Increasingly, leaders recognize the benefit of multi-ethnic organizations and are compelled to hire diverse individuals who will help them reflect a new America.
In his address at a Global Leadership Summit, Bryan Loritts challenged leaders to have a vision that is about more than the stuff that perishes—to have a vision for making sacrifices that make a difference and help to bring about transformation in the lives of others.
He brings a similar challenge to leaders in this fable of self-discovery and change, as he explores the central, critical problem leaders often encounter when transitioning their church, business, or organization to reflect a multi-ethnic reality: finding a leader who is willing to immerse themselves in the environments and lives of people who are different from them.
In Right Color, Wrong Culture you enter into a conversation between individuals who are grappling with changing neighborhoods while struggling to remain relevant within communities growing in diversity. You journey with Gary and Peter as they challenge those around them to reach beyond what is comfortable and restructure their leadership team.
Known for his passion to build diversity in organizations, Bryan Loritts equips you to identify the right person needed in order for your organizations to become multi-ethnic.
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About the Author
BRYAN LORITTS is the Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis Church, a multi-ethnic church ministering to the urban Memphis community. Bryan has a Master¿s Degree in Theology and is currently working on his PhD. In addition to serving the community of Memphis, Bryan¿s ministry takes him across the country as he speaks to thousands annually at churches, conferences, and retreats. He is the author of God on Paper and A Cross Shaped Gospel. He was also a contributing author for the book entitled Great Preaching. Bryan was recently voted as one of the top thirty emerging Christian leaders in the country by Outreach magazine. He serves on the Board of Trustees at Biola University. Bryan is married to Korie, and is the father of three sons: Quentin, Myles, and Jaden. You can follow Bryan on twitter @bcloritts.
Read an Excerpt
Right Color, Wrong Culture
The Type of Leader Every Organization Needs to Become Multiethnic
By BRYAN LORITTS, Ginger Kolbaba
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2014 Bryan Loritts
All rights reserved.
Hey, Peter, ever heard the one about the golfer and the funeral procession?"
Peter had just hit the ball—a beautiful, high-sweeping draw that landed in the middle of the fairway and ran for what seemed like days. Slapping high-five with one of his playing partners, Peter returned the club to his bag.
"No, I haven't, Marcus. But I'm sure you're going to tell me." Marcus was always good for inserting humor into every conversation.
"So this guy walks to his ball on the green, which sits right next to a busy street," Marcus said, clearly relishing his new joke. "He notices a long line of cars with their lights turned on and concludes it's a funeral procession. Homeboy immediately takes his hat off, bows his head in a stunning display of reverence, and waits for the procession to pass by before he putts. Well, his partners are blown away by now, because this is not that kind of dude. You know what I'm saying? Finally, one of his homies says, 'Man, all these years of knowing you, I've never seen you show such respect, such honor. That touched me, man.' Putting his cap back on, he replies, 'We were married thirty-five years; that's the least I could do!'"
Marcus, Peter, and the two others in their foursome—Eddie and Thomas—laughed heartily. Someone from the group behind them coughed loudly, signaling that he thought Peter's group was taking too long to play. Picking up his bag and heading toward the golf cart, Peter said, "Marcus, that's why I love hanging out with you. No matter how stressed I may be, I always walk off the eighteenth fairway in a better mood. I don't know what I'd do without you and your silly jokes!"
Peter was glad he was spending time with Marcus and the guys today. It had been a busy week. To be sure, it had been a busy three years since he'd left Springdale Community to launch The Kainos Group, a consulting firm that helped existing churches transition into more multiethnic congregations. In that brief span of time Peter had built one of the most innovative firms in the church world. And his business was flourishing. A culture that longed for diversity, coupled with relatively few multiethnic churches across the ecclesiological landscape, put The Kainos Group squarely in the crosshairs of many pastors and leaders. If it had not been for his love of golf and these three golfing buddies, Peter could have easily burned out.
"Hey, if you liked that joke, try this one!" Marcus continued. The laughter, fast fairways, and errant shots continued for the next several hours. Pulling up to the final green, Peter checked his phone and realized he had just missed a call, followed by a text message:
Give me a call as soon as you can. Pretty urgent. Gary Kirkland.
