Bridging the Diversity Gap, Leading toward God’s Multi-Ethnic Kingdom
by Alvin Sanders
Wesleyan Publishing House, P.O. Box 50434, Indianapolis, IN 46250, 240 pages, 2013, $15.99.
—Reviewed by Jeffrey Fussner, who had twenty-six years of ministry in Indonesia and the South Pacific; now pastor of a multiethnic church in Alexandria, Virginia.
Change is difficult, whether for an individual or an organization. Leading an organization to shift toward an authentic multiethnic DNA is especially challenging. Bridging the Diversity Gap, Leading Toward God’s Multi-ethnic Kingdom is for leaders of majority-white, Christian, non-profit organizations. It is especially for those at the beginning stages of shifting toward multi-ethnicity, or those who have failed and need the courage to try again. The urgency that drives this effort is that authentic multi-ethnicity is a reflection of the gospel of God’s kingdom.
The book is designed for study by leadership groups and has two major sections. The first consists of three chapters laying out the challenge of moving toward multi-ethnicity: Ethnic Borders, Racialization, and Unintentionality. The second major section of four chapters contains the strategic principles essential for shifting toward multi-ethnicity: Sustainable Performance, Multi-ethnic Change as Spiritual Growth, Changing the Ethnic Game, and Putting It All Together. The book ends with a Learning Lab of chapter summaries with discussion questions and a case study.
Secular diversity training is designed for building racial tolerance, but falls short of the unique values of Christian non-profit organizations. “Color-blindness” on the part of majority-white leaders may seem commendable, but is unhelpful. This approach misses the fact that race is still a significant factor in the life experiences, opportunities, and relationships of people who are not white. A biblical and spiritual approach moves toward racial transcendence. Ethnic differences are acknowledged, appreciated, and transcended to a place of unity in Christ (Gal. 3:28).
Acts 6:1-7 is a model of leadership in multi-ethnicity and is referred to often in the presentation of the strategic principles in section two. The apostles did not ignore ethnic differences nor dismiss the complaints from the Grecian Jews. Alvin Sanders points out that the leaders (1) embraced diversity as an organizational DNA adventure; (2) leveraged ethnic differences; (3) mobilized money and personnel toward solutions, and (4) provided clarity. He calls this approach “asset based diversity development.”
Wise leaders will discover how God has placed within the organization personnel and strengths to be leveraged for multiethnic growth. Three couplets summarize the core of the organizational shift: Inside Out (contributions of key stakeholders within are enlisted), Top Down (major decision makers lead the way), and All In (buy-in throughout the organization is fostered).
Sanders does not promise all the answers needed for specific situations. But the principles he presents were forged in urban, multiethnic church planting, the academy, and his work in consulting and denominational leadership. They are field-tested and helpful navigation tools for leaders.
Check these titles:
Emerson, Michael O. and Christian Smith. 2000. Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. New York: Oxford University Press.
Livermore, David A. 2009. Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.
Jenkins, Philip. 2007. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press.
EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 406-408. Copyright © 2014 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.