Intentional Diversity
Intentional Diversity

Pastor Tony Clark of Calvary Chapel Newport News Shares His Insights

Story by Carmel Palmer
Issue 83 of Calvary Chapel Magazine features an article about Calvary Chapel Newport News. Here are some more tips from Pastor Tony Clark about how a fellowship can develop a multicultural environment:

Multi-colored vs Multicultural

“There’s a difference between being multi-colored and multi-cultural,” Tony explained. “A multi-colored church may have some different colors sitting in service, but its attitude is, ‘This is how we do church; you can come if you want to.’ A multi-cultural church celebrates those cultures.” CCNN has hosted potlucks featuring dishes from members’ culture of origin, and incorporates cultural entertainment into their special events, such as Samoan dances at their New Year’s Eve celebration.

Cultivate Diverse Leadership

CCNN never compromises leadership quality for variety. “We make sure the three Cs are taken care of,” said Tony, referencing 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. “Godly character, competency (are they able to do the job?), and chemistry (do they work well with the team?). If I have equally qualified people, I'll go with the one who will bring more diversity, because we want our leadership to reflect our church. God sends every church the people they need to flourish--we just have an eye out for who God is raising up.”

Cultivate Diverse Worship

God’s glory is always the focus of CCNN’s music, but their worship team continually experiments with different worship styles. “You have to be intentional in your praise & worship,” Tony insisted. “Every culture has a sound. When someone hears the sound associated with their culture, it puts a smile on their face. It lets them know they’re appreciated.”

Cultivate Honest Conversation

Tony avoids politics in the pulpit, unless an issue connects directly to the text he’s teaching from. Instead, CCNN hosts occasional round-table discussions on hot-topic issues. “Let’s get in a safe place where we can share,” Tony exhorted. “People have many assumptions about other races that can cause anxiety, anger, bitterness, and resentment, but when they talk to them, they find out, ‘I don't believe that!’ Once we have some honest conversations, what will happen is this: when we share things deep down inside us, that's like treasure. The Bible says, ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matthew 6:21). As we share this treasure, our hearts are drawn together. A oneness takes place; we realize this goes beyond our race, this is about Jesus Christ.”

Blessed Are the Flexible

“I’m grateful that Calvary Chapel taught me how to teach, not how to ‘do church,’” Tony related. “When we moved here, I brought So-Cal culture to Virginia; in a couple months I saw that didn’t work. I had to put on a suit, do things a little differently.” For CCNN’s first two years, its congregation was 98% white. Six years later, Tony estimates it was 70% white, 20% black, 5% Hispanic, and 5% Korean; its racial and cultural dynamics have continued morphing. Starting in 2009, CCNN provided headsets translating services into six different languages, including French and Kiswahili. Now, the people using the headsets said they would rather listen in English to improve their language skills. Tony added, “I have to apply my teaching to the people God is bringing. The interpretation of God’s Word is the same; but the application changes when I see the congregation shifting.”