This morning I went with my pastor to a pastors’ prayer meeting for all the Christian churches in the Santa Barbara area. There were over 40 pastors there–what an encouraging time to get in God’s word and pray together! But what was very apparent was the diversity of the group… or lack thereof. I was one of two women when the meeting started, the other woman being the assistant to the dean of the chapel at Westmont. (He was leading the meeting, so she helped.) Later another woman came in, making a grand total of three in a room of over 40 people in church leadership. Also, there was one black man; in fact, he was the only person of color in the room. (A couple of the other pastors may have been part Latino, but it wasn’t obvious enough to count as “diversity.”) I do not point this out to critique who God calls into ministry. Praise the Lord that there are over 40 pastors in the Santa Barbara area (and more because I personally know–and may be related to at least one of the–many who weren’t there)! But is our church leadership reflective of the people we’re serving? Even if you don’t think women should be pastors (while I strongly disagree with you!), then this group was still not racially representative of the area.
I do believe that people can minister to those who are different from them. While people may be drawn to those who are most similar to them, there is definite value in getting to know people with whom we share little in common. (I experienced the value of this firsthand during my time at Asbury Seminary, a school with students from around the world–praise God!) So, for church leadership, it’s ok if the leaders aren’t perfectly proportional to the congregation; in other words, I don’t believe leaders have to be the same race or gender as their congregants in order to minister to them. However, there is still something to be said for empowering people from minorities and “the weaker sex” to lead when we see God’s gifting on their lives. Raising them up to lead will set a wonderful example for those who identify with them, and it will allow parishioners to have pastor who better understands their particular needs and experiences. Perhaps we only consider white males gifted because we’ve only ever had one definition of what it looks like to be gifted in ministry; are there other qualities we can look for that make a good Christian leader?
I realize that there are other women and people of minorities in leadership in this area who, probably for a variety of reasons, didn’t show up to today’s meeting. But even this makes me sad. A pastors’ meeting of all places should be a welcoming place for people from all walks of life who have experienced God’s calling into ministry and desire to serve. I hope that we as the Church can continue to look for leaders in unexpected places, those who maybe don’t fit the bill for a “standard” set of giftings, whatever we WASPs think that means. I believe the Lord’s calling falls on a variety of people, and I hope that we are encouraging that and open to it–no matter who the package it comes in. In the meantime, all I can do is continue to attend these meetings, even if I’m the only female pastor there, and pray that in some small way I am breaking people’s expectations of what it takes to be in ministry. After all, the same God who called these white men into ministry also called this one black man and me, and that means God longs to work through all of us. God doesn’t discriminate, so why should I?