One of the biggest changes a church must make is committing to know the community in humble and contextual ways. Doing this will take a little bit of work. I like to use the illustration of double Dutch. Double Dutch involves three people. The first two people are standing parallel from each other, separated by the length of two jump ropes. As they begin swinging the ropes in opposing directions and singing, the third person begins learning the rhythm of the ropes. They observe the moving ropes so they can order their steps to the beat and not stop the flow or the rhythm of the ropes. When the third person is ready, they jump in, sing this song with the other two people, and keep the rhythm. The third person’s goal is to keep their steps in sync with the rhythm of the song and the ropes. If they misstep or get off beat, the rope will hit their foot and the game will stop.
Similarly, those who are transplanting into transitioning communities should consider the two ropes their society is holding. The first rope is the anthropological history of the community: the history of the people who founded the neighborhood, served as leaders, and lived there. When they were thriving, they set trends for the community; however, their day has gone, and the community has changed. The second rope represents the sociological contemporary rhythms. This is the current population in the community and the life rhythms they are setting for the neighborhood.
As person jumping between these two ropes, the transplanter must study the history and contemporary trends to identify the beat of the neighborhood and develop movement that is in sync. This will allow the transplanter to know when God wants them to jump in or out while remaining in step with the community. Making mistakes and poor judgment calls in church plant is inevitable (trust me, I know). But the good news is that, like when a misstep takes place in double Dutch, the game can start over if the jumper asks those holding the ropes to “run ’em back.” Similarly, when the transplanter trips up, they can run ’em back by consulting locals who can help them assess the contemporary trends and begin a rhythm that is in sync with the community.
As life rhythms provide transplanters with acceptance and third places and the transplanters identify cultural hybrids who could be persons of peace, the transplanting Christian must remember that the cultural hybrids are diamonds in the rough. The transplanter is not affirming their value by discovering them; rather, these people have had value all the while and must now be allowed to step into spaces where God’s radiance can be seen through their life.
Often, diamonds are rated by the four Cs: color, clarity, cut and carat weight. The four Cs necessary for preparing diamonds in the rough for leadership are Christ, compassion, commitment, and community.
First, the diamond in the rough needs to root their identity in Jesus Christ, seeking to imitate Him. It is His social and spiritual commands they are called to obey and teach to others (Matthew 28:20). Second, these emerging leaders need believers in their lives who extend them compassion, just as Jesus did in Matthew 9:35-38. Third, these people need commitment from leaders. The leaders must carve out times where they can raise up future leaders through discipleship relationships (2 Timothy 2:2). Fourth, local leaders need to be embraced by the community within the local church and by other churches in the local community.
These quality relationships do not develop overnight. Often, leaders may start off strong and well-intentioned early in the relationship but falter over time. Current leaders who are raising up diamonds in the rough must learn to PACE themselves.
Patience—God is patient with all His children, so all His children must be patient with each other. This means we must fight off passive aggressiveness and communicate honestly when we are frustrated, disappointed, or offended. Conflict is a litmus test for relationships. It shows the level of depth a relationship has. When conflict arises, if a relationship is shallow, allowing things to simmer under the surface can go on for an extended amount of time, preventing the relationship from going deeper. If the relationship is meaningful, the issue will be resolved and the relationship will grow deeper than before the conflict surfaced.
Active Listening—This is a call to hear the developing leader’s heart, not just their tone. If they lacked a father figure in their life, they may have a hard time trusting or committing to a discipleship relationship. If they had traumatic childhood experiences, they may struggle to maintain healthy relationships. Active listening is essential; the diamond in the rough must be given the opportunity to open up and vent about their heart wounds. This may be the first time in their life they’ve felt safe enough to take this risk. Do not abandon them after they have done this.
Correct (when necessary)—Part of Jesus’ design for discipleship includes teaching others to obey His spiritual and social commands. Teaching is not just transferring information but coming alongside and walking with another person who is being transformed by the same Holy Spirit. At times, behavior patterns and sin will need to be identified, called out, and corrected. Growth and maturity also need to be identified and affirmed. Both are crucial in developing the diamond in the rough.
Equip—The gospel does not speak only to the theology of the believer but to their whole being. Leaders must walk holistically with their potential leaders. They must share tools that deal with emotional intelligence, financial stewardship, mental health, sexual purity, soul care, and time management, to name a few. The more well-rounded a leader is, the better they can help meet the needs of their church and community.
In my pastoral ministry, I have been privileged to raise up pupils into peers. They entered the pupil stage when they asked me to take them under my wing and import my life into theirs as we grew in Christ together. They were then affirmed as peers when I raised them up alongside me in leadership. At this stage, I publicly affirmed them as pastors and regularly reminded people that I was one of many pastors and that when I needed pastoring, these were the men that I turned to.
You’ve been reading with D.A. Horton from his new book- Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World. Get the book or keep reading with a free excerpt here. D. A. is a Mexican-Choctaw-American church planter and speaker who engages with the tensions between our racial realities and the truth of the gospel. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at California Baptist University and pastor of Reach Fellowship in Long Beach, CA.