Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: Church Diversity

Book Review: Church Diversity
By Scott Williams

Much as the name implies, Church Diversity focuses on the diverseness of the American church, or rather, the lack of diverseness of the American church.  The subtitle of the book, “Sunday, the Most Segregated Day of the Week” is a Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) quote.  MLK is quoted several times throughout the book as a man who was passionate about having church diversity.  Williams begins the book with a look at the American Church’s record with diversity and says we haven’t come far since MLK made that statement. 

To begin with, I cannot deny Williams’ claims about the problems of church diversity in the American church.  I was recently privy to a conversation on the issue that elevated to a heated discussion pretty quickly.  In fact I picked up the book for review because of the issue at hand.  That said, I think that Williams’ approach toward the topic in this book was highly confrontational and unnecessarily argumentative.  Much of Church Diversity is focused on criticizing the American church for not doing better.  At one point he talks about the time a shoeshine man told him, “It’s not a white church or a black church; it’s God’s church.” What Williams heard, as evidenced in the book, was that churches should be diverse, and he has apparently made a political platform out of it ever since.  What I read from the shoeshine man is that--white or black, brown or red, segregated or diverse--it’s God’s church. 

Williams’ approach to the issue sounds more like a politician/business man who thinks diversity will attract more constituents/customers than a Christian pastor who is passionate about Jesus Christ and who wants everyone, no matter what their culture/race is, to know Him as their savior.  This observation is more pronounced on the chapter highlighting various successful corporations that have embraced diversity.  In fact, Williams mentions his church and its location on nearly every page of the book.  I felt like I was reading an infomercial about Lifechurch, and I kept waiting to be hit with the “Buy our 10 dvd set, so you can have a diverse church like us, now!” line.  Thankfully, that never came, but the self-promotion was frustrating. 

In my ideal book about church diversity, there would be more focus on God.  He is, after all, the creator of diversity in the human race.  He is planning on having every generation, nation, language, and people group represented in heaven, which means that there are going to be millions of different kinds of worship songs being sung, people of every color, and thousands of different cultures represented.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come on Earth just as it is in heaven,” so we should have diversity on Earth too, right?  Additionally, there would be less focus on criticism of the American church.  It’s become so fashionable to criticize the American church these days, and no one takes the time to say, “Hey I am part of the American church; I’m just criticizing myself.”  My ideal book would have also extolled the beauty of the diverse church rather than criticize the non-diverse church.  It would have had more Christ-like solutions than “make sure that people on the stage are diverse”.  For example: spend some time getting to know people of different cultures/races and share the Gospel with them.  Learn the foreign language most spoken by people in your area and share the Gospel with them. Etc. 

Ultimately, I can’t recommend Church Diversity unless you think of your church as a business and not a representation of God’s Kingdom on Earth.  If you must pick up the book, I’d suggest reading chapter 6, which is a collection of interviews with other pastors who have diverse churches.  Many of them have their hearts in the right place, humble and giving glory to God alone for their churches’ success in the diversity camp.  I wish one of them would write a book about diversity.

I received a review copy from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.  


My Community UMC said...

You said this book was self-promoting on the amazon website but finished your review with the promotion of your blog. Just a thought.

Stephen Phillip Porter said...

That was my attempt at transparency in my review, that I received a review copy from the publisher and that the review was originally published elsewhere, but I can see how it looks like the same self-promotion I criticized. That was sincerely not my intention.

I hope that it does not reflect negatively on my intention of pointing anyone who reads the book toward Jesus and His diverseness, not diversity just for diversity's sake.


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