Since we are beginning the Racial Reconciliation series with a focus on church diversity, I thought it would be good to set a context with regular highlights from @ScottWilliams book entitled Church Diversity: Sunday the Most Segregated Day of the Week.
Like me, Scott Williams grew up with diverse experiences. He spent several years trying to make sense of living in two worlds, White America and the Black America. If you read the comments in my Facebook news feed during this heated political season, the reality of the previous statement would not seem so foreign to you.
I note these two difference perspectives because Williams makes an important statement in the book’s introduction:
If you change your perspective you change the game (14).
A lot of racial reconciliation is simply about changing our perspectives, being honest with ourselves that there maybe areas where we exude racism, there are injustices in the world which happen to other people that we simply don’t think about because it’s not in our faces everyday affecting our families or those we love. We must be honest that we make false assumptions about people concerning things we simply do not know. We do not take time to enter into other people’s worlds, to see what they are thinking, why they behave the way they do, or why we should even care in the first place. All of these attitudes reveal our pride, so this is a confession.
Throughout this series, I’m asking with every post that we exchange pride for faith, hope, and love. I’m asking that we exchange pride for worship. For me, worship is not simply singing nice songs or showing up to church every Sunday. Worship is a lifestyle, a practice of living everyday in humble submission to the Lord. Worship is the anointing, the oil that pours out of our lives, the fruit of our hands, the aura around us that lets people know that we belong to the King. True worship reveals that the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts and lives, and the power of the Holy Spirit is what draws people to God and draws people together.
Throughout his book, Williams sounds the alarm for church leaders to surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit. “If we want our Church to be inclusive and truly reach all people for Christ, we must get the right people to the table, have the right conversations, pray the right prayers, and change the face of the church (34).”
1. Get the right people to the table. They have to want it. If diversity is of no concern to the leaders, they should not be at the table. If they have all of the answers (that’s the ugly pride again), they should not be at the table. If they have their own agenda, they should not be at the table because it is important to understand that diversity is not an isolated issue in the church. It needs to be addressed in connection with all of God’s priorities for a particular congregation. So who do you invite to the table? “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol [examples in this case could be liberation, equal rights or perceived fairness, politics, American success, etc] or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing for the Lord and vindication from God his Savior (Psalm 24:4-5).” It’s really a heart issue. “If your heart is not right and you don’t have a strategy for diversity, it’s not going to happen (45).”
2. Have the right conversations. Anyone who is in a committed relationship understands the importance of communication. If communication is not happening, the relationship breaks down. This situation is no different. “If you are not trying to be intentional and purposeful about the church diversity issues, it’s a non-issue (45).” In other words, issues that go unaddressed do not solve themselves. Williams writes that we must be intentional, confrontational, authentic, and patient when discussing the issue of diversity in the church. I would add that we must be bold. Oftentimes, God begins a work in a person’s heart to confront an issue but they shy away—it might be because of fear or the thought that no one cares or nothing will change. For whatever the reason, we are paralyzed and do nothing. But everything about the Christian faith says that we must be willing to stand with God no matter the cost. We must be willing to take the risks even when we do not see clearly. We must be willing to lay everything on the line for the sake of our brothers and sisters. We must be bold.
3. Pray the right prayers. “Ask God to give you a burden for diversity in the church (45).” Those who are truly burdened by diversity are actually burdened for people. They care enough about people to look beyond themselves. These are the people who live missionally. They believe there faith actual means something, that a transformation has literally taken place in their lives and they live differently. They are not content with business as usual. These are the people who should be out front leading in congregations, setting the example for others in the church.
When we get the right people at the table, have the right conversations, and pray the right prayers, I believe God will honor those actions and change the face of the American church.
How have your experiences shaped the way you view diversity? How is the topic of diversity addressed in your church? What are some specific conversations we need to have?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012