Peter frowned. A call from Gary Kirkland was pretty rare these days, especially one followed by a text. He continued the camaraderie with the guys, but his mind was elsewhere.
Wonder what Gary wants?
When Eddie tapped in the last putt and they all shook hands, Peter made his split. "Gotta run, guys. I have some business to take care of."
"What?" Eddie said. "Can't it wait? What about the grill? We always hang at the grill after golfing."
"No can do this time. Sorry. See you later!"
Peter walked to his car, dropped his golf bag in the trunk, and slid into the driver's seat. Then he pulled out his phone and dialed Gary's number.
"Let me guess. You were on the golf course," Gary said, with a chuckle in his voice, as soon as he answered.
"You know me so well."
"No. I feel like Sisyphus. Always pushing that rock up the hill. Just when I think my golf game has arrived, it goes downhill again. Got your call and your text. I'm guessing you weren't checking on my handicap. What's up?"
"Well, I've got some great and challenging stuff happening here at the church."
"I wouldn't expect anything less of you."
"Thanks, Peter. We're facing some pretty pressing decisions that will affect the trajectory of this church for years to come. They're big enough that I need you to spend some time on the ground with us."
Peter was pleasantly surprised by the invitation. Gary must be shaking things up at his church and needed backup. "You know I'm here to help in any way I can. How soon are we talking?"
"Can you get here next week? I know it's a lot to ask on such short notice." Then as if to offer a reward, Gary said, "Maybe even bring your clubs?"
Peter laughed. "You're speaking my love language. I'm there."
As he hung up the phone, he felt a thrill run through him. His old colleague and mentor had turned to him for help. Unaware of the exact challenges Gary faced, Peter was looking forward to some time with his friend and knew whatever the issue, Gary could count on Peter's support.CHAPTER 2
As soon as Peter walked off the airplane and onto the jetway, he felt as if he'd entered a sauna. He tried to take a deep breath, but the air was so heavy it seemed to lodge in his throat. All he wanted to do was get into an air-conditioned area and stay there.
He quickly grabbed his luggage from baggage claim and was just starting to feel cool when the blast of blistering air clutched at him again as he stepped into the Memphis September afternoon. Thankfully, Gary had just driven up to the curb in his silver Prius and jumped out.
"Peter!" Gary said and embraced him tightly. The sweat caused Peter's shirt to cling to his body. "Miss that dry California heat on a day like today, don't you?"
Peter laughed. "Alabama has this heat too, but I just never get used to it." He threw his things in the trunk and slid into the passenger's side. "Ahhhh," he said as he pointed the air-conditioning vents directly toward him.
Gary chuckled. "Hungry?"
They made small talk as Gary drove. Peter glanced out the window at the sights. The aging buildings, impoverished communities, and general grit gave Peter a clear sense of this blue-collar Southern city.
Gary noticed Peter watching the view. "This is an interesting city. When I first moved here, they told me that if you stick around long enough, the city will get to you. There's a grit, a soul to Memphis that sets her apart from the supermodel Southern cities like Atlanta and Nashville. I guess that's why you either hate her or love her. You're either on your way out of Memphis, or you've made a vow of 'til death do us part."
"And how do you feel about it?" Peter asked.
Gary grinned. "Ask me after you've helped us out."
Twenty minutes later, Gary and Peter were seated in a window booth at a Perkins, sipping iced tea, and waiting for their food. Peter sat back and studied his friend. Not much had changed in the two decades since they had first met. Even though Gary hadn't gained any weight, he had lost most of his hair. The lines around his mouth were still etched in what seemed to be a permanent smile. It fit Gary's personality: he was an incurable optimist.
"Feels familiar," Peter finally said. "Like that spot you used to take me to in Pasadena right there on Lake."
"Oh yeah. Co-Co's." Gary's smile became more pronounced. "Those were some great times, Peter. If you hadn't come to Washington Ave., I wouldn't have lasted as long as I did. It was because of you that we were able to make major changes. You do know you were the first African-American pastor we had at that church in its hundred-plus-year history."
