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Nov20FriBy welcoming diverse opinions, we can make our churches, and lives, better. November 20, 2020 by Darryn Oldford
I've noticed a familiar pattern when it comes to advertising. A company, whether a large multinational firm or a small store, puts out a blatantly problematic ad—racist, sexist or just completely tone-deaf to real-world issues—and is shocked when people have a problem with it. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that, in most cases, the shock is genuine and not itself a marketing stunt. I think workplace culture is to blame for most of these missteps in two key ways.
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While advertising is a multi-billion-dollar industry, it has real people at the centre, like all businesses. The first problem is having the same kinds of people, with similar beliefs, making decisions without outside input. The second is having a top-down approach to decision-making that makes it impossible to collaborate or point out problems, since “the boss has the final say.”
While having a team with diverse backgrounds who are empowered to voice their ideas is important for television advertisements, it is even more essential for churches. I have a rather controversial opinion regarding church leadership, so prepare yourself.
In my view, whether it’s a local church, a national denomination or an international organization, there should be at least one non-Christian from the community on the board to offer their opinion and vote on issues. This person could be an atheist or someone from another faith.
Having someone at the table who sees the world from a different perspective is a useful tool.Here’s my reasoning. If church leadership is solely comprised of Christians, who share the same beliefs and language, it can create an echo chamber where everyone agrees on how things should run, and we arrive at the same conclusions. This is especially true when everyone making the decisions are ordained members of the clergy. While not all Christians are the same, and we can have passionate differences, those who attend church regularly enough to be invited into decision-making can easily fall into similar categories.
During my time as a teacher, one thing that became clear is that if you don’t have the ability to explain a concept to someone who knows nothing about the subject, then you don’t fully grasp it yourself. Having someone at the table who sees the world from a different perspective is a useful tool to make sure you’re making the right decisions for the right reasons.
While I believe that having a variety of opinions is important to make the right decision, I loathe the idea of a devil’s advocate. The devil has no need for an advocate. There are people in this world who take joy in being obstinate; if the sky is blue, they will argue it is purple with beige polka dots. In a meeting, this type of person is good for nothing more than raising everyone’s blood pressure.
It’s important, then, to have people in leadership who have differing opinions, but share the goal of building something great, rather than tearing everything down. While expertise can and should be elevated in these conversations—for example, the person running the food bank should have the most say about food bank-related issues—it’s up to everyone else to listen and weigh in to expose blind spots and strengthen ministry.
One of my favourite passages of Scripture compares the church to the human body, and the importance of respecting each and every one of us as part of the church body: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
True Christian leadership lifts up the voices of those on the margins of making decisions, recognizing that everyone has something to contribute. People who are naturally quiet and reserved may still have something important to say that the church needs to hear. It’s only by welcoming voices that are often overlooked that we can make our churches, and lives, better.
Darryn Oldford is a senior soldier in Toronto.
Photo: SIphotography/iStock via Getty Images Plus