I would describe myself as a far-too-rapidly-approaching-middle-aged Caucasian male, born and raised in the South (Mississippi, specifically), who is a Christian. Based on these identifiers, one might think I would be inclined to ignore a book called Church Diversity – Sunday: The Most Segregated Day in America and claim that its themes are irrelevant to me. However, nothing could be further from the truth. To think that I would be unaffected by the need for diversity and inclusion in my spiritual life is the height of pride and arrogance.
…and as a certain individual named Morningstar, or as he is more commonly known, Lucifer, illustrated, we see what becomes of those who think they can set themselves, or even their beliefs, above God and His desires.
In his book, Scott Williams points out many of the areas and themes in regards to diversity in which modern American churches have failed to live out the Great Commission. Most church leaders would, if asked, state that their body of believers live a life of what they would refer to as an “Acts 2” church – a true community as is laid out in verse 44 of Acts chapter 2: “All who believed were together and held everything in common.” The unfortunate reality that Mr. Williams points out is that many churches, whether intentionally or not, take the idea of holding “everything in common” to mean holding everything “as the same,” from the skin tone of the leaders to the sex of the leaders in the church to the style of worship music used.
Perhaps what is most remarkable, as well as challenging, about the book is that the author does not spend the nearly-200 pages of his book in outright condemnation of where we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of inclusion and acceptance, but instead uses a conversational tone in his writing, offering us to step up and step into the discussion. With a gentle and loving but stern voice, the author calls out all brands, styles, and denominations of churches, showing how and where in the choices both historically and thematically we as believers (and I’m including myself here) have truly not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Nor does the author ever stand in condemnation or judgment of the individuals within the church; he recognizes that this is a problem that many of us were born into – kind of like an original sin, if you will – but we should not let the excuse of “that’s the way it’s always been” be the rhetoric we offer up to justify our apathy towards inclusivity.
The passion and integrity with which Mr. Williams brings this issue to the attention of both church leaders and laypersons is centered Biblically, thus derailing any potential arguments or criticisms that this is just the voice of another critic of the church as it exists today. Instead of taking the viewpoint of "Here's the problem, and here's my solution, because I am THE authority," Mr. Williams offers suggestions (not "Five Easy Steps") and practical guidelines throughout the book including discussion points for taking the conversations deeper. Using examples from both corporate America as well as some of the churches he views as the ones taking the right strides towards a true community of diversity, the author does not rely solely on the theoretical of “This is a problem we need to fix,” but instead provides concrete illustrations that point out both the struggles to be expected as well as the benefits to be reaped by becoming the body of believers we were meant to be.
As he says in chapter three, "The time is now, and the stakes are too high for us to just turn a blind eye and act like the problem [diversity within our churches] doesn't exist or ignore the fact that this conversation needs to be elevated."