me to an all-White church. I’ll never forget the stares of the people in the congregation on that pivotal morning. I vowed to one day lead a racially diverse church, and that is precisely what I have been building at Shepherd Church in Los Angeles County for the last 30 years.
But as we have learned from the tensions and hurts of 2020, we still have a long way to go. It can be daunting and at times downright discouraging, but the Lord always reminds me that our little organization isn’t alone. Not only is he with us, leading and guiding and making a way where it sometimes appears impossible, but we—the church—are also in this fight together.
As the body of Christ, we must do a better job of leading the world toward racial unity, because this is dear to the heart of God. There will never be a quick-fix solution, program, or strategy to solve America’s racial problem. It’s going to take more of a collected and continual effort from the church as a whole to love and lead like Jesus. Racism and social injustice should not continue to be a battle for people of color to fight alone. We need pastors and leaders of every race who are committed, intentional, and passionate about speaking out on this issue and putting action plans in place to move the needle forward.
As Dr. King said so poignantly, our destinies are tied together. And if we genuinely believe in Revelation 7:9-10, we need to pursue racial unity here on earth just as it is in Heaven. The church must lead the way, and I hope you will join us.