Peter laughed. Gary made this statement as though it were the first time he had told Peter. Over the years he must have reminded Peter of his historic hiring scores of times. Maybe Gary was losing more than just his hair.
"You were pretty crazy, Gary. Remember you had me team teach a series on spiritual gifts? You called me in your office for our weekly meeting to go over the coming week's sermon and the topic was speaking in tongues. Here I was, twenty-six years old, and I walked in your office like, I wonder what his take on this is going to be? What angle is he going to preach this controversial topic? I figured you'd do the whole cessationist thing—you know, give the view that tongues no longer exist. But when I sat in your office you said, 'I hope you're ready to teach the whole thing this Sunday?' Blew me away. I must've asked you a dozen times if you were sure. I don't even know if you knew what I believed before I got up there!"
Gary leaned back and let out a big laugh. An elderly man in the booth behind him turned around.
"I've often wondered why you did that."
The waitress arrived with their lunch. "Everthin' looking good, ya'll?"
"Oh, come on, Peter. You know why. I wanted to see how you'd handle the pressure."
Peter couldn't stop from laughing. "You aren't going to ask me to preach on that topic again, are you?"CHAPTER 3
During their meal, as Gary and Peter got caught up on family, Peter's mind went back to those three years he spent at Washington Avenue Church in Pasadena, California, under Gary's tutelage. At twenty-six, he had arrived much the same way Jonah finally entered Nineveh: kicking and screaming. Trained in a conservative, white Bible college and seminary, Peter had experienced ethnic ignorance and insensitivity. On more than one occasion Peter had questioned why his ethnicity was not represented in the readings or the examples that his professors used. On campus Peter had often thought of Ralph Ellison's protagonist in his book Invisible Man. Ellison, in a stroke of literary genius, decided not to give his lead character—a black man navigating the injustices of Jim Crow—a name. It was the inhumanity of ambiguity that identified many readers with Ellison's Invisible Man, and Peter felt this same ambiguity as he traversed the halls of Bible college and seminary. Where were the people of color as the professors stated examples of great preachers and theological minds? Why did hardly any of the chapel speakers look like Peter? And why did it seem that it was only he and the other handful of minorities who seemed to notice these glaring omissions? These were questions Peter raised often as he settled into this new world.
He would have left the institution, but it was highly regarded and he knew he would be guaranteed a job after graduation, so he decided to stick it out. But after a while he stopped asking questions and simply slid into the numbness of his realization that he was Ellison's Invisible Man. And so, come graduation day, Peter jumped into his car with diploma in hand, vowing never to become a minority again. For the next year he made good on his promise as he served on the staff of an African-American church. And then Gary Kirkland entered his life.
Dr. Gary Kirkland was senior pastor of the large, historic, all-white Washington Avenue Church in Pasadena, California. He heard about Peter through a professor and contacted him about coming on staff at Gary's church.
Peter had been raised to follow God's lead no matter how uncomfortable—he'd stuck it out at the school and seminary, after all—but he wasn't interested in Gary's offer. He was comfortable. He was with his own people. Washington Avenue could find another poster boy for a white church trying to look multiethnic. But God wouldn't drop the matter, and the more Peter refused, the more God pulled at his mind, until finally during yet another sleepless night, Peter gave in to what he knew was God's will. Peter submitted to God with his body but not with his heart. This was not the way things were supposed to turn out.
So Peter accepted Gary's invitation, and on a hot day in July in the late 1990s, Peter began his tenure at Washington Avenue Church.
Okay, Lord, Peter prayed. You know I don't like it here, but I'm here. So whenever you want to move me, I'm game.
A few weeks later Peter preached his first sermon, and the response to this twenty-six-year-old black pastor—the first in the church's one-hundred-plus-year history—was overwhelming, even to Peter. The parishioners couldn't stop talking about how gifted a communicator he was, and how refreshing it was to hear the insight of this young man as he spoke from God's Word.
