Movement Aim #5: Diversity in Leadership

Diversity in Leadership

by Brian Lewis

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. We all know and believe that. It is that belief that has shaped Campus Outreach’s evangelism since the beginning. This conviction is the very reason that we proclaim the Gospel to every student who will listen. When the Gospel is proclaimed, people are converted, and their lives are changed. In forty years of ministry, we have yet to find one student whose brokenness exceeds the transformative power of the Gospel.

While we have been aggressive at applying this truth about the Gospel for evangelism, we have been slow to embrace the full implications of the Gospel as it relates to ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation. Sadly, we have been guilty of the same historical sins and failures that have plagued the rest of America. Our black brothers and sisters have lovingly and patiently endured the passivity and apathy of their white brothers and sisters for years. As both a white man and an older leader in this movement, I am grateful for the grace and forgiveness that has been extended to me. Over and over again, our African American staff have forgiven my many transgressions. Through it all, God has brought about much-needed sanctification and given us a deeper understanding of the Gospel as He molds us into a ministry for all peoples. Though this struggle has been painful, but incredibly worth it.

Looking Back:

Many have contributed over the years to build what we would now call a multi-ethnic ministry. We are especially grateful for the pioneering labor of early African American staff like Calvin Cochran and Byron Johnson. They were willing to plow the hard soil, to build cultural bridges over large divides, and to teach us how the Gospel tears down the walls that divide us. Their courage and hard work laid the foundation for much of the fruitfulness that we celebrate today.

For instance, eight years ago, we set a “trust God” that the African American involvement in CO would match the demographics of our campuses (14%). Two years ago, we saw the Lord bring that goal to fruition! As a result, we have seen dramatic progress in many areas:

  1. This past year, our Ethnic Diversity Summit had 207 participants and was led by African American staff

  2. Increase in African American staff: 3 to 44 in the last 10 years

  3. Increase of African American summer project involvement: increase from 73 to 318 in the last 10 years

  4. Mobilized 6 African American pastors this past year

  5. Hired Byron Johnson as an advisor

  6. Strong intentional ethnic representation at events and projects

  7. Minority leadership is growing in being empowered

  8. Campus ministries on 4 Historically Black Campuses (HBCU)

  9. Pioneering a new multi-ethnic ministry in Chicago with a multi-ethnic team

  10. Sent several “majority minority” CCP teams

  11. Created a bible study on the Gospel and diversity

  12. Formed a national Diversity Team consisting of staff from each Network

  13. Seen an increase in minority involvement in missions

  14. Seen an ongoing repentance across CO and a growing awareness in our churches.

Looking Ahead:

As we celebrate what God has done, there is still much work to be done. We know that “multi-ethnic” is more than 2 groups of people, black and white. While this has been our primary focus over the past decade, we desire to broaden our focus by growing our involvement of Asian and Hispanic Americans. Several regions are also taking steps to seek greater involvement of international students as well. Additionally, we know that “diversity” is not simply about ethnicity. As a result, we are seeking to place a greater emphasis on creating opportunities for women to develop in the use of their talents and giftedness.

Our Motivation:

We are not seeking diversity for diversity’s sake. We are not doing this because it is “in vogue” in our culture right now. We believe that, through the Gospel, King Jesus has torn down the “dividing wall of hostility” that has been built by our pride. We now live for His glory and we serve according to His pleasure. All individuals and every culture must bow before His preeminence. Though there are many reasons we could give for being committed to building diverse campus movements and leadership, the obvious leading motivation is because diversity is one of the greatest expressions of the Gospel!

Our Mindset:

The Gospel not only gives us the reason, but it also instructs us in the manner in which we are to join this work. The Gospel strips all of us of our pride, gives us a secure identity, enables honest interaction, disarms our hatred, fosters repentance and forgiveness, helps us understand and appreciate our differences, reconciles relationships, and restores trust even when we are deeply hurt. We do not shame, manipulate, embarrass, or seek cultural superiority. The Gospel has made us family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to seek each other’s interests before our own and to bear each other’s burdens.

Building unity in diversity is one of the most sanctifying endeavors in the Christian life. Our only hope for success is found in the power of the Gospel. The ominous social climate of the United States, and even more specifically the college campus, has created for us a tremendous opportunity to depend on Christ as we shape a diverse generation of leaders and laborers who are equipped to reach people from all cultures. Let’s commit together to see nothing less than the power of the Gospel displayed in and through us!