Grace and Peace Magazine asked James about the challenges of leading a diverse church community on a missional journey. Without breaking stride, he explains how diversity is the result of continued intentionality.

G&P: How would you characterize your leadership style?

James Heyward: I’ve been greatly influenced by John Maxwell and Leonard Sweet. I use what I call a flat model when leading, which seeks to pull people with different gifts than I have into collaborative ways to grow God’s kingdom. I’m passionate about multicultural ministry and outreach—those are my two gifts. But I seek people who are passionate about other things—discipleship, for instance, things that complement my strengths. Our staff members all work together. Our decisions are made collaboratively. We also work together around our purpose statement. We sit down, we talk, we pray, and we make decisions together. The longer I’ve been on staff, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that leadership needs to be shared, with board members and staff working together.

G&P: What is the purpose statement that aligns you and your church?

Heyward: The mission is “GO!” We decided we would not reinvent the wheel, that the commission that the Lord gave us is good enough. Our purpose statement breaks down our GO! Mission: to elevate the Lord, which is worship; engage the world, which is missions; embrace the church, which is ministry; and enlarge the faith, which is discipleship. We’ve built our staff around that purpose statement. Our “elevate” pastor is our worship pastor. I’m the lead “go” pastor, which is more concerned with engaging people and missions. The “embrace” pastor is in charge of youth, administration, and students. The “enlarge” pastor is in charge of discipleship/life groups. Our main focus, though, is equipping people to go out and reach, teach, and baptize: The Great Commission. We’re called to be people on the go. Go local, Go regional, Go global. It starts at home and expands from there. We can’t be folks who really go, if we don’t start in “Jerusalem,” that is, where we are located. So it’s geographical in that sense.

I tell my people if all we do is global ministry when we talk about the great commission, then we’re just doing drive-bys, because we can’t really be there. There’s

Fulfilling the great commission starts in our homes—literally with our families.

no accountability. Fulfilling the great commission starts in our homes—literally with our families. If we can’t help our families to embrace what it means to be church people, whether giving, serving, or going, we’ll miss out. We need to begin by helping our families go deeper in the faith. Then we move out from there.

In our church, that means we have four local ministry partners in our community. One is an elementary school where 21 languages are spoken. We help them any way we can. We’ve done stuff like breakfast for the staff and faculty. Last Christmas, they had a problem with kids who couldn’t afford sneakers. We bought sneakers and socks they could keep on campus, so the students would always have sneakers for gym.

We also partner with a “hope house,” a homeless shelter conglomerate. We help them in different areas. We hold a Christmas Eve service there. We also help tutor. Then there is an organization, in which women at our church sponsor new, unmarried mothers. They teach the women what it means to be mothers; they help them with appointments, supplies, and other needs.

The fourth ministry partner is Annadale Christian Social Network. We have this thing called Calvary Cares, and we stock their pantry and work with them.

This is all part of our mission to “Go.” We have what we call “Go Sundays.” We wear casual clothes; we have about 15 minutes of worship; we take communion, and then we send our people out into the community to serve in various ways.

It’s one thing to talk about going; it’s another thing to actually get out there and do it. We believe the best growth in our life happens when we go.

It’s one thing to talk about going; it’s another thing to actually get out there and do it. We believe the best growth in our life happens when we go.

G&P: So, it is important for the church to understand its responsibilities, not just locally, but regionally and globally as well.

Heyward: I call it “glocal”: global and local. We need to take Acts 1:8 literally. Starting in Jerusalem means we begin at home looking at needs around us—spiritual as well as physical needs. Calvary Church is a very well off, very educated, very white-collar church. But our community is very diverse. God showed me that we needed to minister to both sides of the interstate. On one side are the well off, the educated, the white collar workers. But on the other side are a number of ethnic populations. My job is to lead the church in ministering to both sides.

G&P: How do we arrive at a diverse community? How do we get the church to look more like the communities where we reside?

Heyward: The first thing you have to do is help people understand the difference between aspirational values and actual values. If you go to any Nazarene church and ask the question, “Would you like to look like your community and be diverse?” many will say, “Yes!” But that’s just the first part, the aspirational part. To move from aspirational to actual takes leadership that’s very intentional.

Here’s an example: if you’re trying to be a diverse community, and you’re offering outreach ministries, you need to think through what those ministries are. We’ve done an event called “Breakfast with Santa.” During one breakfast, we realized all we were serving were sausage and egg sandwiches. If you’re trying to reach lost people for Jesus, and the people you’re reaching out to come from a cultural background where pork is not acceptable, you have to offer other kinds of meals. When we have people come to the event, and they can’t eat breakfast because of what we serve, it makes a difference. That’s just one small example of how we had to learn to think differently.

Simply saying you want to be diverse and making that happen are two different things.

Simply saying you want to be diverse and making that happen are two different things. We had to change our thinking as leaders. The leadership team has worked really hard encouraging and developing diverse leadership in the church. We needed to examine what we valued and how that might change if we really wanted to be diverse. How do we do worship on Sunday morning? Who’s up front on the platform? We had to look at our branding, our advertising—what pictures do we put on our literature? How do we do outreach? How do we connect with a number of different communities? Who are the people we have on staff?

G&P: So, being intentionally diverse must be reflected everywhere in the church, not just from the pulpit.

