Subtitled ‘Sunday: The Most Segregated day of the Week,’ Scott Williams’ thought-provoking book aims at being the flashpoint for the We Are Church Diversity movement. We Are Church Diversity is consists of “congregants, pastors, church planters, educators, leaders and Christians around the world” who affirm that diversity matters to God and are “committed to seeing the body of Christ more racially unified.” Williams offers us the challenge of intentionality: church diversity on purpose. And he proposes lots of ways to do that: everything from having your church acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr Day, to celebrating Church Diversity Week (beginning the 2nd Friday of each year and ending on the 3rd Friday), to preaching diversity from our pulpits [fellow preachers, I’m talking to you] and Sunday school lecterns, to making sure that your church board and stage reflect the diversity you believe in (because what guests see on the stage and who they see in the leadership lets them know whether they are truly welcome or simply tolerated).
Of course, the book is something of a riff off Paul’s Letter to American Christians, November 4, 1956 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The most oft-quoted section of this letter stands as a undeniable indictment of the modern church – as much as it did more than 50 years ago:
“There is another thing that disturbs me to no end about the American church. You have a white church and you have a Negro church. You have allowed segregation to creep into the doors of the church. How can such a division exist in the true Body of Christ? You must face the tragoc fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’ and ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,’ you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America.”
Not much has changed in nearly 55 years! There are a variety of reasons why, ranging from base racism and hatred to apathy and Biblical ignorance. Some folks still try to justify segregation by twisting God’s Word. Dr. King himself mentioned that some “argue that the Negro is inferior by nature because of Noah’s curse upon the children of Ham.” Many cults have tried to say that the so-called “curse of Ham” was the beginning of the “Negroid race,” but this is nonsense. First of all, the curse was upon Canaan (Ham’s son) who fathered the Mediterranean Canaanite peoples who settled in modern-day Israel, Lebanoon and Syria; in other words, olive-skinned people groups. Oops.
Second and most importantly of all, God is for diversity. No, don’t shake your head, because He is. Consider the following. The Bible reminds us that He has made “of one blood all nations of men” [Acts 17:26], which means that He packed all of the genetic potential for every shade from black to white into Adam and Eve. Consider also, the birth of the Church. We know of course that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” [Galatians 3:28], but have you really thought out what occured at Pentecost? In Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the church. The Bible records that there were in Jerusalem “Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven” (verse 5). It started with every nation, and in fact each person present heard the Spirit-filled disciples speak in their own language (verse 6). And after Peter’s sermon, we find that about 3,000 souls (verse 41) were added to the Church… from every nation under heaven! Why should this surprise us? Doesn’t our Great Commission tell us to make disciples of all nations [Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8] and that we are to be witnesses to the uttermost ends of the earth? Doesn’t the Word record that God pulled Philip out of a revival in Samaria so that he might bring the Gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch? God cares about diversity. It’s in the origins of mankind, the birth of the church, in our commission… and Bible fortells that God will have His perfect way. The Book of Revelation records that John saw “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Rev.7:9) as a fulfillment of the Great Comission that He charged us with!
So why shouldn’t our churches reflect the kind of diversity God intended from the beginning of the Church and certainly intends as its end result? That’s right; there is no reason why not.
Williams invites us throughout this book to assess ourselves and our churches, to believe in our potential for the kind of Biblical diversity God desires and to change the church for the better. On purpose. In other words, he provokes us to build God’s Kingdom rather than little clubs for those who match our shade of melanin.
Diversity takes intentionality.
Learn more about this book and how you can get involved in the We Are Church Diversity movement at ChurchDiversity.com.
From the Bookwyrm’s Lair,
Rev Tony Breeden
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the New Leaf Publishing Group Book review program on CreationConversations.com <http://www.creationconversations.com/group/bookreviewersfornewleafpublishinggroup>. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”