One thing I feel that most churches lack is the different perspectives of a diverse leadership team. With the popularity of of the ‘plurality of elders’ teaching, it creates a limited viewpoint from which to interpret and apply Scripture. Statistically my county is 95% Caucasian (give or take a few percentage points,) that means that for the most part the vast majority of the people you see in a given church will be white. Most of the African-American community opts to go to their own churches. So we can see that it doesn’t matter which church you go to, it’s leadership reflects the majority race that attends that particular church. For my county that means that almost every single church will only have white leaders and white parishioners, cutting them off from any wisdom and ethics from African-American, Latin American, Korean American, or Chinese American members in their community. If we can’t get even one member of another race to attend our churches, then odds are slim we will find them in any numbers attending any of our churches. We have to find a way to desegregate ‘our’ Christianity from ‘theirs’ and unite them all.
The leadership isn’t just usually white, but they’re also advanced in years. They tend to be stuck in their ways – favor traditionalism – by doing what they have always done the way they have always done it. This does not go over well with younger Christians who haven’t been born and raised in church as they were. Their nostalgia for the church of their youth causes them to make decisions that continue to alienate younger generations who have no love for this past that the elders admire so much as it happened decades before their time. There’s also not a lot of trust building going on either. Youth have always been told to respect their elders, but there’s not really much of an obligation for the elders to listen to their youth. While yes, elders do have more life experience, the youth have different life experience and that is just as necessary to bring balance to the church. I get it that it is dangerous to take a young person and promote them to leader, but I would suggest making them a representative who acts as a go-between the elders and the youth and who makes sure that their concerns are heard and considered. This could very well be the difference between earning the respect of the youth or watching them disappear from the pews altogether.
But we’re also all Westerners who tend to value freedom and independence and efficiency and punctuality. We are missing out on Eastern values that are more like the ones that existed in the Bible such as community and honor.
Elders are almost always men. Part of this is because the Bible suggested that responsible men were to be chosen to be deacons, bishops, overseers, etc. over the fledgling church. This makes it almost impossible for women’s perspectives to be given any serious consideration when it comes to the operation of the church in our egalitarian society. (“For if God had wanted women’s voices to be heard, he would have said so and not had it written that women ought to remain silent and in submission. Or if Jesus wanted women in leadership he would have chosen some women to be his disciples.” Is what some would say, but let’s not forget that women did follow Jesus and stuck by him even when most of the men who were called to do so had fled, seems like the ladies had a higher calling – to be there with Jesus through thick and thin.)
But it goes further, as we have seen with the conservative take-over, people’s beliefs were challenged so that anyone who would not conform a shared belief was not welcome as an insider. In this case, the Calvinist doctrine was favored by the majority, so all other schools of thought including Arminianism were seen as heretical in a sense.
So we have old white guys who are usually Calvinists that make up the majority of the leadership in pretty much every church in this county. That’s not exactly a diverse team in make-up or in schools of thought. These factors interact to create a situation where there is no balance. In one of my former churches, there was a deacon who didn’t agree with the rest of the elders on a particular interpretation. They waited until that deacon would be away on business for months on end before they began teaching their preferred interpretation without opposition. That doesn’t sound particularly like a Christian thing to do, does it?
Remember that Jesus’ church is a body of believers? What if we decided that only members of the hair could make decisions for the hands, feet, eyes, and the rest of the body? Wouldn’t the body be better served if the leadership team included one member of the hair, one member of the hand, one member of the foot, one member of the eyes, and one member each from the parts of the rest of the body?
Even our own government gets it that we need to have people from all walks of life, all races, and men as well as women as the people who help run this country on every level. Great things are accomplished when one’s perspective is balanced and challenged by others. Terrible thing happens when only one perspective gets free reign to make all the decisions for everyone without the slightest consideration of other perspectives at all. History has testified to that in both the secular and spiritual sense. Is the leadership of your church diverse? Is your church more or less successful because of it?