Having been a part of a local church in which racial diversity had been part of its history for at least, at least 30 or so years before I came on staff in the early 1990’s, where there had been African-American pastoral leadership as well as lay (and spiritual) leadership; and, being part of a church “movement” (we refuse to use the word “denomination”) that at one time had been known for its white evangelists refusing to preach in the American south until blacks and whites were allowed to worship together and not on opposite sides of the sanctuary but then moved away from that mindset until a desire for racial reconciliation and unity occurred in the late 1990’s with a strong effort to be more inclusive, it was with interest that I decided to review Scott Williams’ new book Church Diversity published by New Leaf Press.
Scott chronicles his personal journey regarding racial inclusiveness (and exclusiveness) from growing up then into college and corporate America, ministry with LifeChurch.TV, and now as a speaker, writer and blogger regarding church diversity. He makes a strong case for the need and witness of a diverse local church in today’s society.
Of note to me are some of the strengths of this book:
1. Williams makes a blunt and unabashed case for racial diversity in the church. But he also goes on to speak of diversity in other contexts as well. (He acknowledges “church diversity isn’t just about race.”)
2. He chronicles the impact and blessing of diversity on congregations and their leaders and how that has contributed to spiritual growth.
3. He asks the very important question, “Is this a church where everyone is welcome?”
And while I appreciated his review of companies who have made racial diversity a key corporate value, I found the chapters devoted to pastors and worship leaders who have embraced racial diversity much more helpful. And while he writes of these churches making racial diversity a key value and practice, I noticed they seemed to be all large churches most of whom began with an intentionalty regarding racial diversity. A chapter or section on smaller and established churches starting to make or, who were in the midst of making an intentional transtion to become more racially diverse, would have been helpful. As I read, I will be honest that I struggled with finding practical suggestions on how one begins to implement diversity as both a personal and congregational value and practice. But then I read Williams’ “Diversity in Mentoring” section and found a good starting point for those who would seek to impliment diversity in their personal lives and congregations as well. As he says, “Before we can build a multiethnic church, we must live a multiethnic life.”
Church Diversity is a hard hitting, gut (and soul) checking book. But, in a time and place in which diversity, of all kinds, is a much discussed and an increasingly stronger norm in our society, the Christian community must continue to address and start practicing diversity as a key way of expressing Christ’s redemptive love and salvation for all of humanity. I believe (and recommend) this book as an important text.
And to help get a copy in your hands, I am giving away to the first person who reponds to this post a free electronic copy of Scott’s book. Make sure that your e-mail address is included in your comment so that I can get your download information to you. Also please check out Williams’ website for further information. http://www.churchdiversity.com
(Note: I recieved a free electronic copy of Church Diversity to read and review for New Leaf Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review.)