Derwin Gray: Leading Toward Diversity—Part 2

“If I’m always the smartest person in the room, then the room I’m in is too small or I’m too insecure.”

Give me a central leadership value you started out with.

I would say: upward, outward, inward. It stands for love God completely, love yourself correctly, and love your neighbor compassionately. At Transformation, it is the end goal of what God wants for humanity. God wants every human being to love him because he first loved us; to love ourselves correctly because of our union life with Christ and to love our neighbors compassionately. The greatest way to do all those things is to introduce people to Jesus. For us, evangelism and discipleship don’t compete, they complete.

You speak of the mystery of Christ in ministry. What do you mean by that?

Inherent in discipleship is cross-cultural competency. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations—all ethnos. When you tell people the gospel is reconciliation both vertically and horizontally, it’s like, “What are you talking about?” Our discipleship here at Transformation Church is accelerated because we are all about tearing down barriers.

Pragmatically, how do you teach your people to do that?

In so many of our churches, we have the wrong narrative. “Believe in Jesus and you won’t get fried in hell,” or “Be good and become spiritually pious,” or “Jesus will help you achieve the American dream.” Those narratives drastically limit the vision of the gospel. Our goal should be the same as Paul’s: to fill churches with both Jews and Gentiles who display the eschatological reality of every tribe and every nation and every tongue giving praise to Jesus. It’s a foretaste to the future.

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What does that look like at Transformation?

We engage with current issues: helping refugees, police and power, and Black Lives Matter are just a few. We first gain understanding about such issues when people learn to see from different perspectives. What I want to teach our leaders to do is begin to walk in other people’s shoes to see from their vantage point. When they begin to engage new perspectives, they can help others do the same.

Give me an example.

When Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, I said, “Guys, we need to preach on this because if the church doesn’t have the answer, then society and culture have no clue.” We tried to help our people see from a perspective that is not their own. If you come from a white middle-class context with a conservative evangelical background, you are likely to think, “Why didn’t Michael Brown just obey the law?” We ask people to step back for a better perspective. I said, “Have you considered that 90 percent of the police force in Ferguson is white, even though Ferguson is 90 percent black?” The important thing to understand is that the Michael Brown incident didn’t just happen overnight. There was some systematic injustice that took place. When we begin to better understand each other’s perspective, the church builds a healing community with supernatural resources for a reality deep in God’s heart.

You believe small groups best function by being multigenerational and multiethnic. Why is that?

When people from different ethnicities, cultures and generations get together and the gospel of grace is the fuel, you deal with tough issues and you get stronger by working through them. When Jesus becomes the centerpiece, we learn, grow and celebrate our diversity. We are redeemed and together we get better. One of the sayings around Transformation Church is: “Teamwork makes a dream work.”

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What process do you use to develop and replicate leaders?

We believe life is a mission and it happens wherever you are—your job, school, gym, wherever. You have gospel conversations, love and serve people, and seek to implement justice by focusing people on Christ. From a leadership perspective, we have five qualities we want to develop in our staff. We call them the Five C’s: character, competency, catalytic, collaboration and chemistry.

What are some stories of people moving out into the community and making a difference?

Movement Mortgage is one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. The owners are a part of Transformation Church. They take resources from their bottom line and give back to the community. They’re building all types of things for the poor. As a church, we help support four schools. We have four church campuses in prisons. One of our mottos is: If our community doesn’t change because we exist, then we shouldn’t be here.