I don’t think anyone will argue we live in a diverse world. Today’s technology and culture have made amazing advances in connecting us to others who are very different than we are. However, the church (worldwide, denominational, and local) has been reluctant, hesitant, and at times flat out refused to embrace this diversity.

Thankfully, some of these trends seem to be shifting. I read with great interest about the “emerging” church that is growing in recognition and numbers. Part of my affinity comes from strong similarities I sense between their commitments to living out the life and teachings of Jesus in the midst of community. Yet one of the distinctive elements of many (most?) of these groups is their tolerance, acceptance, and comfort with diversity. Not just racial or cultural diversity, but also political and theological differences. It’s not just a “check your differences at the door” kind of diversity, but one that welcomes people to bring all of who they are as they gather around God’s table. By committing to this as a part of their identity I think they are modeling a deep, authentic way of living together as the body of Christ that those of us in the “existing” church could learn something from.

This raises important questions for leaders seeking to nurture this kind of diversity within communities of faith. How do we lead out of our own beliefs and values while leaving space for those who may believe (very) differently? How can we provide a sense of centeredness and direction in such diverse communities? Is there less space for prophetic leadership amidst this kind of diversity?

If we are to truly embrace the beauty, wisdom, and mystery that living in such deep, authentic, diverse community can bring, we will need new visions of leadership to make it work. What do these new visions look like to you?