‘Strengthen the Church’ Q&A: Walter Strickland

June 26, 2019

Walter Strickland serves as assistant professor of systematic and contextual theology and associate vice president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with itinerant preaching and speaking engagements, Walter contributes to Canon & Culture as an associate research fellow of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the Gospel Project and the Biblical Recorder. Walter’s work has also appeared in Christianity Today, Baptist Press and World Magazine. His first book, Every Waking Hour: An Introduction to Work and Vocation for Christians, was released in March of 2016. Walter is a featured speaker for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s first-ever “Strengthen the Church Conference,” which is designed to equip and inspire church leaders to embrace and pursue multicultural ministry.

Revelation paints a picture of heaven with people from every tribe, tongue and nation. What obstacles do churches face today in trying to reflect this vision?
Many pastors cherish the biblical vision of “every tribe, tongue and nation” seen in Revelation 5 and 7, and desire to see racial reconciliation and God-honoring diversity in our churches. Despite a prayerful desire to actualize this kingdom vision, we often find ourselves helpless to move forward with any real success. I think that in our efforts to catalyze change, we’ve oversimplified the problem of racial bias, and we’ve sprinted toward solutions without comprehending its complexity and depth. As a result, we only look to remedy a small portion of the problem, which breeds frustration and a sense of defeat.

How can churches be strengthened through listening to voices different from the majority culture?
Human limitations generate blind spots that cannot be denied. As a result, the question should not be, “Do I have blind spots?” but rather, “What are my blind spots?” It is dangerous, and at times can result in sinfulness, when personal blind spots are denied. Because we “see in part,” we need brothers and sisters who see God’s Word and God’s world from different perspectives as we seek His truth and are on His mission. Proverbs 27:17 says that, “Iron sharpens iron,” and I am convinced that iron sharpens iron most effectively across the lines of difference and, as a result, we see better together than we can apart.

“God’s plan for a diverse people unified in Him is undeniable throughout the pages of Scripture.”

How has your experience being a church member shaped your perspective on embracing diversity/multiculturalism?
A body of believers that worships across racial lines and expresses the “one anothers” of the New Testament paints a wonderful picture of the gospel’s ability to tear down the walls. Moreover, it is a people who have heeded the call of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” People in multi-ethnic churches have been able to put on Christ in a way that overcomes historical baggage, heals grudges and forces them to think on behalf of the other. This requires the forgiveness and patience that have been exemplified in Christ.

Many churches say that they want a diverse congregation, but in reality may not want to take the necessary steps to get there. Where do we look in the Scriptures for the power and wisdom to make these changes?
God’s plan for a diverse people unified in Him is undeniable throughout the pages of Scripture. As a result, it contributes to how Scripture ought to be read. A few specific passages that bespeak God’s desire for this kind of unity and diversity are Genesis 12, Ruth, Matthew 28 and Revelation 5 and 7. In addition, Scripture offers directives about how to pursue unity in Galatians 2, Ephesians 2, Philippians 2 and beyond. In the end, God’s people need strength to be obedient to God’s calling in His Word.

We’re looking forward to having you at the first Strengthen the Church Conference. What do you hope attendees may take away?
My prayer is that attendees will be able to understand that Christians pursue diversity because of fidelity to Scripture’s calling, and not because the church is playing catch-up to culture. In addition, I hope that attendees will be able to develop an eye for seeing how God describes His desire for unity in Him in Scripture, and grasp how that ought to influence their teaching and preaching on a weekly basis. Lastly, I pray that ministers (of all sorts) will gain specific insights about how to pursue diversity in their place of ministry.


by Walter Strickland 
/  Featured Speaker

EDT search team ‘moving closer’ to recommending candidate

The search committee charged with finding the next leader of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is “moving closer” to recommending a final candidate to North Carolina Baptists as the next executive director-treasurer. Search committee chairman Noah Crowe provided an...

‘The mission moves forward’

North America is a mission field of complex cultures and diverse religious practices. Missionaries here face challenges from secularism to language barriers to a historic health crisis. Yet, in spite of the obstacles, God’s mission always moves forward. Your partnership helps make...

Deadline extended to recommend individuals to serve

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSCNC) Committee on Nominations has voted to extend the deadline to submit recommendations for individuals to serve in various leadership roles with the state convention and its related entities.Recommendations will now be accepted...

8 strengths of plural leadership

Several years ago a pastor friend from a nearby Baptist church invited me to share with his congregation some biblical teaching on plural elder leadership. As I waited for the service to begin that evening, a display in the church’s foyer caught my attention. It was the original...

6 questions to reframe your ministry vision after COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all into new rhythms. Stay-at-home orders for all but the most essential of professionals, caregivers and service providers have dramatically impacted families, businesses and government. Churches are not immune from this impact. Social...

Top 5 resources for March 2021

Every month, we spotlight five helpful resources for you as you seek to walk closely with the Lord and make disciples. Many of these resources are created by the staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) to help meet the ministry needs of pastors and lay...

Seeking sending churches

One of the biggest obstacles to planting effective new churches is a lack of qualified, prepared planters. In recent times, before COVID-19, I sat in a room with evangelical church planting leaders from across the nation. In presentation after presentation these national leaders...

‘Reimagine’ resource addresses today’s realities, tomorrow’s possibilities

How does your church see this COVID moment? On a recent webcast by the Barna Group titled “Caring for Souls in a New Reality,” panelists posed the question, “Is this an interruption or a disruption?” An interruption means that this is only a temporary interference in our lives,...

Join us Aug. 13 and be inspired to embrace multicultural ministry.

Email [email protected] or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5636

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!