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Creativity Generated by Differences

August 17, 2011


I didn’t expect to find a striking correspondence between Andrew Walls, one of our most prophetic missiologists, and a leadership guru I discovered last week:  Ron Heifetz, author of “Leadership Without Easy Answers” and the work of deep-rooted change he calls “adaptive leadership.”  Walls speaks of the growing, clashing cultural diversity in the world as “crossroads in Christian history,” an “Ephesian moment” in which Christians of different cultures find fuller maturity in Christ through building a new common community.  In other words, the DNA of the church and its growth into the fullness of the stature of Christ is not homogeneity but heterogeneity. So I was stunned to read Heifetz’s arguments about the “creativity generated by differences … the mix of values in a society provides multiple vantage points from which to view reality. Conflict and heterogeneity are resources for social learning … (and for learning) vital information that would otherwise be lost to view without engaging the perspective of those who challenge them.”  That is a fresh angle to why it matters for Christians in conflicting geographies of race and ethnicity to abandon their segregated lives and limited traditions and to create new communities of mutual learning through friendship, reading Scripture, worship, and mission.  This is not sentimental vision.  In other words, growing into the fullness of Christ requires instigating cross-cultural conflict.

About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.

Related posts:  Why Diversity Matters

See also:   Walls Ephesian Moment article

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 18, 2011 11:11 am

    First and foremost, reconciliation leading to diversity of fellowship is important because it brings glory to God and heals wounds of injustice. But of course, as you mention here (if I understand you), it has very practical benefits as well!

    Churches (and employers) need to understand the benefits that diversity minded fellowship can bring. Pro-actively increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in a group leads to communal success and is the savvy thing to do. People that grow up in a similar way will think a similar way, will tackle problems in similar ways. If I want advancements in my church’s goals, I need to bring people together that are entirely different from one another, that they might stretch each other and bring new perspectives. We have no idea what innovations we are missing by limiting ourselves to work with those like us. We are loosing vast amounts of brain resources by not actively rectifying and widening the narrow pool we currently think in.

    We all interact with and understand the person of God in different ways. I need my sisters and brothers of different culture to remind me that God is holy sovereign AND my friend, that He is just AND merciful, powerful AND intimate. If I am only around folks that think like I do, I am bound to become one-dimensional in my understanding.

    I cringe to think of how long ago we might have had the cure to cancer if we were taking advantage the all brilliant minds that, though historic discrimination, had to struggle through school while they worked part-time to help support their family. Or what about the inventor of an ecofriendly biofuel that couldn’t get a job interview because she has a funny name? Or the broker of peace in the Middle East that got teased so much in high school that he didn’t have the confidence to apply for college. It happens. And we are screwing ourselves over because of it.

    Let’s be clear though, our own evangelical/economic benefit is not the primary reason to rectify discriminatory hiring practices, it is only a fringe benefit. The heart of the matter is recognizing that white people have privilege and with it comes our responsibility to care for others and make sure that we work to right the wrongs that brought us to that place of privilege. But the communal benefits are surely a sign that this is in line with what God would have for us!

    Thanks for your post. Sorry for the long-winded comment. Your words get me excited!

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