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Church Diversity: Sunday, The Most Segregated Day of the Week

May 3, 2011

Church DiversityI’ve followed Scott Williams for a long time on Twitter and on his “Big is the New Small” blog. This year I finally had the pleasure of spending some time with him when he spoke at the Velocity (churchplanters.com) Conference in Georgia, and I was excited to find out about his upcoming book.

Scott’s new book, “Church Diversity: Sunday, The Most Segregated Day of the Week” is a shot across the bow for the American church. The sad news is that a shot across the bow is even still needed today. Why? Because the title of the book is almost a direct quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from over 40 years ago! While every other aspect of American life has become highly integrated the church remains the most segregated segment of society.

Scott is quick to point out that this is not just an issue of white churches not having black attenders. He notes that white, black, Asian, and hispanic churches are all segregated, and that very few churches achieve any true diversity (where more than 20% of attendees are of a different race or ethnic group than the dominant 80%). Craig Groeschel, Lead Pastor at LifeChurch.tv, where Scott was a campus pastor for one of their multi-site locations, said it best in the book’s forward, “The most diverse place in the world will be heaven. It’s time for a little heaven on earth.”

Scott’s book is timely and informative. He is uniquely positioned to provide insight into the issue, having grown up in a mostly white neighborhood but attending both white and black churches that were highly segregated:

I would receive awkward looks and comments from members of the “white churches” that communicated, Why are you here? You don’t really belong here. Shouldn’t you be worshipping on the other side of the tracks? On the other hand, my black friends would call me an Oreo (black on the outside, white on the inside) for attending white churches and associating with the white kids. There is a phrase that applies to this context: “Too white to be black and too black to be white.”

Scott’s book has chapters about “Confronting the Elephant in the Pew”, which addresses the fact that nobody really wants to even talk about segregation in the church. He also discusses the Biblical mandate for diversity given by Jesus in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) to go into all nations and make disciples, which in practice in many churches has become “The Great Omission” (another chapter name in his book).

There is also a chapter featuring some real life examples of culturally diverse churches. Scott shares stories about churches around America and the world…examples that show it can be done, in the words of the Pastors who lead them. Cultural and racial divides can and should be overcome in the church, but it will take intentionality and commitment, and these stories are inspirational examples we can all learn from.

Check out this video from Scott about an event in his life that got his attention and drove home the truth about church diversity.

The Shoe Shine man is right…it’s not a black church or a white church (or any other “kind of person’s” church)…it’s God’s church, and as Craig Groeschel said, it’s time for a little heaven here on earth. Whether you are leading a church, or you are just an attendee that is interested in how your church can become more diverse, I unreservedly recommend you check out this book. If you’ve got a story to share about church diversity from your experience I’d also like to hear about it, so feel free to post in the comments.

(Full disclosure: Not that it affected my opinion of the book in any way, but just so you know, I received a free pre-release Kindle version of the book as well as a hardcover version of book for agreeing to write a review of “Church Diversity” on my blog).

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