Less than a month later, Gary called Peter into his office and explained, "For years, Washington Avenue's survival has been contingent upon her embracing the new multiethnic realities surrounding the church. White flight is not the answer. With more African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians moving into the community, our church has to change. It's a bold move. And I think you're the one to help us do just that."
Peter immediately felt suspicious. Did Gary know what he was getting into? And why had God placed Peter there to help? Didn't God know that Peter wasn't really into the multiethnic scene?
"The pulpit is the steering wheel of the church," Gary continued, "so I'd like to plan a series in which you and I team teach. We'll focus on spiritual gifts." Peter was excited about getting to preach, but then had second thoughts when the week on speaking in tongues came and he discovered that he would handle the entire message. When Peter pressed Gary for his position on the subject, his friend refused to answer, and Peter felt as if he were being set up as a fall guy.
As the series progressed, more and more people shared their excitement about the preaching. The team teaching model was working. Peter not only had great communication skills and strong theological content, but his years in white Bible college and seminary had taught him how to communicate with the people who filled the pews at Washington Avenue. While Peter preached he would often glance down at the front row where he couldn't help but notice Gary's trademark reassuring smile. Peter felt overwhelmed that this middle-aged white man seemed to genuinely love and respect him.
The next three years saw a significant change at the church. Peter's consistent pulpit presence impressed upon visitors yearning for a multiethnic experience that Gary and the church's leadership were for real. The church was becoming more and more diverse.
God was working in Peter's heart too. Through relationships with these caring and sensitive white brothers and sisters, Peter found the jagged edges of his suspicion slowly buffing off. He was learning to love and trust. He was no longer Ellison's Invisible Man. Peter had a name, an identity that was valued and embraced. He began to settle into his role in this church family. He met and fell in love with a beautiful non-African-American woman, Tiffany, and married her. And he realized how much God had changed him for the better because he'd said yes to this multiethnic "experiment."
Excerpted from Right Color, Wrong Culture by BRYAN LORITTS, Ginger Kolbaba. Copyright © 2014 Bryan Loritts. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Prologue: Peter 7
Part 1 Gary 11
Part 2 Jackson 37
Part 3 Jackson 2 75
Part 4 Carlton 89
Part 5 tIce Cube 133
Part 6 Denzel 163
Afterword: Finding Denzel 197
What People are Saying About This
I deeply believe that the future of churches in America will be more multiethnic—not merely to force it as a way to overcome racism or because it will be a reflection of heaven, but because America has a generation that views race differently and is populating cities by the thousands. They are looking for churches and leadership that will intentionally reflect their geographical and relational reality.
My good friend Bryan is speaking from a place of intentionality in this fable that addresses these issues. I believe he is forging a new path for a new frontier of ministry of which the church hasn’t come near to scratching the surface. When he speaks on this issue I listen! You should as well.
—Eric Mason, Founder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship, Philadelphia, and president, Thriving Ministry
There are few opportunities today that are better to demonstrate the power of the gospel than for people of different races and classes to worship together. Right Color, Wrong Culture is an important call to this modern-day sign of the reality of God in our world.
—David Montague, President, Memphis Teacher Residency
From the time I moved to St Louis to plant The Journey, I had a great desire to see a church reflect our city ethnically as well as foreshadow heaven where every tongue and tribe will eternally worship. By God's grace He is fulfilling this desire. My big regret is not having access and coaching from Bryan Loritts and his groundbreaking book Right Color, Wrong Culture when we started. If you are a ministry leader you need to understand the difference between ethnicity and culture. Bryan helps us with an easy-to-read fable that exposes our misconceptions and empowers us to lead in our multiethnic world.
—Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor of The Journey, St. Louis, vice president of Acts 29, chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals, author, The Dude’s Guide to Manhood, Church Planter, and Replant.
Bryan strikes a chord for all church leaders to seriously consider in truly redefining what it means to be a New Testament church in the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural communities where we minister. If you desire to learn what it takes to transform your leadership and embrace your diverse community for the Gospel, this provocative story is for you.
—Brad Cole, Biola University Trustee & Chair of Elders, Bridges Community Church, Los Altos, CA