"It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning." —Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the pastor of Rock Church, located in San Diego, California, I have one of the most wonderful views in the world, right from the pulpit. From my position onstage, I look out over our congregation every Sunday, and see thousands of beautiful faces looking back at me. Like a pointillist’s canvas, all the dots of color, representing our ethnically diverse audience, combine to make one beautiful, multi-colored portrait. It’s stunning.
The Rock is a diverse church – but I love to call it a “Skittles” church, because it represents the full spectrum of God’s creativity and beauty, expressed in the color of His children.
The Rock’s diversity is by no means an accident – nor is it overly intentional. We didn’t set out to be a church whose end goal was diversity for diversity’s sake. We simply made sure that we were and still are intentional to love everyone in our city and county, and that all who attend feel welcomed and celebrated for who they are. We believe that God loves it when ALL of His children worship together, so we’ve created an atmosphere that celebrates people for who they are and how God created them to look.
The Rock was established on two foundational truths: first, that we are all of priceless value, because we are all made in the image of God; second, that the church should reflect the reality that all nations will be represented in Heaven. To this day, we remain committed to these principles throughout our five campuses, thirteen microsites, and online campus, representing more nationalities than we can even count! Among our campus pastors, two are white, two are African American, two are Mexican, and one is Panamanian. As a matter of fact, the rationale for planting a satellite campus in City Heights (the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in California) was that we wanted to be a presence in a community that exemplifies the “American melting pot” – possibly better than any other place in the nation. There are dozens of different nationalities represented in City Heights, and our congregation draws from every single one of them.
In our church, all of our congregants come together to work and worship side by side—crossing ethnic and cultural boundaries to make friendships, serve our community, and reach others for Christ. It’s beautiful, and it’s exactly how God intended us to operate as a family of believers.
It’s also incredibly powerful. Could we reach as far into our communities if we were a homogenous church? An all-white, all-black church, or all-anything-else church? It would be much harder.
As we go out into the streets, sharing the love of Jesus, we are a band of Black, Asian, Hispanic, White, and everything-in-between brothers and sisters, reaching beyond our own circles of influence and comfort zones. As we touch others, people with new backgrounds join our church, further expanding our ability to reach more people with the love of Christ.
Diversity becomes our force multiplier.
Becoming a diverse congregation is a proactive decision, made out of obedience to God, in a commitment to honor our neighbors. It’ll take more work for some congregations to achieve diversity than others, but I know that our God will rush to the aid of any church that seeks to honor Him in this way.
Diversifying the church isn’t merely a responsibility - it’s God’s gift to His people. Let’s take full advantage of His gift, and commit to making it a priority in our churches. By doing so, we’ll take our rightful place on the frontlines of healing America’s racial divide.