Heyward: Yes. You have to train people, talk about it, challenge people. That’s an ongoing process. We may say we appreciate diversity, but when it begins to challenge our assumptions, our beliefs, our values, our place in leadership, our place in power, suddenly everything changes. It’s been a learning process for us.

G&P: How do you lead in a diverse climate when things like worship preferences can be quite different between cultures?

Heyward: We have what we call an entrée of worship here at Calvary Church. Our main style is probably modern, but we also have what I call “side dishes.” These “side dishes” are worship styles that appeal to other cultural and racial groups, as well as different age groups and such. We try to give everyone a style they like from time to time, so we don’t always use the same style. Here’s something we’ve discovered: when you’re trying to be a diverse community, it starts with Sunday morning. Diversity happens there first. It takes a lot longer to build that same diversity in the groups that meet at other times of the week.

Our church is diverse in many ways: diverse in age, diverse in culture, educational and economic background. We really are bringing people from all different walks of life together and challenging them to be the body of Christ.

Having everyone come together is a result of leadership. Our staff tries to model what I believe to be a Kingdom concept of not being a respecter of persons, which means someone doesn’t get preferential treatment because he or she gives more than another person, or lives in a nicer neighborhood, or has a higher level of education. Our leadership’s intentionality in the way we treat people helps us to bring people from all different walks of life together as one body.

G&P: Where do you draw your understanding of church from?

Heyward: My life verse is Matthew 25:40. I come out of a theology of love, what I would consider a heading back to the Wesleyan idea that the gospel has to impact the world: it has to impact those who are left out and looked past. If we are holiness people and that holiness does not make us love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love others as God has loved us, then I’m not sure what impact we have on the globe. If our community looks like the world, and I send hundreds of thousands of dollars to Africa or to Asia without being intentionally missional at home, we have not been faithful to God’s GO! mission to the church. We are called to love God and love others.

This has not been easy. There are plenty of people who want to come to church, hear a message, give something, serve something, and then go home. They don’t want to get out into the community.

People have accused me of being a social gospel person, but I see it as “social gospel with a mission.” A social gospel without the mission of connecting people to Jesus misses the main point—namely to go make disciples. Everything I do is done so that others might see and know Jesus. We are the visible presence of the invisible God. As we go, as we serve, as we tell our stories, those around us believe Jesus came and can make a difference in their lives too. This only happens through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. People aren’t naturally fit to love someone who’s totally different from themselves—those who come from a totally different culture. Only God the Holy Spirit can make it possible for a church or an individual to tear down barriers that divide and build doorways that say, “You’re invited here.” I think it’s more natural to be homogeneous. It’s more natural to hang out and play and worship and serve with people who look like us, act like us, believe like us. I think it’s supernatural to defer to someone else or give someone else preference over one’s own wants, desires, needs, values, views, and say, “Come on in.”

G&P: What advice would you give to churches seeking to be more culturally diverse or more representative of their community?

Heyward: Take a year and have a conversation within your church. Help folks begin to read and study about diversity. There are some great authors out there,* some folks who have done it and done it well. Point out that this is not just charity. There’s a charity perspective that says, “Let’s help those folks,” which is great. But this is something more.

It’s important as a church to think through the implications of becoming a diverse community of faith. For instance, what happens the first time someone raises their hands or speaks out during a service, when we’re used to having the cerebral kind of service where people are quiet and only nod their heads? What happens when musical styles begin to change? These things need to be thought through, prayed through, as the beginning step.

This has got to be more than the lead pastor’s dream for the community. It must be the community’s dream. People need to be on board. Board members, staff—they need to be on board. When that happens, then you can begin conversations beyond the church. Talk to churches that look different from your church, because those churches can best help you understand what it will mean to connect with diverse people groups.

After that you need to ask, how do we put together a program that will appeal to a diverse community? What does that look like for leadership? What does that look like for Sunday morning worship? What does that look like for small groups? What does that look like for outreach ministries? What does that look like for youth groups, for children’s ministries? How do we connect with the community? Will we do ESL? Do we work with social organizations?

At some point, you put all of this together and then let the Holy Spirit work, because you can’t make it happen; it must be God’s work.

The last thing I would say is you must do some targeted outreach. There are people in a community who are way more open to diversity than others—expatriates for instance. People in interracial marriages are more open. People who have adopted children of different backgrounds are more open. People who have grown up in multi-cultural areas are more open. People who have attended diverse colleges are more open. Start looking for those people.

G&P: You’ve affirmed how hard it is to be a diverse church that is community oriented. What are some of the joys and benefits of this work?

Heyward: As I look at the community today, at what we have become, I get excited. This idea of being a diverse community does not happen by accident. It happens on purpose. It happens through an empowerment of the Holy Spirit. It happens as transformation takes place in our lives.

The joy is seeing it come to pass and being able to say, “This is something God has done.” We have a church where we can talk to one another, where we can even talk about politics without beating each other up or demonizing one another. We can agree to disagree and still be all right and know that we are the people of God. It gives me great joy when I see us model for the world that which only God can do—bring people together as one.

JAMES Heyward serves as the Lead GO! Pastor at Calvary Church of the Nazarene in Annandale, VA *NOTE: A few books and authors to consider on diversity are the following: Ethnic Blends by Mark DeYmaz, Divided By Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, and Church Diversity by Scott Williams.