June 7, 2011

Church Diversity: A review

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best over 45 years ago: "We must face the sad fact that at 11 o'clock on Sunday morning, when we stand to sing…we stand in the most segregated hour in America." What an unfortunate reality that many of us still face today! Have you heard the question, "is your church a white church or a black church?" No, it's God's church!"

The year was 1989 and the place was Detroit, MI. We’d been flailing in our attendance for a number of months when our friend, who was a worship leader at a dynamic inner city church, invited us to visit.

I really didn’t know what to expect having spent all of my life in mainline denominational churches.Visiting a non-denominational service piqued my interest. What could possibly be better than worshipping with friends? Those were some of the thoughts running through my mind the night before we attended our first service.

I remember white-knuckling the back of the seat in front of me during the worship. It was like nothing I’d ever seen or experienced before. The preaching was dynamic. By the end of the first service I was totally hooked and couldn't wait to go back.

We began attending regularly despite the fact that we were the only white couple in the congregation. Many of the people embraced us. A few gave us “family looks.” My husband was asked to serve as an usher. He was honored and took the position very seriously.

As time passed we felt that we had found a church home. Our feelings changed, however, one Saturday when at a men’s breakfast my husband was asked the question “Don’t they have any churches in your neighborhood.” To make matters worse the person who asked was the pastor. It suddenly became clear that we weren’t as welcome as we thought. We were devastated.

That was over two decades ago. By now you would think that with society embracing diversity at an ever increasing rate that this mindset would have impacted the church.

Which is why my reaction when picking up Scott Williams book Church Diversity and reading the subtitle "Sunday the most segregated day of the week" was one of shock and dismay.

I thought by now things had changed.

Scott says “We must face the sad fact that at the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America…and the most segregated school is Sunday school.” He then goes on to provide adequate information to prove this fact which is very sad, indeed.

With a wealth of knowledge this former prison warden and Republican Party activist turned pastor strongly and systematically holds a “tough conversation” with the reader regarding the “white elephant in the pew” which is the lack of multi-ethnicity, in the church, and our passivity in dealing with it.

Scott Williams pulls no punches in dealing with the subject. His goal is not to point fingers but rather to speak the truth and elevate the conversation on a subject that is long overdue. He achieves this well. I really enjoyed Scott’s writing style. His down-to-earth approach takes nothing away from his authority on the subject. He had me from the start. Despite the severity of the issues presented within the pages I actually felt like doing a #fistbump on more than one occasion. (Those of you who tweet will totally get this.)

One of the things that make Church Diversity a great read for every believer, from leader to laity, is the magnitude of its scope. This is no hit and miss book. There is something for everyone. And not only does it peel back layers to reveal a glaring problem in the church, it also offers viable steps towards a solution. In many ways it also serves as a spiritual magnifying glass to assist the reader in examining their lives regarding the subject of diversity.

Some of the topics discussed include:

• Everything Starts with Leadership: Leading Beyond the Dream
• The Great Omission
• Corporate America Cares More Than the Church
• Churches Ahead of the Curve: Small Stories Shaping the Big Picture
• Diversity in Worship
• Back to the Basics: The ABCs of Church Diversity

I especially enjoyed the chapter on churches who have captured the vision for diversity and are already doing things to make a difference. Many of the people involved in those stories are people who I follow on Twitter. The ability to connect someone’s story to their social media “handle” or avatar can make a world of difference. It’s so good to know that not only are people talk about this issue they are taking intentional steps in the right direction.

There is so much good that I could say about this book. I feel that it is long overdue and sorely needed in the spiritual community. It is a great resource for helping believers gain proper perspective and skills for fostering true unity in the church. And by true unity I mean people of every tribe and nation worshipping together as one.

We know that this is the will of God and is what will take place in heaven. But I, along with a growing number of people, would like to see a little heaven on earth. Actually, I’d like to see a lot.

It’s possible if we’ll embrace the movement of Church Diversity with a willingness to do our part to facilitate change. I highly recommend that you read this book because, in the words of Scott Williams “the time is now and you are the change!”

About the author: Scott Williams served on staff as a key leader and campus pastor at LifeChurch.tv, one of the largest and most innovative churches in America. He is an effective speaker, strategist, ministry consultant, entrepreneur and popular social media influencer for pastors and ministries around the globe. He is an avid blogger at BigIsTheNewSmall.com. Scott is married, a father of two, and lives in Oklahoma City, OK. You can connect with him at churchdiversity.com or @ScottWilliams on Twitter.

[I was provided a copy of this book by New Leaf Publishing. The opinions shared are solely mine.]


Susan Struck said...

I may have to get that book.  I would love most, though, to see the day that no one really even considers skin color to be much of a difference.  I hate when the term "race" is used to insinuate color.  We are all of the human race.

melindalancaster said...

Hi Susan:
Thanks for stopping by. I highly recommend the book.
There is a lot of segregation that goes on both inside the church and out. I'm sure you are already aware of that. I'm surprised though how many people aren't.
I couldn't agree more with you about the fact that we are all of the human race. And like you I dream of the day when skin color is no longer if issue to anyone. Even more than that I long for the day when we embrace each other for who they are...and celebrate that!
God bless!

Tamara said...

I LOVE this.  My Pastor's vision is have a diverse church because the most important thing is the Kingdom of God, where this is NO color.  Our church has predominantly African-American members but we live in a city, and as large as it is, that is split right along racial lines.  I often say that two things will show how diverse a community is: its schools and churches.

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