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Leaning in with Love: Pastor Yeathus Johnson Is a Leader in Diversity Training for Churches

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By Rachel Mari

Ten years ago, Pastor Yeathus Johnson served as the interim pastor for a Spanish church that had just experienced a Ponzi scheme. Church members, along with those in the local community, had lost thousands of dollars.

“People were extremely angry and transferred their anger onto me, since the person who started the Ponzi scheme went to prison and the pastor of the church was removed from the pastorate,” recounted Johnson, a Paterson, NJ resident. “During this time, I would butt heads with a couple of leaders, which seemed like every meeting. Many conversations I had with these leaders ended with us believing we had an understanding, only to find out later that we were on a totally different page [from each other]. What I learned is that although some people can speak English, it doesn’t mean that they think in English, so there may be a gap in understanding.“

Situations like this show the acute need for the Cultural Intelligence and Diversity Awareness training that is currently being offered around the country by Johnson, an Urban Consultant and Emotional Intelligence & Cultural Intelligence Trainer with the Metropolitan District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA).

The program couldn’t be more timely. “Our society is coiled in tension from racial, ethnic, cultural, and political differences. Whenever you turn on your television or sign into any social media platform, there is rarely a day that goes by where a newsflash isn’t pulling at our emotions from racially, ethnically, politically, or religiously charged incidents,” said Johnson. He adds the facts that: the United States is more diverse today than ever, yet often remains divided along racial, cultural, and political lines.

For the past two years, Johnson has been conducting one-hour seminars at churches, ministries, businesses, and non-profit organizations around the country to “pursue competencies and skills that will break down the racial walls of separation, the ‘us vs. them’ mentality, the division, and ambivalence toward cultural diversity.” One-day workshops, 2-day workshops, and 3-day retreats are also offered for more intense training and growth.

Johnson developed the seminars and training sessions during his doctoral program while choosing a topic for his dissertation. After being encouraged by a colleague and consulting with his professor, an expert in the field of cultural intelligence, Johnson ended up pursuing the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Assessment and certification through the Cultural Intelligence Center.

“One of the biggest challenges I have currently is getting leaders of the dominant majority culture and those within ‘closed cultures’ to buy into the training,” he said. “Many feel it’s a nice thing to do, but many do not see this as a discipleship and spiritual formation tool of the church. Church leaders fail to realize that most of their people work in diverse work environments, and CQ, Diversity Awareness, and Inclusion training will prepare their congregants better to become Third Culture disciples who are equipped to develop cross-cultural relationships that can lead to the expansion of God’s kingdom.”

The church’s role as a champion for racial healing in our country and beyond is key. “We must lead with a biblical and missiological foundation for cultural intelligence,” said Johnson. “John 3:16 indicates that God so loved the world, humans, that He sent His only Begotten Son to reconcile them to Himself and each other. Here are the words of Jesus in John 20:21: ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ God the Father so loved the nations that He sent His only Begotten Son and is now sending us, the church, in love. Unity begins with the church expressing the Gospel in tangible and loving ways. Love is a universal language.”

And that language has served Yeathus Johnson well in his work overseeing urban churches. “In my role as an overseer and consultant of urban churches in the Christian & Missionary Alliance, I work with Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Caribbean, African-American, Haitian, West African, Ethiopian, Guyanese, Indian, Arabic, Jewish, and Russian leaders and churches, so I am bound to make mistakes,” said Johnson. “However, I lean into a cross-cultural relationship in the posture of love. When [I do that], my success rate working interculturally is much higher. “

Though challenges are inevitable, the fruit that comes from increased cross-cultural understanding and love is encouraging. “My biggest victories have come from working with churches in deep conflict when I became their interim pastor or when I had to invest considerable time at the church to resolve a major leadership conflict,” he said. “Even though, ‘no hablo Español’ and ‘Mwen pa parle Kreyol,’ my ability by the grace of God to apply CQ competencies has been key to my success. There are four competencies that are thematic throughout my training, which energizes the sessions; they are CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action.  All four of these competencies are extremely important, but I lead with drive.  What fuels that drive?—LOVE!”

For more information on the Cultural Intelligence, Diversity Awareness, and Inclusion training, please contact Yeathus Johnson, Urban Consultant and Emotional Intelligence & Cultural Intelligence Trainer with the Metropolitan District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), at yjohnson@metrocma.org.