Why You Need Multi-Racial Friendships

Multi-ethnic relationships
Multi-ethnic relationships (Do you have any multi-racial friendships?)

Most pastors would agree that their church should look like their community, but do our friendships reflect that conviction? All pastors and ministry leaders need to have good friends, some of whom don't look like us.

Here are four reasons why:

1. Pastors simply need good friends.  If you don't have a close friend in your community, start by pursuing a friend of any race. Isolation has always been one of Satan's schemes for pastors and spouses. Your life and ministry are too hard to do alone. I'll write about this in next week's post, Why Pastors Need Non-Pastor Friends.

2. Pastors need to lead by example. When we lived in Arkansas, my close friendship with black pastor Cornell Maltbia was no secret in the city where we pastored. Our friendship was not based on common interests. He is not white, not a Baptist, not a hunter and most of all, not a Dallas Cowboy fan. What we did have in common was a love for each other. My favorite memories are the football games we watched together in our homes and the local high school stadium.

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We also did a lot of ministry together: countless community services, funerals, worship services as well as serving as police chaplains. I suspect that most pastors claim to have friendship outside of their ethnicity, but does that friendship go beyond your ministry responsibilities? Everybody knows the difference between a photo friendship and the real deal.

3. Churches need to look like their community. You already know how important ethnic diversity is to the health of your church. Your older members likely agree with diversity, but younger Christians insist on it. Many Millennials will assume that a church is irrelevant if the diversity in a church doesn't reflect the diversity in its city.

Do those changes start with the people in the pews or the person in the pulpit? Our people notice who are on the stage. They notice staff composition. When is the last time a preacher or worship leader who didn't look like you took the stage? Rev. Maltbia and I swapped pulpits so many times that I have literally lost count. Each time we did, our members loved it. So will yours. 

4. Communities need color blind leaders. Your community also benefits from multi-ethnic ministry friendships. Pastors must sometimes navigate through the waters of political and cultural chaos intentionally and carefully. We are ministers of reconciliation who should reach beyond our church walls first privately, then publicly.

Our role is to serve the whole community and build bridges with those who look and vote differently than us.

I've had it in my heart to write this post for some time, but was inspired yesterday by my friend Greg Mitchell. He and his wife Erica are our closest friends in the Nashville area and happen to be black. Greg took me to a Tennessee Titans game recently and we had a blast. Hanging out with Greg reminded me of how much I miss Cornell.

Mark Dance serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. Mark serves pastors by hosting date nights and roundtables, as well as speaking at retreats, conferences, and seminars. Prior to LifeWay, Mark pastored churches for 27 years.

For the original article, visit lifeway.com/pastors.

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