God’s plan for diversity is clearly seen in the cross-cultural context. God has designed human beings to look, think, and act differently across cultures, and different cultures reflect the imago Dei differently. Cultural diversity is to be appreciated and celebrated, as various tiles in the beautiful mosaic that comprise the imago Dei.
The value of diversity transcends culture and impacts teams and organizations. Different ideas and perspectives bring about richer, more creative, and more thoughtful discussion and decision-making. I have personally experienced this phenomenon as my own leadership team has become more culturally, geographically, and generationally diverse over the years. We are less cohesive than when we were more homogenous. It takes longer to reach decisions, and the process is somewhat more painstaking, considering and respecting different perspectives. That said, our decisions are more robust, more holistically reflective of our organization, and more reflective of a “body of Christ” perspective, and stronger than before.
Therefore, we find tremendous value in gathering diverse Christian school organizations together, in order to exchange ideas, collaborate on projects, and further the Christian school movement. Just as each follower of Christ has a unique, Spirit-breathed calling, each organization has been called by God to advance Christian schooling in some unique way, according to a distinct mission. And, yet the synergistic effect of these missions, acting in concert, more beautifully and elegantly reflect the totality of Christ’s work among the nations, bringing the canon of his Truth, his perspective of all of life and learning, to the next generation of Christ’s Church. It is good and edifying for each of us, invested in the Lord’s work and laboring in the fields of enrollment, budgets, discipline issues, global pandemic contingencies and shutdowns, to step back, get on the balcony, and see what God is doing on a grand scale around the world and among his people. This is the genius of Converge 2022.
Celebrating and collaborating in and through diversity is vital. And, yet, God is a god of paradox, the god of the “both/and.” While diversity is an important and a critical part of the imago Dei, equally essential is unity.
Unity is important to God. Paul called us to unity: “I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). On the night he was betrayed, Christ prayed to the Father for unity: “The glory that you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them, even as you loved me” (John 17:22–23). Our unity is Christ’s testimony to his ministry and to God’s love.
Despite serving the God of unity, however, the Christian school movement is notable for its disunity. We praise the virtues of the autonomous, independent school. We criticize church-affiliated schools, say that the best model is for the school to disassociate itself from the church, and are frustrated and stymied when churches and pastors don’t support our ministries. We ask our councils and associations to meet our needs, treating those relationships as transactional, commercial ventures, and leave them when we feel our needs aren’t being met, citing the stewardship we owe our families and neglecting the stewardship we owe God’s Kingdom. In so doing, we engage in the very transactional mindset we hate and mourn when our school families use it against us to leave our schools. Our associations often operate as independent factions, competitors against each other for schools and resources, duplicating services, critiquing and criticizing each other, stereotyping each other, and working at cross-purposes.
Within the body of Christ, and, more specifically, the Christian school movement, in all its glorious diversity, we have all the intellectual, financial, and spiritual resources necessary to transform the world for the Kingdom of God and transfer the wealth of our faith to the next generation. We either have it at hand, or we have access to it. Yet our disunity undermines the powerful, transformational force that Christian schooling can be.
In Rooting for Rivals, Peter Greer and Chris Horst note that generous, open-handed leaders, those who are leading incarnationally in the power of the Holy Spirit, are first Kingdom-minded, rather than clan-minded or protecting their own “turf.” Generous leaders also have an abundance mindset, believing that God is truly generous and the giver of all good things, and that there is always more opportunity to flourish when working together, compared with a scarcity mindset that says we must scrap and scrape and fight for what few resources and students and schools there are.
Over the past couple of years, I have really tried to move past gazing at my own metaphorical navel, concerned with my own self-preservation, and building my little segment of the wall and look around in my city and my area—seeing who else is doing what I’m doing and building God’s Kingdom by collaborating with them. We’ve built partnerships with a couple of other Christian schools—one university model school and one urban Christian school—by having honest conversations about how we can combine resources to make what we all do even better. We’re trying to see that building God’s Kingdom means finding out what the other school does well and celebrating it, then leveraging it, rather than duplicating it, or figuring out how we can combine efforts to build a better whole. We cheer for each other’s successes because they are Jesus’s and do what we can to help each other thrive and flourish. Doing so creates more opportunity for all of us to grow, allowing us to impact the world in a way we’ve never done before. It’s very imperfect, and there are still some schools in my area I don’t and can’t yet collaborate with, but we’re making progress—celebrating our diversity while striving for unity.
The world is shattered, and broken, and literally dying for what we have. We “hold the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Our world is a dying patient, yelling hysterically, and pushing away the very life-saving medication that can heal it. We have all the resources we need to save it, or we can get them. My prayer is that we’ll continue to collaborate, to use opportunities like Converge to have the conversations that matter, to change our mindsets from inward to outward, and to develop ways to celebrate and leverage what each of us as schools and associations do best, in all our glorious diversity, and join together in unity to see Christian schools and their families build God’s Kingdom for his glory for generations to come.